Amanda Marcotte and Seal Press Respond

by matttbastard

From Amanda Marcotte:

I’m sorry. Plain and simple. I didn’t pick the offensive imagery in my book, but I should have caught it sooner than now. I didn’t and there’s no excuse. It was my first book, I was excited and happy, but I needed to have a more critical eye. I would do anything to remove racist images from the first printing of the book if I could, and I am relieved and happy to say that they will be removed from future printings. Seal Press has their note of apology up too, and they accept full responsibility for these mistakes. I really recommend reading it.

I can understand why anyone would choose to boycott a book with these images, and I respect that choice. Hopefully, once they are removed, people will reconsider supporting the book if they like the content. I, for one, will be ripping the pages out of my copy but keeping them as a reminder to be alert. Thank you to everyone who’s engaged in a conversation that’s been tough for me but productive nonetheless.

This is pretty much what I’ve got to say. I welcome your feedback below. I imagine things might get pretty intense, so I may not choose to say much more than this, but know that I’m reading and listening and respect your thoughts very much. Once again, I apologize for the images, my overlooking them, and any hurt this may have caused.

From the Seal Press blog:

A Public Apology

To Our Readers, Our Friends, Our Critics,

We are taking action immediately to remove the offensive images from It’s A Jungle Out There. We are currently reprinting, and we will make these changes now. We apologize for any pain or concern these images have caused.

We do not believe it is appropriate for a book about feminism, albeit a book of humor, to have any images or illustrations that are offensive to anyone.

Some have asked the valid question, “What were you thinking?”

Please know that neither the cover, nor the interior images, were meant to make any serious statement. We were hoping for a campy, retro package to complement the author’s humor. That is all. We were not thinking.

As an organization, we need to look seriously at the effects of white privilege. We will be looking for anti-racist trainings offered here in the Bay Area. We want to incorporate race analysis into our work.

In the meantime, please know that all involved in the publishing of It’s A Jungle Out There, from editorial to production were not trying to send a message to anyone about our feelings regarding race. If taken seriously as a representation of our intentions, these images are also not very feminist. By putting the big blonde in the skimpy bathing suit with the big breasts, the tiny waist, and the weapon on our cover, we are also not asserting that she is any kind of standard that anyone should aspire to. This 1950s Marvel comic is not an accurate reflection of our beauty standards, our beliefs regarding one’s right to bear arms, nor our perspectives on race relations, foreign policy, or environmental policy.

We also extend this apology to the author, Amanda Marcotte, who did not select these images for her book. Writing humor is very difficult. While our intention was to complement your words, we see that these images have had the opposite effect, and for that, we are sorry.

Sincerely and humbly,

Krista Lyons-Gould and Brooke Warner

[edit: subsequently appended to original [non] apology, h/t Mandolin:

Please note that, upon reflection, we realize that the second to the last paragraph of this post doesn’t do a good job of conveying our intended meaning. We do not want to delete it, but we do want to make a note around our intent, since its purpose was to further articulate the “what were they thinking?” question. We apologize that this paragraph undermines our apology. We acknowledge that the images are racist and not okay under any circumstances. We are wholeheartedly sincere in our apology, and the actions we’ve laid out above will be acted upon immediately.]

“We were not thinking.”

Ok, I haven’t had much chance to look at other responses to this latest development, but my first gut reaction is to ask the obvious: “why weren’t you thinking?” I can’t begin to count the number of white feminists/allies who say they had read through the book–to say nothing of the publisher–and never even noticed the fucking spearchuckers in the chapter headings. And if the answer is “white privilege” (as I suspect it to be), then we’ve circled back yet again to the original problem, which is the systemic marginalization and silencing of WOC voices and concerns (whether deliberately or inadvertently/indifferently) by an overwhelmingly oblivious white middle class feminist mainstream.

So where the fuck do we go from here, apart from (sincerely and humbly) continuing along the well-trodden path of least resistance?

Update: Memo to Seal Press: Non-apologies. Are. Not. Fucking. Good. Enough.

As Ebog Johnson said in comments @ Alas:

That apology over at Seal Press’ blog is straight out of the Jane “Blackface Joe” Hamsher school of racial apologies. They should have just gone the full Bill Clinton and wagged their finger at us about how they’re being Mau-Mau’d or race-carded.

They are quick studies, though. The promise to take a class is nice EEOC/HR jujitsu. By allocating funds to diversity education, they not only get to do public penance, but also get to insulate themselves internally should any colored Seal Press employee ever get to thinking that the place is a racially hostile workplace. (This of course assumes they have any colored employees.)

Some people really never learn.

Werd. Half-assed CYA strategies solely enacted to minimize privilege-blowback shouldn’t be immediately rewarded with the benefit of the doubt (nor the legitimacy afforded by giving up your hard earned dollars to a corporation that still doesn’t fucking get it). Keep those letters coming, folks.

Update 2 04.26: Jill’s mea culpa:

I’m really glad that Seal will issue a re-print, minus the images, and that they’ve issued an apology. I’m glad that Amanda issued an apology. I’m leaving up my original post about the book, not because I still stand by it 100%, but because I believe in keeping things like that on the record. I think it looks a lot shadier to change it and pretend that nothing happened, and that I was in the right all along. I wasn’t. Erasing the post won’t erase the disappointment and the hurt that the post, and my endorsement, caused. I’m leaving that post up, and augmenting it with this one, as a record of that.

I want to be clear that I’m not trying to railroad Amanda, even if that’s how I suspect she’ll feel. Amanda is a friend of mine, and she’s a friend for lots of reasons — she’s smart, she’s funny, and she does great feminist work every day. I continue to admire her, and the body of work that she has produced. I’ve read her since she was at Mousewords. I was thrilled when she got a bigger platform. I link to her stuff all the time. I was excited she got a book deal, and I looked forward to reading her book. I also don’t know what it’s like to be in her position — she has been through the right-wing machine, and she came out of it ok. The fact that she wasn’t crushed by it, and that she came out swinging, speaks volumes about her strength of character. I think it also shaped how she responds to conflict now. So I hope she knows that this post comes from a place of love and respect.

But sometimes, friends need to tell other friends to do better.

One thing I appreciate about this community is that we push each other to be better, even in the face of supreme fuck-ups. In the other book thread, people could have just said, “Fuck you, Jill,” and that would have been a legitimate response. People could have said, “You are going about this in an ass-backwards way, because you are blinded by your privilege and you are hopeless.” They would have been right, at least about the privilege part (I hope not about the hopeless part). But people didn’t do that. They spelled out their grievances. They explained things. They got angry, but it was justified. And I didn’t do the right thing right away. I’m sure there will be people for whom even this won’t be satisfactory; it’ll be not enough, or too little too late, or not exactly what they wanted or expected from me. That’s ok, and I think I need to realize that I cannot make everyone happy, as much as I want to. I am not going to be able to answer every call to action. I am not going to always be able to tell my friends what they want to hear. But I want to not lay awake at night, sick to my stomach, because I’m sitting on the fence. And I’ve sat on the fence here, and I effectively crossed a picket line when I promoted that book.

For the most part, as angry and hurt as people were, they trusted me enough to come here and talk. I can’t explain how grateful I am for that. And I don’t want to be a disappointment.

Read the whole damn thing.  If only the braintrust @ Seal Press possessed even a fraction of Jill’s awesomeness.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

13 thoughts on “Amanda Marcotte and Seal Press Respond

  1. Perhaps I’m a cynical person, but these apologies or perhaps more appropriately, expressions of regret, seem to me like a an attempt at damage control.

    Like you mattt, to me it is beyond “We were not thinking.” It makes me want to ask them: And are you f***ing blind as well?

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  2. I re-read the Seal non-apology, and I’m fucking pissed. I mean , it boils down to “sorry you were offended”.

    Not. Fucking. Good. Enough.

    They are blind. “Privilege limits imagination.” Preach.

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  3. Why wait for the next printing to change the illustrations? Recall the books and pulp them; re-do the illustrations and then re-issue the book.

    I don’t know how deep the publisher’s pockets are, but books are really cheap (okay, cheapish) to publish. The mark-up is h-u-g-e.

    If everyone is as appalled as they say they are, then recalling and pulping is the only honorable option at this point.

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  4. Great post Matt. Straight to the point.

    I’ve been reading the comments and Marcotte/Seal apologists are unbelievable – “never even noticed”. One person commented that they rarely look at pictures ?!?!?! That strikes me as a back-handed elitist insult. (Cuz us stoopid folks only look at da pictures.)

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  5. I don’t know at which point Seal Press/Marcotte chose to blur the lines between themselves and the product. Perhaps they did so instinctively: ‘Hate my product, hate me’ – that sort of thing. So now it has become jumbled up; their defenders are refusing to distinguish to recognize this legitimate criticism of the product and the process that led to its publication, and are re-framing the debate as direct attacks on the individuals. Nice.

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  6. you know, the words “voice of reason” are so cliched, but you’re one of those folks it feels right for, right now.

    i don’t know. we’ll see where things go.
    it’s been on my mind a lot. even “off”line. wondering. chewing. processing.

    i hope. that’s really all i can say.

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  7. amandaw, I can honestly say I have never–ever–been described as the voice of reason.

    No doubt there are a number of peeps who, upon reading your comment, did a classic Danny Kaye spit-take.

    Thank you. (((hugs)))

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  8. I’m not remotely standing up for Seal Press – just want to say that I saw the cover for Amanda’s book before this all started and – I didn’t get it. I just wasn’t thinking. I thought it was a funny satire on all those tired comics I saw my brother reading when I was a kid and I liked the role reversal. I didn’t think of woc. I don’t think my response is that unusual. I was hauled up in a racist society, middle class, white – Catholic girl, Catholic girls’ school with one face of colour in it for five years (I’m not slow – we went to high school for five years in my day). That woman’s name was Erna. I never spoke to her in five years. I noticed that not many others spoke to her either. I felt badly. I did nothing about it. I loved MLK and the anti-war protestors. I went out into the streets. I did NOTHING about the woman in my school. I was scared of that “otherness”. I was. And, to my dismay and shame, I sometimes still do not see the racism inherent in my responses. However, where I do think Seal and many others went terribly wrong was in not listening, not listening RIGHT QUICK, to the women of colour (and men) and other highly consciousness-raised people who DID notice right away – not so “white privileged” as I that they could ever (so far) have enjoy the privilege of NOT GETTING IT.
    I’m not defending myself or anyone else. I just want to reserve a tiny space for those of us who DO feel ashamed when we respond out of racial (or any other kind of) privilege and who try not to just sit around feeling ashamed but, rather, to listen, to learn, to try to shake off our own assumptions that we are sure of what we know, and to move forward with our teachers, whom we must thank. So, I THANK YOU, mattt, and all the people to whom you’ve linked, through whom I’ve come to understand.

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  9. Thank you, brother Matt — you put what I think and feel in better words than I have been able to thus far.

    I am really glad — relieved, in fact, that women of color in the blogosphere were able to issue a wake up call that at least some white feminists heard.

    Despite her brief apology, Amanda Marcotte clearly still does not get it. I agree with Prole — the book ought to pulled NOW and she should advocate for that rather than prioritize her own self-interest. Fame and finances can wait a little longer, Amanda.

    Ripping the racist pages out of her copy of the book is not going to make her book — HER BOOK — any less racist. She’s only doing what white liberals are so good at: quelling bursts of social and moral conscience with regard to white power & privilege with DENIAL. And I’m being kind by assuming the presence of anti-racist urge in Marcotte to begin with.

    (What is it about white feminist racism, in particular, that makes a queer butch woman of color like myself want to curse a slew of bad words… I mean, the limitlessness of examples of racism and complicity in white supremacy among white feminists is infuriating).

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  10. Hysperia,
    You are right. You are a racist, and your response is not that unusual from other racists. It does not matter whether you are a supposedly *well-intentioned* racist or not — sorry to inform you(!) Also, you are right in saying that you “still do not see the racism inherent in your responses” – that’s obvious to me from reading your long post. And I’m slightly confused over why you felt it so necessary to write a long, racist post in this forum in the first place in the guise of a “thank you” to Matt for “teaching” you and others like you. Have you ever considered that your need to take up space may be inappropriate? Your post is weird, long-winded, overly personal, and reeks of (inappropriate) white guilt and denial, and — most of all — of ignorance.
    I’m confused about what kind of “tiny space” you are trying to reserve for yourself and/or others…
    You said you’re here “to listen, to learn” and to “try to come to understand” — I’m not sure I really believe that (based on your words/your post) but if I’m mistaken and you really are, then you should definitely know that I found your post weird and offensive. And I hope you can understand why, and not just see my angry words as an unprovoked attack.

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