Tutus are kind of my thing – so much so that when I moved from Minnesota last year my gym buddies threw me a going away workout party where everyone wore tutus. (They even wrote “We’ll miss you tutu much!” on the mirrors in marker!) I have them in every color and I’ve worn them during more races and workouts than I can count. Yeah they’re not the most practical workout attire but they’re fun and they always make me laugh.
But not everyone loves tutus, as evidenced by Self magazine’s #tutugate last week when they mocked two women running a marathon in superhero tutus. They posted this pic in their “BS meter” section, calling the trend “lame”:
“A racing tutu epidemic has struck NYC’s Central Park, and it’s all because people think these froufrou skirts make you run faster,” the mag quipped. “Now, if you told us they made people run from you faster, maybe we would believe it.”
Turns out that Wonder Woman, aka Monika Allen, is currently suffering from an inoperable brain tumor, was undergoing chemo and designs the tutus through her company Glam Runner which donates the proceeds to charity. Oh and she still ran a marathon. They might as well have mocked Mother Teresa for liking kids too much. And then kicked a puppy.
To make matters worse, when Allen was asked for permission to use her picture in the magazine she wasn’t told how they were planning on using it. She was flattered and excited… until she saw it in print. Disappointed and feeling tricked, she posted it to her Facebook where it quickly went viral.
Self’s editor-in-chief Lucy Danziger responded by apologizing but it struck many people as insincere, as she seemed to feel bad about making fun of people with cancer but still saw nothing wrong with making fun of, you know, just people. It was a perfect demonstration of the hypocrisy in our modern media culture’s use of features that snark on people, celebs and regular folks alike.
To her credit, Danziger then pulled the BS Meter section (good riddance) from the mag entirely and made a donation to Glam Runner as well as promoted them on Self’s site. Allen herself said she was happy with the result (and all the increased business). But was an apology enough? Apparently not as Danziger was just fired. Was it because of #tutugate or just an unfortunate coincidence? The mag isn’t saying but it does seem to be related.
This got me thinking about apologies – when is saying “I’m sorry” not enough? Obviously when you bump someone on the subway a muttered “excuse me” is fine. But when you do something bigger — like make fun of a dying girl doing an altruistic deed — what else is warranted?
Firing Danziger feels like overkill to me. It was definitely an awful thing to publish but as a writer who has said many a regrettable thing in print myself, I feel for anyone who makes a mistake of this nature. We seem to enjoy excoriating people for public gaffes like this, often forgetting how often we make them ourselves. I’m not excusing the mag’s behavior but at the same time sometimes social media feels like a tidal wave, crushing everything in its path with no regard to life or limb. Even in situations where it seems that good is prevailing, like in the case of the hacker group Anonymous’ involvement in the Stubenville rape case, when it washes out the details aren’t nearly so black and white. I don’t know.
What I do know is this: An incident might not always end because of an apology but it should always start with one. (And preferably not one of those lame sorry-not-sorry ones.) Thankfully I don’t have a hard time apologizing, usually. If anything I err too far on the other side, apologizing for things I’m not remotely responsible for. I also know that every time I’ve had to swallow my pride and say I’m sorry that it has made me that much more appreciative of when people do the same for me.
So what do you think of #tutugate? Insulting or no big deal? Did Self do enough to fix the situation or do you agree with Danziger’s firing? When is an apology not enough?