My appropriation apology

Appropriated fictional town cartography

In 2016, I published a novel entitled A Hole in the Ground. In this novel, I referred to a First Nations people, the Muskawatipaq, as well as their ancestral territory, Petawodimocto. These references were entirely fictional, created for the purposes of establishing a setting for my story and making up words that sounded kind of cool.

I regret that I culturally appropriated faux-native culture. I apologize as well for making only passing reference to the history of the fictional Muskawatipaq before quickly moving on with the story of the fictional white settlers and forgetting about the Muskawatipaq entirely. But that’s usually how it goes.

I also express my deep regret for making my main protagonist a woman, having had no experience being a woman. As a white, middle-class male whose only brush with disenfranchisement has been a culturally unacceptable inability to spit, I acknowledge that I can never fully understand women. (But who can, am I right, fellas?)

Nonetheless, I did my best to portray my female character, Jemima, as a well-rounded human being. In fact, one interviewer told me, “She’s a real girl,” to which I replied, “Some people have said the same thing about me.”

Furthermore, on at least one occasion Jemima expresses her relief at not wearing a bra or alludes to the relief of removing her bra at the end of the day. I apologize for this gender-based assumption. I have no experience wearing a bra and historically limited experience in removing them. As a man, I cannot fully appreciate the full-on encumbrance of bra-dom, and it was wrong of me to appropriate the blessed relief a woman must feel at becoming thusly unhampered.

In my defence, I have personally suffered the agony of restricting undergarments, having once worn an overly snug pair of boxer-briefs that had a bullseye painted on the crotch, which is just begging for trouble, if you ask me. However, I have no legitimate position from which to complain, due to tighty-whitey male privilege.

Moving on to other clothing, I feel compelled to point out that the same female protagonist, Jemima, is depicted as habitually wearing rubber boots. The book is set in 1998. I began writing the novel in 2012. In 2014, as I neared completion of the novel, rubber boots became fashionable for women. I therefore must express my deep regret for pre-appropriating contemporary fashion culture in a 1990s setting. It was future insensitive of me. The boots did, however, come in handy when Jemima found herself traipsing through the marsh with a visiting biologist.

I would like to apologize for making one of my characters a visiting biologist. I did so without fully understanding biologist culture, although I did take Biology in high school, a course that included briefly poking at a formaldehyde cat carcass until it was put away for next year’s class. This did not necessarily inform my understanding of biology; it was just kind of gross.

It was insensitive of me to feature a biologist, given that biologists have traditionally suffered significant marginalization at faculty meetings and cocktail parties. I did so only to establish a character who could interact with turtles.

I would like to apologize to all turtles and those of turtle lineage for exploiting their heritage for my self-serving fiction needs. Turtles are noble creatures who have too long remained silent. They’ll likely remain silent too, being turtles, but that’s not the point! The point is I appropriated the turtleocracy without a full understanding of the turtle lifestyle, other than a little time browsing the Internet and emailing my brother, who is a real turtle guy. You want to know turtles, my brother’s your man!

I would like to apologize to my brother for dragging him into this miserable morass of appropriation apologizing. He was not consulted about his inclusion nor could he have anticipated that I would be exploiting his presence here for satirical purposes.

I would like to apologize to satire for dragging this bit far too long.

Finally, I am sorry that all the characters in my novel are white, English and straight, but they say write what you know.

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About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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37 Responses to My appropriation apology

  1. I know societal attitudes progress at a snail’s pace, oh, crap, that expression was insensitive, but while you confess to appropriating turtleocracy, it was total insensitivity to ignore tortoises (“the other green meat”). If I ever get to Cincinnati again, which only happens when my GPS quits, I will send you a can of Worthmore’s Mock Turtle Soup, a local favorite (and one of many reasons to avoid Cincinnati) to keep on your desk as a little reminder of Inclusiveness. But I will redact the list of ingredients on the can, horrifying, because generally you seem like a nice guy, in a hard-shelled editor kind of way.

  2. List of X says:

    I think you can partially help alleviate your cultural appropriation sins by donating all your property to the Muskawatipaq Female Turtle Foundation For Advancement Of Biology.

  3. ksbeth says:

    and i’m sorry in advance for anything i might do.

  4. backuphill says:

    You forgot a trigger warning at the beginning of your apology…I read this and I wasn’t in my safe space and now I may sue for causing distress. I can’t unsee what I have seen and I can’t unprocess what I have processed.

  5. pinklightsabre says:

    Future insensitive! Ha, you were on it here. You know, you’re either on it or not, and not a lot in between that really fucking matters does it. You were on it here. I mean the generic, not specific “you.” “Get behind the mule, bee-atch!”

  6. After coming across so many genuine cultural appropriation apologies on the internet, I didn’t realize this was satire until I was halfway through the post. What a relief! And here I was thinking “not another one”. Your novel sounds pretty interesting 🙂

  7. That was nice but you’re no Jimmy Swaggert. Do you remember who that was? His “Oh, I have sinned against you, and I beg your forgiveness” is the template for forgiveness begging. Keep trying.

    Tell me about that map. Did you really draw it up as a visual assist when writing?

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I remember the Swaggert apology, all tears and sweat.
      Yes, that’s exactly what it was. I needed to know which way my characters were walking. Now it’s just a charming (to me) souvenir.

  8. Ross, I just want to add here ok, I actually triggered myself on some stuff that might be bordering on insensitive, for me as a white male, with like loads of privilege and shit. I can’t help but feel guilty, so I need to spill my beans. There may have been a moment in which I might have explored some concepts, in my mind at least, in which women were depicted wearing attire that may have made them feel somewhat objectified, and in that sequence of thoughts, those females may have engaged in activities that may have seemed to be inappropriate or offensive on some level to some people, and I just want to go on record saying that at no time, during said fantasy sequence, was any disrespect intended or directed, except maybe just that few seconds at the end of the sequence, in which subject of fantasy may have been exposed to acts of lewd behaviour. There also may or may not have been a small pony involved. If any persons or animal welfare groups are offended by this content, I wish to express my sincere apologies and will self censor my thoughts in future.

  9. notdonner says:

    i’m not sure how to feel. am I culturally and socially a reprobate for being amused or is that to be expected due to mixed heritage of anglo-irish-polish under-represented social classes? but I don’t like women in rubber boots either.

  10. This is a very funny “apology”. We live in a culture where everybody is increasingly offended, and if they are offended, they must be considered right to be offended.

    I wrote a short essay (750 words) called “Why Cultural Appropriation Should Be Encouraged.” If you would like to read it, I am open to any feedback: https://christopherjohnlindsay.wordpress.com/2017/06/17/cultural-appropriation/

    • rossmurray1 says:

      In Paul Beatty’s excellent The Sellout, he has some things to say about being offended, like what exactly is the emotion of offence? The book, ironically, would be considered offensive if it had been written by a white person. Recommended, by the way.

  11. marymtf says:

    What can I say that others haven’t already said, Ross. Time to push back?

  12. An entire column about apologizing. Are you Canadian?

  13. You should be sorry. I’m a French-Canadian, bra-wearing woman and I am deeply offended.

    Now go away and cut me a cheque.

  14. If you MUST appropriate a group – please do so with the AGED. We don’t mind. We can no longer read anyway, being demented beyond literacy. And even if we could read, we are apparently too thick-headed to figure out things like TV remotes and other modern contrivances like the internet. So, go ahead, appropriate ’em if ya gottem. Fill yer boots! I’ll probably be dead before my grandson Jared – or Jason or whatever the hell his, or possibly her, name is – finishes cyber-typing this cyber-note for me anyhow!

  15. slammerdeen says:

    I didn’t think I could write a book…But after reading this drivel I’m inspired to take up the habit. Now I just need typing ability and something to say. I’m off !

  16. Ahdad says:

    You are forgiven by another white, straight male.

Go ahead, don't be shy.

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