Hitting pause on the “favorite bands” thing for this week. I’ve had a lot on my mind with everything going on with the presumptive next Supreme Court justice, specifically the idea of atonement. Yom Kippur just passed, an important holiday for the Jewish faith, in which you fast for a day and reflect upon your mistakes the past year. You also approach people you feel you’ve wronged and apologize to them — the idea being that it’s not enough to ask forgiveness from God. He’ll forgive you, but you also need to ask forgiveness from the community. Show you genuinely feel bad and want to do better.
One of the arguments supporting the “Honorable” Judge Kavanaugh is that, even if he did sexually assault a woman when he was 17, that was 36 years ago and we should let it be water under the bridge. There’s one situation where that would be acceptable: if he had admitted his mistake, expressed regret, and tried to do better. That clearly didn’t happen. The same goes for all these #metoo guys trying to mount a comeback. Contrition is the first step towards forgiveness. Time isn’t enough.
Which got me thinking: I’ve made mistakes in my past, and I realize the error of my ways and have been trying to do better. But have I ever actually expressed remorse for them outside the echoing cavern of my own skull? I don’t think I have. So here goes.
Caveat: I have never done anything nearly as remotely awful as sexual harassment or assault. It never even occurred to me. I’m sure I’ve been awkward in social situations, and I’ve definitely been an asshole to people (men and women alike), but my conscience is clear on that front. I have said a lot of stupid shit, though, and words can harm.
First off — and something that’s stuck with me for a while — over a decade ago, in the context of a discussion about shoebox-sized apartments being built in downtown LA, I made a dumb joke on a public message board under my own name about apartments in Japan being small because Japanese people are small. I intended it ironically, but it didn’t land at all, and when I was called out on it, I doubled down because I was young and stupid. Which isn’t an excuse — I still should’ve known better. I’ve regretted it ever since, but I don’t think I’ve ever publicly apologized. So I’m sorry. It was ill-advised and I’ve learned that that particular kind of humor isn’t an appropriate part of any kind of discourse. I was wrong.
I once defended a Nazi band called Nocturnal Fear in the pages of Decibel because I didn’t properly do my research. Fuck those guys and their music. I was wrong.
I’ve been guilty of sexist language in a fair amount of my music writing. Specifically, I referred to Dark Castle/Taurus singer/guitarist Stevie Floyd as a “sweetheart” in several pieces on her bands. I’d met her at Scion Rock Fest, and she was really cool to me, but that’s a shitty thing to describe a kick-ass musician as — I would probably not have described a dude that way. I’m sure there were other instances, especially early on in my career, but that’s the one that stuck with me. So I’m sorry, Stevie (and any other female musician I referred to in a similar manner). I was wrong.
The other elephant in the room, for me, is my long-running Decibel column, Girly, Black, and Pretty, which covers symphonic/gothic metal bands with woman singers (a problematic genre to begin with, certainly). The title was a play on J. Bennett’s old column, Grim, Black, and Ugly, but since that hasn’t appeared in eons, it no longer has that context, so the title of my column just seems ugly. If I do more pieces of that sort, I’ll definitely find a new title. Upon review of the columns themselves, I actually do treat the music even-handedly, so I don’t feel bad about that. I DO feel bad about using the term “girly metal” forever. I thought it was funny. It was not. It was insulting. I switched to “corset metal” since the singers (and a lot of the backing musicians) usually wear frilly clothing. That’s probably also a shitty term, and I’m creative enough to find something better. I still love the genre, and I’d like to find a way to continue covering it, but my approach in the past has used gross terminology, and I’m sorry. I was wrong.
Same goes for any script in which I referred immediately to a woman character’s looks. Same goes for my frequent use of the term “female-fronted.” Same goes for anything I’ve said or written that comes across as racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic. I’ll try to do better in the future. I’m sorry.
I was wrong.