I didn’t plan to post about this. There usually isn’t a lot of value in rehashing niche-social-group internet drama in longform. But then I received a phonecall on Friday which changed my mind.
[There are a lot of wider issues which I want to discuss around this story, but the post kept getting too complicated. So here’s one part of it.]
So, “what was Ruminator/David Cormack supposed to do?”
That was the question asked of me, when I said that a guy’s apology for a stupid thing he said on Twitter didn’t fix everything. And I stand by that. As someone put it far more clearly than me, “not every “sorry” deserves a “That’s okaaaaay” in response & especially when “sorry” is grudging & reluctant.”
I hate apologising, personally. Even when I’ve done something wrong. Apologies are hard. But far harder than saying “whoops, I’m sorry” is actually figuring out where you went wrong and going forward with your life, making sure you do things differently, and better, when the situation happens again.
The irony is I was barely involved in the initial Twitter drama – I made a single tweet about it and went on my way. I didn’t think I was owed any kind of apology, but more importantly, an apology meant very little to me. The important thing was that the person who said the stupid thing figured out why it was stupid and went forward, making sure he did things differently, and better, in future.
But to him, and to people who supported him, the apology was the fix. Despite reading, to me, as a long list of excuses and digs at his critics, for some it was the very proof of his redemption. And that made me, and anyone who didn’t say “oh okay, you’ve said sorry, let’s pretend it never happened” into the villains, the terrible oppressors who couldn’t let David move on with his life.
When I responded to someone else who was talking about his apology post, it prompted David to tweet at me, repeating his apology, repeating his justifications. His comments were prefaced with more stuff which, to me, felt like deliberate attempts to frame the conversation against me, like “Look, I know you don’t have much time for me, but”.
When it became clear I wasn’t going to grant him perfect absolution, David started accusing me of “making him look like an asshole” and, most terribly, not being “civil” or “amicable”. Others called me a “bully” and described my behaviour as “extraordinary”.
It seemed very much like one dude’s redemption narrative was the most important thing in the world, and I was demonized for not acquiescing to it.
This feels like burying the lede, but I felt like I couldn’t just come out and say what happened next without the pre-work. Like I had to justify my reaction, because I still wondered a bit if I were really the villain of this piece.
The conversation petered out, as Twitter arguments usually do. I figured that was the end of it. Maybe in a month or two we’d be back on retweeting terms. I knew other people, some friends of mine, had also expressed their disagreement. So it goes.
What I didn’t know was that some people carried on the conversation privately. Others he sought out, despite them cutting ties. That isn’t my part of the story to tell, but the upshot is a few people told him one of their concerns was his reaction to me. David, in one person’s words, “took umbrage” at this.
I can’t judge David’s motivations or intentions, only his actions.
And his actions, at that point, were to google my name, find my work cellphone number, and call me during work hours to reiterate everything he’d already said: that he was sorry, that he was trying to do better, that he took everything I’d said on board.
And he started the conversation by saying “Hi, Stephanie, it’s David Cormack here, and I hope you’ll let me get a little further in before you hang up.”
This post may come as something of a surprise to David, because I made appropriately polite noises. After he apologised, again, I said something like “Okay, well let’s move on and see what happens.” After he expressed the hope that “[I] would think more warmly of [him] in future and maybe we could catch up for coffee” I said something like, “Sure, Dave, let’s see what the new year brings.”
And all this in what can only be called a shout. It was almost 100% one-way assertions with only two or three pauses for me to get a word in edgewise. It was a lecture.
This is one of the buggers of patriarchy: women are socialised not to say “no”. We want to find diplomatic ways to extricate ourselves from the situation. We definitely don’t want the person who’s imposing themsleves on us and demanding our attention to feel awkward – or get angry.
I’ve fought that programming for much of my adult life, so I did consider hanging up. I did consider tearing strips off David, saying fuck off, what the hell were you thinking? But I also knew that neither of those things would help. They’d probably just incite more of this kind of contact. He’d call again. He’d go through mutual acquaintances. He’d show up at a social event and corner me.
Like I say up top, there’s a lot of additional societal/problematic issues around this story. The entitlement some people feel to others’ energy and time and approval, especially women’s. The setting of clear boundaries, and having those boundaries flatly ignored because someone assumes their needs are more important than yours.
I want to talk about those. But we can’t until we really accept how utterly inappropriate, intrusive, and downright creepy this was. I had made it clear I didn’t want contact, wasn’t interested in his apology, and found his persistence in contacting me to be obnoxious. Yet he proved the very point I was making: that despite the apology, his behaviour and sense of entitlement to my attention and forgiveness hadn’t changed at all.
So, what was David supposed to do? Move on. Do things differently. Be a better person.
From my point of view, this has not occurred.
David, this should absolutely not need saying, but: do not call me.