When you make a mistake you have to own it

By February 14, 2018Comms

I am mentioned in the School Library Journal thread that names and shames men who have been inappropriate in their conduct with women in the field.

I wish I could say that the entire comment was false, but I would be lying to you and to myself. I have always prided myself on being “good”. I thought I had a good handle on what that was. It turns out I was wrong. And I have to be accountable to you and to myself. I have repeatedly abused my social power. I have made unwelcome advances in professional settings and that is not okay.

This is humiliating to write, but it is also necessary, because I believe in the #MeToo movement and I 100% support women coming forward to name men who have made them uncomfortable, or worse abused them.

When I first found out I was being named, I was shocked. I figured it was someone who had a bone to pick with me or an Internet troll. I decided to ignore it and let it blow over.

But I was lucky, because one of the women I harmed is a friend. She sent me an email.

It began: “Remember how we met?”

And it was like being hit upside the head with a sledgehammer.

Because I do.

We met at a convention when I first went pro, around 2012. I hit on her so aggressively that she finally said “If you don’t knock it off, I’m going to get up and leave.”

I did knock it off, and I was lucky I did, because it resulted in a years long friendship that I would be a worse person without.

And then I realized why I hadn’t thought of that incident, why I had been shocked when I was first mentioned in the SLJ piece. Because I didn’t see the behavior for what it was.

And of course my next thought was, if I made her uncomfortable, maybe I made others uncomfortable too. And it turns out I did.

The rest of her email confirmed it:

“Now think about being a young woman without a script for extricating herself. Think about the fact that you are a successful author. Think about knowing that you have a lot of friends.

Without intention, you have caused someone to feel unsafe. It looks like multiple someones.

I’ve seen you flirt enough in exactly the same ways that I wasn’t surprised to see you on the list. Not because I think you are intentionally awful, but because you are unaware of your position.

You are a good guy. There’s just stuff that you need to knock off. The thing is that this stuff is so normalized that it’s easy to overlook or brush past. And I’m sorry that I didn’t talk to you about it sooner.”

She’s absolutely right.

I am a big guy with a loud mouth and, intentionally or not, I can project an uncomfortable amount of intensity. I have tried to be cognizant of that and thought I was doing a good job of it, but once I got to thinking about our first meeting and let myself truly see the way I have behaved, frankly, I’m not surprised to see my name on that list either.

I’m mortified that I have made another person feel this way and it has me questioning my sense of self, who I thought I was. I do not want to make excuses or give explanations. All I want to do is offer an apology. To anyone I have ever made uncomfortable, or question their safety, I am so sorry. The thought that anyone wouldn’t feel safe around me is a kick in the teeth, but it’s one that I’ve earned.

If you’re a friend who is thinking of stepping in to defend me, please don’t. The culture only changes if people own their behavior, without excuses, exceptions or defenses. I did this. It’s mine to carry.

Once I post this, I will be donating $500 to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which advocates for ending behavior just like this.

I’m on the board of Drinklings, a publishing happy hour here in New York City. The thought that anyone attending that event would feel unsafe is unacceptable, and so I’ll be resigning from the board immediately.

If you’re someone I frightened or made uncomfortable, you have my apology, for what it’s worth. As ashamed as I am of myself and as much as it hurts to write this, I am glad that movements like MeToo and TimesUp are dragging this stuff out into the light, and that the culture is beginning to change.

I love this field. In the coming weeks and months and years, I will do everything I can do be part of making our community a safe and welcoming space for *everyone*.

Author Myke Cole

Myke Cole is an American writer of history and fantasy who leverages a lifetime in military, law enforcement and intelligence service to take you to battlefields, real and imagined.

More posts by Myke Cole

Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Jane M. says:

    A good and heartfelt apology. While we’re on the subject, though: there’s this other thing I’ve seen you do at conventions. (Not just you, of course; a lot of guys do this, which is why it’s a problem.) It’s related to sexual harassment in that it stems from men treating the women in their vicinity as if they are primarily potential sexual conquests and, only distantly, professional peers. And this thing is that you pay attention to women you find attractive … but women you don’t find attractive? They do not exist. You ghost right past them. You don’t acknowledge they even exist. And that’s tedious for pretty much every woman who sees you doing it (and we do see you doing it) … but it’s outright demoralizing for newbie writers who come to a convention to try to network, and they see that the male pros are bro-ing it up as colleagues, and they’re talking to the pretty women (who then have to fend off unwanted advances) … but the women they see as plain are entirely shut out of conversations.

    There is a whole lot of professional courtesy and collegiality that a male writer could exhibit besides the icky binary of choosing to either ignore a woman or hit on her. But that binary seems to be the go-to for a lot of male pros, and it always leads to women having fewer professional opportunities. Please, guys, stop doing this.

  • Christian Walde says:

    Just a thought, and maybe you’re not in a position to do it, but maybe try removing the very self-ad-looking banner about your book at the bottom of the post.

  • I barely know you—we’ve met a few times at cons, spoken on some panels together (and I have only had positive experiences with you).

    I thank you for writing this. It takes courage and honor to acknowledge our mistakes, apologize, and take steps to do better. I hope others feel you are setting an example here. I do.

  • Jill says:

    I appreciate your acknowledgment of your behavior, but I’d ask you to look beyond your new realization that you’ve made women feel unsafe and delve into why you did it and why you thought it was okay. Jane M’s comment might be a good jumping off point for you.

  • Very courageous and thoughtful of you to face up to this, post about it, and also take decisive action. You’re the positive antidote to the “soul-searching” nonsense others have posted. One thing that occurs to me – and as a woman, this manifests differently for me – is I think we become so accustomed to writing in anonymity for so long, dealing with rejections and being ignored, that we don’t realize when that changes. I’ve had several wake-up calls lately where people have said, essentially, “well, duh – you’re famous.” I still feel like hard-working, struggling writer, not at all special. So that transition to “having power” can come without our knowing it. It’s something I’ve discovered I have to be aware of, as my words and actions have more impact than I’ve realized.

    Good luck and best wishes to you.

  • Susan says:

    >>I’m on the board of Drinklings, a publishing happy hour here in New York City. The thought that anyone attending that event would feel unsafe is unacceptable, and so I’ll be resigning from the board immediately.

    Please don’t resign. You’re needed as an ally. When you talk to women as professionally and respectfully as you talk to men, your behaviour will accomplish a couple of things. Men will notice and learn. Women will notice, which opens the possibility of regaining trust. You will have the opportunity to notice and engage with women who, as Jane described, can be overlooked due to appearance. You will have the opportunity to do some scary stuff, like speaking up when other men make inappropriate comments or speak over women or interrupt women or claim a women’s idea as their own (you get the picture 🙂 ).

    Please use your power for good!

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