I woke up this morning to this:
Thankfully, it wasn’t in my email inbox. However, it was in the email inbox of a number of women I know who are not expecting. In fact, many of them are infertile and some are living child free by choice. A few have experienced miscarriage.
Not a great way to start the day.
Agitated, I ventured briefly onto Shutterfly’s Facebook page to see if they’d apologized for the error. They hadn’t. Instead, I found a few more complaints from women who were hurt by the message, and — unfortunately, but not surprising — messages from a number of women telling the offended group to “relax.” And, “it’s not a big deal.” “I’m sure they didn’t mean it.”
Of course they didn’t mean it. People (companies) make mistakes. They couldn’t possibly have known that Sally from Indiana had just experienced a miscarriage, or whatever the case might be. That’s not the point. The point is that they owe the group of women who were hurt a sincere apology. They can’t undo the action. Accidentally sending that email? It’s done. They can’t take it back. They can, however, try to empathize with the women it so deeply affected.
The organization I work for holds a number of workshops that discuss different aspects of inclusion. I enjoy attending these, and should probably write about them in-depth at some point. However, right now, I am reminded of the last couple of sessions that focused on implicit bias. We all know there are crazy people in this world who are outwardly discriminatory toward others; yet, I’ve learned that these individuals are actually the “minority” when we talk about those who exhibit bias. The truth is, most people don’t even realize that they are treating certain groups differently, and they often deny it when it’s pointed out — because it’s simply hard to see.
I think you could apply this point to a number of traits that people portray, and we did during our workshops (because bias isn’t just about race). In many cases, individuals aren’t intending to insult others or make them feel like lesser citizens due to one difference or another. They simply aren’t educated, and education is the most important gateway to understanding these differences and becoming aware of how you may be unintentionally treating someone whose experience you don’t share.
This is my number one issue with those who offend the ALI community. Most of the offenses are not done on purpose. I realize this. Very few people maliciously set out to attack women who can’t have or who have lost children. However, they don’t take the time to empathize with them or to look at the situation from a different angle. They simply take their experiences and they apply it across the board. “Oh, I wasn’t offended; therefore, that person shouldn’t be, either.”
Each of us has a unique journey. That journey is both based on who we are (our race, culture, gender, religious upbringing, etc.) and what we have experienced in our lives. Today, Shutterfly was insensitive to some of these journeys, as were those who responded in their defense.
Someday, I would love to see a world where we truly understand and embrace the meaning of empathy. I would love to see us grasp the idea that, although we never can truly relate to other’s life journeys, we can certainly do our best to make them feel as if they, and their feelings, are as valid as our own. I don’t know that this will ever happen in my lifetime. It certainly won’t happen today. So, perhaps for now, I just would like Shutterfly to issue an apology. I want them to apologize with the realization that, while they didn’t intend to hurt anyone with their message, they did. I want them to own it, and then I want them to use this as an opportunity to educate both themselves and others on the importance of respecting everyone’s unique journey.