Gender and the Political Apology

Transitional Justice Review 1 (2) (forthcoming)
Most normative theorists of public apology agree that, while apologies may have multiple purposes, central to most of them is the apology’s narrative power; that is, its ability to tell new stories of wrongdoing, responsibility, and accountability. We judge political apologies by whether they correctly identify the harms in question and the apologizer as the responsible party, whether they acknowledge the effects of this harms on the recipients of apology, and whether they successfully address those recipients as persons deserving respect. The narrative power of official public apologies can also alter legal and political record, as well as media discourse nationally and internationally. Drawing on multiple examples of public apologies to women that were offered (or demanded and not offered), I identify three ways in which attention to gender complicates our understanding of public apology, and the narrative power they hold. These include the difficulties of articulating the nature of gendered harm, given the depoliticization of women’s roles and the stigma surrounding sexual violence, the complexities of traversing the public/private divide by bringing private stories of gendered harm to public attention, and the ways in which attending to gendered and sexual violence reframes our understanding of both political responsibility for wrongdoing, and how apologies express and affirm that responsibility.
Keywords Apology  Public Apology  Political Apology  Gender  Violence  Sexual Violence
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