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An Apology

An Apology

This is an apology to the individuals and groups that I have encountered over the last two decades. Mainly in dance but also in other contexts. It is an attempt to start an open dialogue but more importantly to address those whom I have harmed, to the victims of my behaviour.

For the last 18 months #MeToo has been the central concern in my life. Both on a personal level but also as a movement. #MeToo has my fullest support and I profoundly agree with the goals of the #MeToo movement and its founding message of "empowerment through empathy," which makes it a beautiful force for the good.
To me nothing can be more important than that everybody, without exception, should be able to pursue life with confidence and this requires safe space. 

Although I have been implicated by #MeToo, I decided not to make any public statements at the outset. It is too easy for a person in my position to apologise and this kind of broadcast can also function as a way of getting away with something or crossing something out. I have hurt people and inflicted pain and it is important to live with this and not to try to put it behind me, ignore it, defend myself or blame somebody else. It is also urgent for me to really understand what is the pain that I have caused, something I must understand first in order to change properly and in depth.

Not going public is not synonymous with not being concerned or caring, and coming clean has never been what I strive towards but instead to change and engage. When #MeToo started and I began to understand to what extent I had caused pain I immediately took action concerning myself and my practices. I have done wrong and I insist on taking responsibility for each of those wrongdoings, and responsibility, I believe, means to stay with trouble and actively participate in processes of healing.

If I have caused one person harm in my teaching, then I should stop teaching, analyse and eventually engage in productive dialogues. Since November 2017 I have given two workshops, both times to professional makers that participated by their own decision and I informed them about my experiences with #MeToo in advance.  I also decided not to accept any invitations of the work I have done before #MeToo, except two solo pieces that I created without alone for myself. I have said no to all requests to perform work made within what I today understand was a toxic environment. 

During these 18 months I have thoroughly reconsidered my practice, found out how it can change, how I can develop a different language in teaching and working situations. How I can avoid causing hurt, and maintain boundaries that are not threatening, and most of all found ways of changing an attitude in workshop and work situations that caused harm and pain. 

A year and a half after #MeToo took off, the process generated changes in me and I am glad and grateful for it. I am now ready to say openly that I am sorry for the harm, hurt and pain that I have incurred. I am ready to take on a public conversation and face the consequences my behaviour has resulted in.

First of all, I apologise for sexist behaviour and for not respecting personal integrity.
I want to apologise for my overly flirtatious behaviour and for having come on to women in inappropriate ways.
I also want to apologise for referring to individuals’ bodies in language and attitude that is not dignified.
I have also behaved disrespectfully to other human beings because of intoxication and emotional instability. I apologise for those incidents.
In 2011 I published a book called “Spangbergianism”. In retrospect, I have realized that its style was overtly sexualising and sexist. I wasn’t aware of it at that time.
Most of all I want to apologise for having taken advantage of my position of power. I used it to get away with things I would never tolerate in others and for forwarding my career.

I don’t ask for anything, and what has been done cannot be undone. However, I hope that a sincere and in depth apology supported by self-scrutiny can be a step for us all to start a healing process. It is my wish to partake trajectory for different ways of living together where everybody is treated with dignity and respect, and which can be the starting point for political activity. 

To apologise doesn’t mean to dissolve a conflict. On the contrary it is a starting point for a dialogue, a process of listening and trying to understand. I have a lot to learn and I’m committed to support others in the struggles of #MeToo movement.

Since #MeToo started, I have kept all channels open and I’m grateful to the people that have communicated with me what they have experienced. This has helped me to understand what went wrong, how I could develop such hostile attitudes and become so numbed that I didn’t see or hear what I inflicted.

To me healing starts with communication and acknowledging. Only then can accountability be actual and real. Perhaps people have been afraid of being silenced or punished, or it was too painful for them to address their cases in public and that is sad and regrettable. Maybe #MeToo has faced a small paradox in wanting to create safe space and political change by demanding transparency and at the same time insisting on anonymity. I have understood that anonymity is necessary for protecting the hurt and the harmed, but in the cases I have been implicated, it has made it difficult for me to respond. Anonymity works positively when it is about sharing stories and supporting each other, but when it comes to situations of making amends, it leads to another asymmetrical distribution of power in a counterproductive way. Nevertheless those are perhaps unavoidable infrastructural difficulties that can be dealt with later. 

I want to apologise to the individuals that I have harmed, hurt and caused pain. For those who want to discuss and talk things through I am always available. If somebody wants to have a neutral third party present, that can also be organised. If somebody wishes to conduct a public conversation or debate I am also available for that.

It was never my intention to harm anybody and at the time I was not able to see and understand that I did. I believe I am today in better position to face it at least to a much larger extent, and to make myself accountable for my actions and doings. I sincerely apologise for what I have caused and hope that my apology can be heard. I don’t ask for forgiveness but wish that it can be the first step towards a discussion that is generative to us all. 

I would like to ask for one single thing. Please, do not judge people or organisations that supported or worked with me in the past. They have their responsibilities. I let them down and it is me alone that should be held responsible for what I have done.

I hope that these words and this apology can be one step towards a richer and more equal life together. So that we all can take on the struggle for a society where everybody has a voice and asymmetries in power can be dealt with toward more egalitarian prospects. This apology isn’t only about healing the past; it’s also about creating a different kind of future. 

P.S. writing this letter I realise that an apology is never fully satisfying if it is not done in person, only then can an apology be embodied and shared appropriately. I also realise that such a letter can never be complete and see all possible readers, but I hope that if there are formulations that are not completely agreeable this will not hinder future dialogue.

Finally, this letter will be posted on my webpage and anyone can share it in whatever way. If it is shared on social media I will not participate in comment threads as they tend to create toxic environments rather than empathy and care.

Mårten Spångberg
21 May 2019