My Learning Curve

One of the main points I tried to make in a recent interview that I did in Castellano is that an organization or community can have the best policies for addressing abuse and sexual violence but that won’t matter one bit if there aren’t individuals who are willing to speak up when an influential or respected person does something unacceptable or ignorant. And by speaking up, are willing to risk damaging or losing any of the following: connections, status, opportunities, social capital, work, money, and sometimes more. 

In an ideal world there would be consequences, both big and small (sometimes education might suffice), for all speech and behavior that is degrading, sexist, racist, abusive, exploitive, etc. Unfortunately, the more privilege and influence one has, the less likely they are to face consequences for such behavior. Maybe the best that onlookers can do is set an example by making our disapproval known. Hopefully, making such instances into learning opportunities will lead to more community pressure for accountability and justice. 

While Matthew Remski was working on covering abuse in yoga, he was exceptional at listening to the perspectives of survivors, possibly mine in particular. Thus, my name is connected with his. At this point, my praise of him would not come without reservations. This is in no way meant to discredit any of Matthew Remski’s writings that feature survivors or expose abusers – I think he also did a lot of unpaid work to help survivors. And yet, I’ve noticed some patterns that conflict with not only my own ethics and values, but with those I believed Remski shared and that seem hypocritical given the work we did together. 

One pattern includes scornful modes of communication with people who have infinitely less influence than he does and do not warrant his disrespect, especially in a public forum. Impulsivity and anger can be hard to avoid on social media, I am no exception to that. However, this type of response is particularly problematic with Remski because of his position as a white, cis, male who champions survivors and allies in his commentary on dominance, abuse, and trauma.

Another pattern revolves around very questionable choices in the people he is amplifying or using to amplify himself. There are now at least three people with whom Remski has worked that directly conflict with what I thought were his values. One of them Remski himself has told me is narcissistic and hypocritical, and that they blatantly ignored survivor testimony for their own self-promotion (something he cites as motivating him to sue one of his critics).  Another has taken a position on abuse in a manner that Remski has criticized in the past, and the third has ethical complaints against them. The burden should not be on me to try to hold these people accountable, I’m not associated with them. Remski knows who I am talking about.

For eight weeks, I tried communicating with Remski about these patterns and him taking responsibility, but it didn’t go well, which was both surprising and disappointing. I thought he was different, because in the past he had been receptive, even appreciative, when I offered him feedback and criticism. As a survivor, true receptivity to my suggestions and critique has been very rare. Plus, because Remski (sometimes along with me) has pushed for and written about transparency; justice; and making skillful apologies, accountability statements, and amends; I never thought that he would complain about “cancel culture.” I always thought that he would take responsibility for problematic behavior. Wagatwe Wanjuki has written an excellent article about how “It’s no coincidence that people on top of the privilege pyramid are the ones who complain about cancel culture the most.”

After I publicly posted concern, Remski reached out offering for us to do mediation. I declined for several reasons, including that it sounded like he would not be willing to own accountability publicly, and accordingly, mediation has a gag rule. I didn’t go public for private attention or reconciliation, but rather, since I now question Remski’s integrity, I want to distance my name from his, as they have been closely linked. And more importantly, I want to do what I have asked other people to do: let people know when you have concerns about the behavior of an influential person who you have openly trusted, respected, worked with, or supported.