Retraction: "I Hate Men"

Posted July 27, 2010 in Dear Diary, Journalism, Tanzania

Two years ago on this blog, I made a victim out of a friend.

Quoting myself:

One week later, the employers hired a replacement. They would never see their old house girl again.


She is beyond rescue. No well-meaning person can do anything about her situation. In the darkest parts of our hearts, for all our pride of our notions of feminism and gender equality and statistics, we know this. And in the darkest part of your heart, you already know all the stories and statistics and words I can muster.

Pendo, this is your eulogy: more respect than most women ever receive in Africa.

Actually, they saw her just last week. And so did I. A few weeks after I wrote my story about her being "abducted" by family, Pendo returned to Dar es Salaam and started sewing dresses for a living. Currently she's unemployed and job-hunting, but her smile is wider than ever.

How did I write a story so far from the truth? I've since learned enough about journalism to explain.

First, I didn't use any primary sources. I didn't talk with either Pendo or her brother: I just used hearsay and prejudice.

Second, I tried to predict the future. I'm no expert at divination, women's issues or even Tanzania: my predictions are worthless.

Third, I used derogatory terms. I wrote words like "beyond rescue" and "eulogy" and I injected venom in "Africa".

I wrote as if Pendo would never read my website. I behaved like a superior, somebody wiser than she about her own life story. In taking away Pendo's individuality, I was grossly unfair.

I apologize to those who read my "I Hate Men" story and felt they learned something from it.

But I didn't have enough time or Swahili skills to tell Pendo about the original story or this correction, either. So Pendo, I apologize ... twice.