(and to the men and women who can’t see the problem in what he himself is admitting to having done)

Disclaimer: I’m not wading into the abominable behavior of folks connected to FanX here, particularly in the way they’ve treated Shannon Hale (who is one of my heroes) throughout. That might come later.

My letter:

Dear Mr. Evans,

We’ve met. You have no reason to remember me, but I have very distinct memories of the circumstances. I’d been invited to a dinner/meeting of your Tribe of Kyngs by a dear friend and figured, hey, free meal. Plus, I think men need to get better at making and having friends and perhaps this would be a great space for discussion of healthy relationships.

Tribe of Kyngs was a bust for me. I found it mostly harmless, but the repeated refrain of taking back power and the positioning of being under attack as men are just not my speed. Power is under attack and rightly so. Good men are not under attack. And if we sometimes get lumped into crappy behavior despite our strong efforts at being good and decent, I think we can take it. Maybe we could.. take it like a man. Not sorry.

But that’s not what this letter’s about, although it probably has a bit of a bearing.

This is about hugging and other physical interactions, including things that you’ve said, all connected to the current Salt Lake City FanX debacle. I’m hesitant to insert myself into this, since women need to be heard, believed, and respected much more than the media has been willing to do to date. but this is man to man, Mr. Evans. My sincere intent is to help you see the point that so many powerful women are making.

Is our country/society as a whole getting a bit hypersensitive? Good question. Totally irrelevant when discussing specific situations like this one. So take that objection and set it aside right now.

Touch isn’t evil and people need to relax and see it as it was intended could be another objection. Fine.

Touch is not evil. And the problem here is that people see it exactly as it was intended– you are in a position of power and notoriety. You know that. You like it. Who wouldn’t? Think of Bill Clinton. He had a consensual adult sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky– but it was fundamentally wrong for two major reasons: he was married and he was Ms. Lewinsky’s boss. By the definition of sexual harassment we have today, he behaved in a wildly inappropriate and predatory way.

Easy to agree with that, right?

Please look honestly at your statement:

“I told her she was pretty, kindly, as I said, ‘You’re pretty, that’s not going to hurt sales.’ I was trying to make her feel good. Again, I was congratulating her and I was in public.”

Dude. You told her she was pretty and that wasn’t going to hurt sales. The entirety of her value to you at that moment, in the very words you used, was as a physically pretty being. Furthermore, you indicated that was all her value was– that her looks would help her sales. Nothing about her writing, her competence- only her looks. What an incredibly demeaning thing to say.

And you said it kindly. What do you mean by kindly? Like as a senior person in the industry seeking to help out a new entrant into the industry? As a nice person?

For either of those to be true, you’d have to be competent in the industry or as a nice person. That might be hurtful to hear, but that doesn’t matter. Number one: this is a professional workplace and you don’t comment on a co-worker’s looks, especially if you are in a position of power in that situation. Number two: kind people think about what they’re going to say to a person in terms of how it will be received by that person, not just what they think they should say to fulfill their own internal and biased version of ‘kind.’

So to be clear, you didn’t do this in response to her soliciting advice from you or even initiating interactions with you.

Stop and think about WHY you did/said this. Please, I’m not being rhetorical here. Stop and think about why.

My best and most generous guess is my interpretation of your use of ‘kindly.’ You wanted to be nice.

Great! Let’s unpack that.

You’re going to want to resist ‘unpacking’ being kind because can’t we all just get along? Yes. We can all just get along, but we have to start seeing people- and I mean actually SEEING people and understanding what ‘being nice’ might mean to them. This doesn’t require us to treat people like fragile things and having to walk around on egg shells. It requires us to stop with the metaphors and see and hear the people we’re interacting with.

So, being kind, you told her she was pretty.

You were being kind because that’s important to you. And when you hug fans, it’s you being kind, because that’s important to you.

The focus is you. That’s the problem. You want to be kind and that’s important, but you’re being your version of kind. You’re being the version of kind that makes sense in your experience.

But this author, this woman we’re talking about– and by extension every other woman and man you are kind to– has her own experience and her own needs and her own background.

You didn’t take time to find out how you could make her experience better, how you could support her in a way that would actually be positive for her. You did your thing and that was that.

That’s not what being kind is. Being kind is about the other person. That’s what Jesus Christ taught when he said that losing ourselves in the service of others is how we will find ourselves.

My intent is not to attack you, Mr. Evans. It’s to try to help you to see that your, hopefully sincere, attempt to be kind was a demonstration of your good heart, but a lack of effort to understand the person and the situation. And unfortunately that ‘kindness’ and compliment ended up being hurtful and a demonstration of power over women. And you haven’t acknowledged that.

And that’s making it worse. It’s easy to agree that each person is an individual. So it should be a simple act of humility to stop and consider that even though you might not have meant anything damaging– it was hurtful. And what we’re seeing now is a total unwillingness to do so, which is even more injurious because you’re dismissing the fundamental individuality of the woman in the event we’re talking about.

If you want people to hear your side and see your good intentions, show the strong character you aspire to. It takes strength to be humble. Demonstrate you have that strength by listening, hearing, seeing, and believing. Then you will have a better understanding and you will have built a trusting connection. Then you can be seen, and heard, and believed.

Why should you not be heard first? Not be seen first?

Because that’s what leaders do. That’s what men do.

I sincerely hope this reaches you, Mr. Evans. And that it is received not as an attack, but as it was meant to be, a plea for a few moments of powerful introspection.

Sincerely,

Jared Garrett

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Jared Garrett

Author of the Beat Series

An Open Letter to Richard Paul Evans. Man to Man.