Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 6.21.17
Stanstead, Quebec


My appropriation apology

In 2016, I published a novel entitled A Hole in the Ground. In this novel, I referred to a First Nations people, the Muskawatipaq, as well as their ancestral territory, Petawodimocto. These references were entirely fictional, created for the purposes of establishing a setting for my story and making up words that sounded kind of cool.

I regret that I culturally appropriated faux-native culture. I apologize as well for making only passing reference to the history of the fictional Muskawatipaq before quickly moving on with the story of the fictional white settlers and forgetting about the Muskawatipaq entirely. But that's usually how it goes.

I also express my deep regret for making my main protagonist a woman, having had no experience being a woman. As a white, middle-class male whose only brush with disenfranchisement has been a culturally unacceptable inability to spit, I acknowledge that I can never fully understand women. (But who can, am I right, fellas?)

Nonetheless, I did my best to portray my female character, Jemima, as a well-rounded human being. In fact, one interviewer told me, "She's a real girl," to which I replied, "Some people have said the same thing about me."

Furthermore, on at least one occasion Jemima expresses her relief at not wearing a bra or alludes to the relief of removing her bra at the end of the day. I apologize for this gender-based assumption. I have no experience wearing a bra and historically limited experience in removing them. As a man, I cannot fully appreciate the full-on encumbrance of bra-dom, and it was wrong of me to appropriate the blessed relief a woman must feel at becoming thusly unhampered.

In my defence, I have personally suffered the agony of restricting undergarments, having once worn an overly snug pair of boxer-briefs that had a bullseye painted on the crotch, which is just begging for trouble, if you ask me. However, I have no legitimate position from which to complain, due to tighty-whitey male privilege.

Moving on to other clothing, I feel compelled to point out that the same female protagonist, Jemima, is depicted as habitually wearing rubber boots. The book is set in 1998. I began writing the novel in 2012. In 2014, as I neared completion of the novel, rubber boots became fashionable for women. I therefore must express my deep regret for pre-appropriating contemporary fashion culture in a 1990s setting. It was future insensitive of me. The boots did, however, come in handy when Jemima found herself traipsing through the marsh with a visiting biologist.

I would like to apologize for making one of my characters a visiting biologist. I did so without fully understanding biologist culture, although I did take Biology in high school, a course that included briefly poking at a formaldehyde cat carcass until it was put away for next year's class. This did not necessarily inform my understanding of biology; it was just kind of gross.

It was insensitive of me to feature a biologist, given that biologists have traditionally suffered significant marginalization at faculty meetings and cocktail parties. I did so only to establish a character who could interact with turtles.

I would like to apologize to all turtles and those of turtle lineage for exploiting their heritage for my self-serving fiction needs. Turtles are noble creatures who have too long remained silent. They'll likely remain silent too, being turtles, but that's not the point! The point is I appropriated the turtleocracy without a full understanding of the turtle lifestyle, other than a little time browsing the Internet and e-mailing my brother, who is a real turtle guy. You want to know turtles, my brother's your man!

I would like to apologize to my brother for dragging him into this miserable morass of appropriation apologizing. He was not consulted about his inclusion nor could he have anticipated that I would be exploiting his presence here for satirical purposes.

I would like to apologize to satire for dragging this bit far too long.

Finally, I am sorry that all the characters in my novel are white, English and straight, but they say write what you know.