In 2014, entrepreneur and founder of Proday, Sarah Kunst, had been in talks with 500 Startups, a startup incubator, for a potential job. During the process, one of the founders had texted her on Facebook saying, “I was getting confused figuring out whether to hire you or hit on you.”
When the New York Times story revealed this, and many other accounts of sexual harassment faced by women in tech and entrepreneurship, Dave McClure, aforementioned darling founder, came out with a classic Medium blogpost apology. It was titled: “I’m a Creep. I’m Sorry.”
There’s a lot that was wrong with the apology itself. Even if one were to grant that it was in part, sincere, sugarcoating sexual harassment as “creepy”, apologising for his behaviour “in a setting I thought was social, but in hindsight was clearly not”, and confessing that he shook off people who called him out with “I won’t try and thank any of those folks right now, or act like I wanted that ass-kicking. But yeah… guess I kinda needed that.” While he did take responsibility for being defensive, and putting women in powerless and traumatising situations — apparently, he was just “clueless.”
Since then, many more women have come out with their McClure horror stories to Sarah, and he has resigned from his position. But what’s alarming is how people have been reacting to his apology. They spoke of how he’s previously helped many people, how writing this apology must’ve taken so much courage, and how they’d always admire his ways. Someone on Twitter called creepiness his USP. Apparently, some believe that he has nothing to be ashamed of, that it’s normal for a man to hit on a woman, and “Jesus F*cking Christ”, what was he even apologising for!
His post says nothing about the degree of his “creepy” behaviour with other women, conveniently lumping them all as “inappropriate sexual advances”, but we now know better. Cheryl Yeo, the founder of Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre, who was also had professional ties with McClure, recently opened up about how he assaulted her at her apartment one night. “On the way out, he pushed himself onto me to the point where I was backed into a corner, made contact to kiss me, and said something along the lines of ‘Just one night, please just this one time’.”
It’s really sad that there’s even a threshold of severity for this to be taken seriously, but as Cheryl also pointed out in her blog, “the devil is in the details”. A vacillating apology is the least he could do, but people seem to think that Dave is a valiant icon for apologising. Considering the kind of trauma the women he assaulted had to go through, we’re sorry, we don’t have medals to offer to him.