As January comes to a close, it is a great time to reflect on any of those -- oftentimes bogus -- ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ we made at the beginning of the month. Eighty percent of people do not end up following through with their resolutions, which is unsurprising. I’ve always been a firm believer that if you wanted to change something, you would not wait until the calendar switches from December to January to do so. Time is merely a construct; change should happen when it needs to happen.
This year was sincerely no different. January rolled around, and I continued on with my business. December 31st was the same as January 1st, and felt quite bleak. The pandemic did not subside just because it went from 2020 to 2021 (shocker!), so this led into another completely remote and online semester. The second one beginning in a pandemic, in my hometown, one thousand miles away from my school that I so desperately wish I was at. Resolutions seemed quite bleak to me, because there’s nothing really to resolve right now -- we’re all just hanging on by a thread during these trying times.
However, there was one thing that I consistently noticed I do, and that a lot of women tend to do. It’s the whole -- sorry -- thing. For me, it’s a little excessive. If I just barely bump into someone in my house, I say sorry so automatically that I don’t even realize I say it. Sometimes, I bump into a chair and say sorry, because it’s just the thing to do. I say sorry for almost everything, even things I do not really have to be sorry for (like bumping inanimate objects). In conversations, I say sorry for random, basic things that I know I genuinely do not have to apologize for. But for what? Why do I, along with many other women, inherently feel bad for asking for what we want plainly? For taking up space? Why do we constantly soften our existence, wants, and needs for others? These are questions I have been forced to ask myself. My boyfriend, family, and friends have all tried to combat my habit of saying ‘sorry’ by asking instantly ‘for what?’ and it really stumps me. For what? makes me see right away that I do not need to be sorry for whatever little reason I’m apologizing for. Is it out of pure politeness? Politeness is not a bad thing, by any means, but when we think about politeness in terms of gender, there are some disparities.
I think this is a gender issue, most definitely. While some men do apologize a lot, I have noticed with my friends and family that women apologize exponentially more, and often for inconsequential things. This leads me to believe that, in keeping up with the traditional gender roles of society, women feel obligated to be a certain type of way. Far more polite, far softer, and nicer than men have to appear. This reminds me of the Kamala Harris and Mike Pence moment; the, excuse me, I’m speaking, moment. Women all over applauded Harris for this moment -- this unapologetic act -- but the fact that it is so applaudable is, in fact, sad. We as women should not have to apologize more. We should not have to assert ourselves as much as we do, and be seen as heroic when we do -- although heroic is one of the positive adjectives that can come from an assertive woman. More often than not, assertive women are seen as mean or cold, rather than simply assertive; men are seen as bold or ‘down-to-business’. So, women are expected to soften their language, to smile more, and to apologize more, as to not be labeled as cold or unfeeling. As unconscious as these actions may be, they are something I have fallen victim to. Sometimes, if someone tells me to stop saying sorry, I reflexively say sorry...for saying sorry too much. That always gets quite the laugh.
So, this is my halfway New Year’s Resolution. I think it’s long overdue for myself and for other women in my personal life that over-apologize. If you are a chronic sorry-sayer like myself, I challenge you to say ‘for what?’ every time you find yourself saying sorry. Pinning down what you actually are 'sorry' about is key in stopping this habit. Ladies, don’t soften yourself this year, or any year. Stop apologizing!