#SorryImNotSorry: What Does “Sorry” Even Mean?

There are 2 very different definitions of the word ‘sorry.’ On Dictionary.com, ‘sorry’ is described as the feelings of “regret, compunction, sympathy, and pity.” However, on Urban Dictionary, it becomes “an excuse people say to get out of trouble” or “when you aren’t sure what to do.” Somehow, ‘sorry’ has gone from a genuine and concise way to express remorse to being perceived as insincere or a cop-out. Beyond the implication of insincerity, cultural expectations and assumptions have arisen out of the word, especially for women.

Related: #SorryImNotSorry: Asserting Yourself Where You Rightfully Belong

Ideally, ‘sorry’ is supposed to communicate remorse, but how often do we really use it in this manner? Frequently employed to end an argument, appear less pushy, or to brush off someone's concerns,  the word is seemingly used in every scenario except when we need to communicate our true feelings to someone. It works the same way as when we repeat a word over and over again until it loses its meaning and becomes a jumble of random noises. When a person says sorry constantly, it’s easy to forget what it actually means and it is reduced to nothing more than a reflex. In the same vein, it’s extremely easy to become accustomed to assuming that just like everyone else, the person apologizing to you is only saying ‘sorry’ as a knee-jerk reaction to conflict or a difficult situation. People have also begun to understand the downsides of ‘sorry’ as exemplified in apps and plugins like Just Not Sorry that aim to make you more assertive by weeding out apologetic language from your argument, to encourage us to go after what we want without trying to soften the blow with ‘sorry.’ On the other side of the coin, the more conscious we are about our use of it, the more power it can regain in our minds to communicate the feelings that it is intended to.

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More than just the loss of its significance that comes along with our overuse, ‘sorry’ is weighted with social expectations and implications for women and how we’re supposed to conduct ourselves in our relationships and careers. By perpetuating this apology culture for women, we allow ourselves to continue believing that women are at fault and in the wrong for their ambition, femininity, sexuality — and even just their clothing. Although women are still systematically marginalized we expect them to apologize for taking up your time or taking up space — essentially for their existence — because it's what a lady ought to do.

Via Giphy

This goes hand in hand with the trend of victim blaming, currently exemplified by the attacks against Brett Kavanaugh's accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. While Dr. Ford has chosen to upend her entire life to make sure that Americans know Kavanaugh for the man that he really is, she has been discredited and accused of lying at every turn. Even as another accuser, Deborah Ramirez, comes forward.  Kavanaugh’s actions are written off as the mistakes of a child and these women are expected to apologize for daring to insinuate that he is anything less than a good man. It’s a societal trend to write off accusers as being over dramatic or not remembering the situation clearly, which has led to the #MeToo movement and the recent support for the accusers coming in the form of the #WhyIDidntReport movement. These victims were all previously written off or scoffed at and told that their accusations would ruin their attacker’s lives, then told to sit back down again and apologize.

Related: Kavanaugh & His Accuser Set to Testify on Assault Allegations at Public Hearing Monday

When we consider those 2 definitions of ‘sorry,’ we can’t help but remember the implications and impacts of them on how we’re expected to conduct ourselves. Sit still, cross your ankles, speak rarely and softly, look pretty and always apologize. As modern women, we have made the choice to throw these expectations out the window and live unapologetically and boldly every day, and refuse to let these words and what they have stood for constrain us and the kind of women we’re allowed to be. We are not sorry to be ourselves.