I am challenging every reader to do the following: when you wake up tomorrow and carry out your day as you normally would, I want you to count how many times you say this one word. This word is so overused in conversation and in passing, which is very telling of the people that use it, and the society that socialized them to use it. That word is “sorry.”
We use the word ‘sorry’ to express an apology, to admit fault. But, why is it that we use it when we are not at fault? Or even when there is nothing to be at fault for? Women in particular are the main offenders of this behavior.
Check out this empowering advertisement Pantene put out this year and you’ll see what I’m talking about…
In her article “I’m Sorry, but Women Really Need to Stop Apologizing,” from TIME Magazine, Jessica Bennett responds to the Pantene advertisement and the realization that she herself is a big offender:
“Sorry is a crutch — a tyrannical lady-crutch. It’s a space filler, a hedge, a way to politely ask for something without offending, to appear “soft” while making a demand. It falls in the same category as “I hate to ask” or “I know this is a stupid question” or another version of “No offense, but” or ending your statements with a question.”
But, what about for men? Why is it that they are less likely to say ‘sorry’ as a conversation filler? Research has unearthed a few different theories as to the reason. One being that men feel uncomfortable admitting they are wrong in the first place and that apologizing is a symbol of defeat. Another theory discusses how men and women determine what to be sorry for in different ways, that often men identify less things to be sorry for than women do.
After watching the Pantene ad online I started making note of when I was saying sorry and when other people (women) were saying sorry to me. Almost too many times to count! Here’s a list of a few instances where I pointlessly said ‘sorry’ in the last week:
- When a guy in my dorm opened a door and I was on the other side of it
- When a strand of hair fell over my face when my boyfriend went to kiss me
- When my friend and I started talking at the same time
- When my roommate came in the room while I was getting changed
- When I had to get out of the elevator at DuBois
- When someone on the sidewalk walked right into me because they weren’t paying attention
Ridiculous, right? None of those circumstances warranted an apology from me, and yet I still did so. But, more concerning still, research shows that women may be apologizing because they are taught to be polite and meek and to feel inadequate, which is truly alarming. An extreme example of what this trend can lead to is in domestic violence and relationship abuse, when the girl thinks she is the cause of her boyfriend’s violence which we all know is extremely wrong.
That’s why I am challenging you with counting how many times you apologize on a given day. Chances are, it’s too many times. Each time you hear yourself say it, ask yourself – “what am I apologizing for?” or “am I at fault in the first place?” and “what could I say instead of sorry that would suffice if I am not the one to blame?” For instance “excuse me” or a simple “whoops” that acknowledges the encounter but doesn’t place blame on yourself in the case that you aren’t at fault. By all means, if you are in the wrong then be respectful and apologize!
It’s not easy – I’ve challenged myself to the same task. But it’s also an important one, I think. Think of it as an exercise in self empowerment and empowerment for women. Now stop saying sorry, ladies!