Thursday, January 26, 2017

Saying Sorry


When I was thinking about what to research for my second year thesis, I was browsing on YouTube through clips of Inside Amy Schumer. I came across "I'm Sorry" (which seems to no longer be available), where a panel of professional, intelligent women get heckled by the men in the audience and apologize profusely, to the audience and to each other. At some point, one of the women gets up, saying she's running out to get something and asks the people in the audience if they'd like her to get anything. 

Schumer hasn't been the only one to bring up the fact that women often apologize even for things they are not responsible for. A couple years ago, Pantene released a controversial commercial featuring women apologizing in different environments in their lives. 

Researching to write this piece, I came across a couple of interesting articles that delved a lot deeper into this topic. Jessica Grose wrote a piece on the Washington Post where she argues that picking apart the ways women communicate and subsequently preaching to them about the words they should and shouldn't use is the culprit, not the words themselves. In an article for Time Magazine, Jessica Bennett talks to women about the time they realized they used the word "sorry" too much and how they've started to police themselves (highly recommend both reads). 

Personally, choosing to stop saying sorry is not about whether women apologize more than men, but rather about the meaning of words. 

Last year, I found myself sitting at a dinner party where I was utterly miserable. Going in, I had only agreed to go to be polite. I sat for hours at the table where the men in the room discussed women's issues and later laughed at old French misogynist sayings, saying that's terrible! in between laughs, I thought I was going to be sick. When I got home I asked myself a question I had asked myself a lot in 2016: Why do I keep doing things I don't want to do? A few days before this dinner, a woman sarcastically applauded me for standing in her way "Bravo! Standing in the middle of the store!", instead of simply asking me to let her through. My immediate instinct would've been to apologize, but I quickly stopped myself. 

This led me to notice that I excused myself all the time for things that were not my fault, and for which I wasn't truly sorry. I decided to not only stop saying things I didn't mean just to be polite but also to stop apologizing for things I wasn't sorry for -- So far, it feels great.

There is an app that got quite a bit of press when it came out (and its fair share of criticism) that underlines the words "just" and "sorry" in your emails as if they were misspelled. Discussions of the language of women aside, I think it'd be interesting to see just how much we use these words in our daily conversations, professional or otherwise. 

PS: Refinery29 has a great piece on the ways their (mostly female) employees used it and the frequency with which they apologized.