By now, I’m sure you are familiar with Pantene’s “Not Sorry” #Shinestrong ad. If you are not, the ad exhibits women unnecessarily apologizing in various circumstances (before asking a legitimate question in a meeting, before asking someone if he has a minute to talk, after someone nudges her in a waiting room, etc…) and then, in an attempt to draw attention to women’s overly-apologetic habits, confidently refusing to apologize in those very same circumstances. “Don’t be sorry,” the screen reads, and the video concludes with a woman saying “sorry, not sorry” as she pulls an entire comforter over to her side of the bed.
When I first saw the ad, I didn’t think much of it. But because, nearly a year later, I still see it shared on social media platforms, and because you seem determined to critique feminine behavior whenever it is discovered to diverge from male behavior, I felt the need to drop you a note.
It’s true, world, women tend to apologize more than men do. But just because women apologize more often than men does not mean that women apologize too often. And even if some of us do, the tendency to apologize too often does not necessarily result from weakness, oppression, or a false sense of female inferiority.
Yes, I say “sorry” more often than my male coworkers and friends. Yes, I say it unnecessarily at times. Yes, I should learn to be more assertive. But I am not going to apologize for my apologetic habits, because they are not the product of something negative like discrimination or insecurity, but the consequence of one of my greatest gifts.
I say “sorry” a lot because I have a heightened sensitivity to my surroundings. I apologize a lot because I have an elevated awareness of how my actions affect those around me. My habit of saying sorry a little too often has developed over years of discerning pain and discomfort to which others are numb. I tend to be overly-apologetic because I have a great consciousness of life’s quieter sufferings, a consciousness that allows me to detect injury where others see none, tend to wounds others cannot perceive, soothe pain others don’t recognize. What you are quick to assume is the by-product of oppression is actually a result of an incredible feminine strength. I apologize often because I see more than you, and I like that about myself.
I am sorry that only sinister explanations are offered when it is discovered that women behave differently than men.
I am sorry that the merits of feminine social behavior are so rarely considered or recognized.
I am sorry that our consideration for others is lamented rather than applauded.
I am sorry that women are instructed to dull their sensitivity rather than encouraged to harness its remarkable power.
I am sorry that male behavior is the yardstick by which female behavior is measured.
I am sorry that any departures women take from standard male behavior are automatically viewed as marks of oppression or insecurity rather than manifestations of positive feminine qualities.
Most of all, I’m sorry that so many of the marvelous, inexplicable, beautiful, complicated idiosyncrasies of feminine behavior are bemoaned by those who claim to speak on our behalf.
I am sorry for all these things and so many more, but I’m not sorry for apologizing too often, because it is evidence of one of my very best qualities.
A Woman Who Is “Always Apologizing”