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September 20, 2014

I Am A Woman, Hear Me Roar—With Apologies. ~ Brianna Johnson

butupa/Flickr

There has been a lot of discussion lately about women “over-apologizing,” meaning they often say sorry for things that shouldn’t actually warrant guilt.

The fact that this idea originally sprang from a shampoo company that insists we can look like airbrushed images if we buy their chemicals is a whole other can of worms. (Sorry Pantene, but you just did this commercial to keep up with Dove).

However, it is an interesting discussion for a few reasons.

Opinions were across the board that women should stop over-apologizing and be more like men. Folks were all fired up.

While some men may be apologizers as well, linguists have found that overall, men use far more dominant phrases than women. Men are more likely to give direct commands as opposed to soft suggestions. And, as I’ve noticed more and more in my environment, they are far less likely to apologize for minor issues or misunderstandings.

My initial (thoughtless) reaction to this debate was along the lines of, “Whoa, I do that! I have to stop apologizing. I’m being so submissive. Blah blah blah blah.” Then I realized: that is basically an apology… for apologizing too much.

Yes, ladies, we’ve done the unthinkable: apologizing for apologizing.

How often do men analyze their tendency to “under-apologize,” while striving to give more apologies? Probably seldom. And I think that’s because there is far less analysis by them/on them. What are we—the supposedly gender-equalized society—really doing here?

Yet again, we’re comparing women to men, and proposing that women must change something about themselves to become equal to men.

Pretty paradoxical stuff, right?

We want to stop apologizing and treat ourselves as equals. Sure, that’s valid. But to what extent are we slipping right back into the lesser-than comparisons? Notice how we’ve naturally set the default in favor of men: women over apologize, but no mention of men under apologizing. Yawn. We’ve seen this before. (And no, men are not the only ones to blame for this standard.)

Anyway, this led me to the triumphant conclusion that I like being an apologizer. I’m not going to make a conscious effort to change in order to become equal, because that would imply that my natural speech tendencies make me unequal! (Did I lose you there?)

I like being an “overly-sensitive” person (except when Old Crow whiskey is nearby). I like being kind and thoughtful, and I don’t want to become more like the asshole who bumped into me and didn’t apologize. Why? Because that would be an attempt at hardening myself, and honestly, the world doesn’t need any more of that.

A person who apologizes often is conscientious to the needs of others, and that’s not necessarily something we should try to edit out of ourselves.

If the sexes were truly perceived as equal, would this conversation be happening? Probably not. Regardless, it’s interesting, and maybe important to talk about at this point in social evolution.

That being said, apologizing less may actually be the perfect advice for some people. Particularly, those who are accustomed to being guilted or taken advantage of. However, if you find yourself wanting to apologize less as part of a widespread movement to become “equal,” or because you’re resentful towards men, that’s when it becomes counterproductive.

So apologizers of the world, don’t worry so much about your cascade of never-ending sorries. Work on feeling good about yourself, but don’t feel as if you must alter your speech patterns to get there.

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Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: butupa/Flickr

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