“Men are taught to apologize for their weaknesses, women for their strengths.”
A few years ago, I saw a commercial from Pantene that changed the way I look at my own actions. The commercial showed a series of girls apologizing for things that, from an outside perspective, they did not need to apologize for. These things included being bumped into by another person, speaking their minds, and asking for help.
I find myself apologizing every single day for things that I shouldn’t. If I am standing on the sidewalk and a person bumps into me, I apologize simply for being in their way. I’ve seen other women apologize for having a different opinion than the people around them. These things do not warrant an apology.
I posted a survey a few weeks ago about this video and people’s thoughts on it. For many of the participants, the women especially, this video prompted a realization: they apologize in situations where they did nothing wrong. Here are just a few of the many responses to the advertisement:
“I really liked this video as it got me thinking about how much I apologize for doing certain things when I really shouldn’t. The video is right, women are always apologizing and it’s something I never really thought about until now.”
“Well, [this video] made me emotional. I think this video was very well made. I’ve actually thought about this a lot. And I agree. Women say sorry subconsciously when they shouldn’t. It was probably drilled into us at a young age and we don’t think much of it anymore. I’m glad Pantene shined some focus on the topic.”
“It’s very true that girls apologize all the time. I like the bringing it to attention and saying that it’s okay to be confident and taking up space.”
“WOW. I never realized it but I do that too. I say sorry all the time and its just automatic.”
While this video looks at women’s tendency to apologize for unnecessary things, our society often sees apologies as polite, whether or not the apology was given by the person at fault. “Sorry” can be used in many different scenarios, including as an apology. But it can also be used to express empathy, sadness, or to fill an awkward silence. “Sometimes ‘sorry’ is polite and used by both sexes,” said one survey participant. “I don’t see this as a female thing. I’m inclined to say ‘excuse me’ more often than ‘I’m sorry’ but I’ve heard men say the same thing in similar situations.”
This is a valid point, and while some men do apologize in the portrayed scenarios, this is the exception to the rule. Women are often expected to apologize for these types of things. If they don’t, they are seen as rude, cold, or the ever-popular “bossy.”
To be perfectly clear, I do not think men should start apologizing for the things that these women are apologizing for. I am simply pointing out the backlash many women feel for speaking their minds or being present in a given situation. So, I encourage all of you, men and women: stand up for yourselves. Don’t apologize for simply taking up space. Claim your space and your right to be present in a room. This doesn’t mean you should burst into a meeting, throwing all manners out the window, or refuse to apologize for hurting someone that you love. It means that you are not at fault or an inconvenience for existing and you should never apologize for simply being.