I’m Sorry, But We All Really Need To Stop Apologising

A new Pantene advert has got us thinking about how we use ‘sorry’ as a crutch to downplay our strength


by Sophie Cullinane |
Published on

When it comes to apologising, we’re sorry, but women have a completely bonkers prolificacy. Here are just a few things the girls in our office have said sorry for in the last few days: bumping into the ticket gate at the strain station (an inanimate object); complaining about the fact there was two pennies in a takeaway curry (which nearly broke a tooth); and for requesting information that had been promised over a week ago in a work email.

Not one of those occasions called for an apology, so why do we have a knee-jerk reaction to say ‘sorry’ when we’re clearly not doing anything wrong? It’s a question that shampoo brand Pantene are asking, with a new range of adverts entitled ‘Sorry, Not Sorry’. In it, we’re encouraged to look at the many ways women downplay their strength by peppering everything they say with an apology.

It features a women who apologises at work saying, ‘Sorry, can I ask a stupid question?’, another who apologises to a stranger when they bump into her and another woman who apologises for handing over her child to the man we assume is the father. It makes us realise quite how normal apologising has become. If we saw a guy acting in such a way, we’d probably call him out for acting like a bit of a weirdo, but the word 'sorry' seems like such a natural part of a women’s lexicon that you don’t really even realise they’re saying it. The second half of the advert shows us all how it should be done: strong, unapologetic and telling the whole world we’re ‘sorrynotsorry’. Go team vaginas!

And actually, the advert's pretty effective. We DO say sorry too much as a gender and we often rely on it as a crutch to ‘soften’ whatever it is we’re saying/asking for. It harps back to the ‘ban bossy’ mentality that tries to ram home the idea that women shouldn’t feel the need to apologise for being assertive or clear. Men don’t worry about being likeable in order to get ahead, which is as good a barometer as any to suggest we probably shouldn’t worry too much about it either.

But although the Pantene advert does show us how much more convincing you sound when you drop the word ‘sorry’, it doesn’t actually show us the response received from the rest of the world when our requests aren’t ‘softened’ by an apology (essentially when we don't apologise, we’re called ‘bossy’, ‘gobby’ or ‘bitches'). It’s clearly shit, but you can see why women apologise so often. It's simply easier to be meek at work than it is to be labelled ‘defiant’.

Dropping words like ‘sorry’ (or indeed ‘bossy’) may be a good way of highlighting a more deep-rooted problem in the way women are perceived at work and in the home, but will it do anything more powerful than sell few more bottles of shampoo? We’re not sure yet…

Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophiecullinane

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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