Bascom: It’s time for women to stop apologizing

Bascom: It's time for women to stop apologizing

Jordan Bascom, Columnist

Feminism. It’s been everywhere lately, right? (Even Beyonce’s doing it, so it must be cool).

And I know, you get it: Women deserve the same rights and regard as men, it’s any person’s prerogative to define and express their gender as they so choose, we should promote the social, political and economic equality of the sexes, etc. You’ve heard it all before, so I’m sorry for bringing it up once again – I don’t mean to beat a dead horse or shove feminism down your throat. I promise I’m not some sort of abrasive spokesperson for social justice or the female agenda, really.

False. I’m not sorry.

Why? Because I (and my fellow females) need not justify nor apologize for feminism. In fact, we need not apologize for the majority of situations in which we invoke such sentiments of remorse. “Sorry” has become a ubiquitous fallback term in the female vocabulary, as common a filler word as “um” and “like.” Although mumbling the latter two words is a mostly innocuous (if irritating) practice, how women now use the term “sorry” is less so, as it’s symptomatic of our insecurities and inculcated sense of inferiority. If we continue to wield this language with such negligence though, we only perpetuate the deference expected of our sex.

With the first week of classes under our belts, you all doubtlessly were subjected to every professor’s favorite variation of the name-game – on last Wednesday alone, I was privy to four unique adaptations of such fun. When I wasn’t blinded by said fun, however, I was disturbed by how often my female classmates littered their statements with apologies and overcompensations that insinuated a perception of faults to be explained and atoned for.

But this is not exclusively a Northwestern problem. Over the summer, I worked part-time in a traditional office setting (complete with my own personal cubicle and everything), where, much to my chagrin, I couldn’t avoid overhearing all the encounters of my surrounding officemates. Seated just within earshot of the department’s supervisor, who is a woman, I perceived a stark difference in the ways men and women approached her.

With any given matter to discuss, most of the female staff would approach her with timidity, prefacing their conversation with profuse apologies for their obvious interruption. The men offered no such expressions for similar intrusions though; in fact, their exchanges with the supervisor were often more casual, and they were more likely to joke or chat with her about non-work matters.

As a senior who will enter the real world next year, I’m concerned and infuriated by how the gender dynamics of tried-and-true adult spheres are no less evolved than those of our untested, still-developing student body. But I will not apologize – for being a person, for my gender, for vocalizing my opinion, for speaking at all, for existing.

When we throw apologies around so casually, we’re not always trying to communicate a sense of regret that the definition of the word denotes. More often, we’re trying to be the polite ladies our parents, teachers and culture expect. Even when we don’t intend repentance by our utterances, the language we’re choosing intrinsically implies our actions are wrong, shameful and improper – and therefore necessitate an apology.

If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice how frequently women say “sorry” – the number of times is ludicrous. It’s so common a phenomenon though, that it goes unnoticed unless we’re looking for it. This past June, Pantene – the latest company to market their beauty products as a platform and vehicle for female empowerment – released a commercial depicting this unsettling trend, a video that accurately characterizes women’s unintentionally flippant treatment of contrition.

The scenarios provide an unnerving dose of reality: They illustrate the trivial encounters we see everyday in which women employ “sorry” so liberally. Expressions of remorse have become synonymous with the likes of “excuse me” (among other polite remarks), exercised generously in situations ranging from preempting questions or assuming the fault of collisions.

In the latter half of the poignant advertisement, we see how simple, mindful changes to our vocabulary instantly remedy this problem. But, ladies, we don’t need Pantene shampoo to effect this adjustment to our behavior. We just need to be more cognizant of our vernacular. Words carry immense power, and luckily, you can control what you do or don’t say.

“Check yourself, before you wreck yourself.” Perhaps it’s frivolous to quote popular slang for such a pervasive, serious matter, but – sorry, not sorry.

Jordan Bascom is a Weinberg senior. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].