Fifteen is the number of times in one day I apologized. As a woman, I am more prone to apologizing than my male peers. I apologize for things such as not holding a door for someone five paces behind me, or even someone else knocking my arm when I pass them by.
I was brought up in a culture that expects me to apologize as an act of politeness, to apologize for taking up space, to apologize rather than ‘rocking the boat’. I grew up in a mindset of ‘comfortable feminism’, believing I could do anything as long as I worked hard enough, but not disrupting the system I had to work through. I had an understanding that I held a more passive role in society, and perpetuate that role through my act of over apologizing. Where has this over apologizing gotten us as feminists? Am I living my best feminist life even when I over apologize?
Sorry, adj – 1) distressed, sad; feeling grief or sorrow
2) In predicative use, usually following a verb as ‘to be’, ‘to look’, ‘to seem’, etc: grieved or vexed about a particular thing; regretful.
The word sorry is supposed to be used in a deeper way than saying sorry for not holding a door. Sorry is for grieving, for regretting that you didn’t do something when you had the chance. The way I have been using it in my comfortable feminism is in a more roundabout way to try to passively elicit a more necessary apology from the other person. If women stop saying sorry for not holding a door or someone else knocking into them then we can continue to change the way our patriarchal society views women as passive, as pushovers, and start to teach the next generation of women to believe that they are supposed to be here. “As a woman’s ability to take care of herself expands thanks to feminist efforts, the feminist goals she’s willing to really fight for, or contribute time and money and effort to, shrink” (Crispin 49). In this age of mass produced feminism, comfortable feminism is making feminism less striking, removing the drive to fight and disrupt the patriarchal system, making it a passive, comfortable movement, allowing people to claim stake in the movement without actually doing anything. Rather than dismantle the patriarchal system, we think we can just work within it. Without the drive to fight and disrupt, we fall into routine passive apologizing.
When I apologize, I am internally thinking that the other person should apologize rather than me. There should be more apologies, but they shouldn’t be coming from women; instead, they should be coming from men and the patriarchal system women are forced to work through. My act of apologizing needs to be taken to the external, physical point of not apologizing but rather saying “sorry I’m not sorry.” Through this phrase I am actively denying the other person an unnecessary apology; I am disrupting the social norm of automatically expecting an apology for something unnecessary. “Sorry I’m not sorry” causes discomfort inside a person because it is so irregularly said, it is not the assumed response, it is an unconditioned response.
Apologizing has been conditioned into our social norm; it is almost an unconscious reaction to things and when that conditioned response is disrupted it leaves people uncomfortable. This discomfort is necessary if modern feminists want to actually change and shake things up the way they should. If they want to step outside of this comfortable feminism where you can buy a $60 sweatshirt that says feminist then ‘feminists’ have to provoke that uncomfortable feeling that comes with unconditioned response like “sorry I’m not sorry”.
We live in an age where it’s easier to like, share, and re-tweet things and claim to be a feminist, but are we living and actively feminist life? In this digital age our communication skills are being altered, causing us to be more passive in our communication whether that is through phone call, text, or messenger. By communicating significantly through cyber communication we are further removing ourselves from our own personhood as women. We are automatically putting ourselves in a passive role by not communicating face to face as readily. However, our cyber communication is just one reason we as women feel the need to over apologize.
We have grown up learning to be polite, to play a more passive, but where has that gotten us? We are too comfortable with our ‘attempts’ of dismantling the patriarchy. We believe if we take little steps towards readjustment then the patriarchal system will just let us squeeze in. WAIT!! We don’t want to just squeeze in, we don’t want to try to fit into a system that is obviously broken, we want to create a new system that doesn’t make us feel the need to apologize for someone else’s knocking us on the arm.
Turn this comfortable feminism on its head. Instead of over apologizing, introduce “sorry I’m not sorry” to your everyday phrases. This phrase will definitely get some responses and ruffle some feathers, but by using this phrase you as a woman are putting yourself in that space, you are proving you exist by disrupting the conditioned response of an apology. When you use the phrase you should existenceknow it may elicit one of three responses from male counter parts:
- awkward chuckle and shrug of the shoulders
- a hesitant turn around and stare
- an abrupt response confronting the phrase in a defensive manner.
With any of these responses just remember to stand your ground, remember you are supposed to be in that space, remember you are a powerful . You may not need to say anything in response, or you may need to open up to a respectful argument, just make sure you don’t back down. Try to catch yourself before you say sorry in a passing interaction, you will feel a sense of power and strength in that refuse to apologize. Through this new found source of power and strength you can start to live a better feminist life. Sorry I’m not sorry!
Crispin, Jessa (2017-02-21). Why I Am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto (p. 49). Melville House. Kindle Edition.
Oxford English dictionary. Oxford: Oxford U Press, 2009. Print.