Double Standard: Why Saying Sorry Doesn't Mean Women Lack Self-Esteem

by Barbara Madimenos

I’m sorry, but I have a complaint to make. Oh, sorry, am I supposed to ask permission for this?

Does the fact I am a woman diminish the importance of what I have to say?

Has my opening statement, an apology, caused you to think my complaint is insignificant because I don’t sound confident in myself?

The act of apologizing, or vocalizing any form of apology, principally for women, has been criticized over time.

Feminists, in particular, have made clear their dissatisfaction in how large a population of women over-apologize and how it results in poor review.

Those wanting to reach equality between both sexes state that when women use terms such as “sorry,” “excuse me” or “pardon me,” it suggests poor self-esteem.

Funny thing is, apologizing does not always mean women are literally apologetic, but rather, using a polite method to express themselves.

The phrase “I’m sorry,” which some feminists are shaming, is one we all use nonchalantly.

According to the Oxford dictionary, "sorry" traditionally relates to feeling sad, ashamed or asking for permission to act, but the notion of apologizing isn’t always meant to elicit a sense of shame.

In fact, what’s so great about language is one can alter it and use terms like “sorry” to simply show disagreement, or to manipulate a tough situation in introducing unwanted information.

So, if you were working as a sales associate in a store, for instance, and a customer was making a mess at a corner, you (being a woman) could manipulatively use the word “sorry” to save yourself from staying an extra hour and cleaning up their mess after closing time.

Being nice about the situation and approaching someone in a gentler method does not weaken you, but rather, you're giving the opposing party a chance to react while protecting yourself at the same time, with the defense of being polite.

In essence, it’s a play on words to get what you want without the headache of a fight.

Moreover, we, as a society, use apologetic terms as added emphasis, thus, resulting in taking up space in our sentences.

This is what we would all “the unapologetic apology.”

For instance, “Sorry, but I have to disagree…” doesn’t mean I am literally apologetic for being in disagreement.

I am politely interrupting you so I can get my two cents in because I have something to say.

Bumping into you on the sidewalk with the slip of the word “sorry,” and continuing on to walk does not mean I feel sorry I walked into you.

I’m just not a jerk who pushes people around and am courteous enough to notice your presence.

Oddly enough, men don’t seem to get the same reaction when using any apologetic sentence.

Why is it that if men use an apology to interrupt someone, they are not deemed at unconfident, but polite?

In contrast, if a woman does this, this theory of women apologizing claims they are lacking confidence and don’t have enough strength to simply cut someone off and make a statement.

The problem here is not so much the usage of the word, but the ideology we still hold behind both genders and how they should act, think and speak.

If we, as a society, stopped to indicate this stereotypical problem, that women tend to downplay themselves through the use of apologies because they supposedly lack confidence in comparison to men, then maybe women wouldn’t doubt their abilities because they wouldn’t have society expecting them to act a certain way.

Studies have shown women are conditioned to act daintier, nicer and gentler, as men are more robust and adamant.

But, with expectations in how people should act, we influence each other, even if it is not how we really are.

In essence, the real issue at hand isn’t that we need to teach women to stop apologizing; rather, it is that we are still holding on to traditional, antiquated views.

So, if I am supposed to apologize for anything, I’m sorry I use the word “sorry” and I am not a man.

I'm sorry it suddenly weakens me to apologize, and that society still correlates usage of certain language with a certain gender.

The only way to fix this is to not ask women or men to stop apologizing, but rather, to learn to communicate with each other, regardless of our identities.

You should respect all people for who they are, not what you expect them to be.