This year, I have made a conscious effort to stop apologizing. Not for accidentally bumping into people in the halls, but rather for my opinions and actions.
In Amy Poehler’s book “Yes Please,” she writes, “it takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry for.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. As females, we are taught from a young age through media, our immediate surroundings and beyond to feel shame when we don’t meet certain expectations or fulfill certain roles.
There have been countless times when I’ve apologized to the people around me when I’ve showed up to school without makeup, as if my face in its natural form required a disclaimer. I have begun questions in class with “I’m sorry, this might be a stupid question . . .” when it probably wasn’t, and even if it was, there’s no reason I should have apologized for trying to learn.
I’ve seen my best friend cry and immediately say “this is so stupid, I’m so sorry” because she didn’t want to be perceived as weak over something “trivial.”
Or better yet, accidentally dropping a tampon on the ground during class as I try to sneak one into my jacket sleeve and subsequently apologizing profusely to my surrounding peers for the “mishap” because apparently menstruating is something to feel sorry about.
It’s all so ridiculous. In the face of advertising that teaches women to hate their bodies, media that almost always portrays females as the conventionally attractive and complacent sidekick and beauty industries that literally profit off exploiting our insecurities, as a woman simply loving yourself and standing firm behind your opinions is an act of immense bravery.
I shouldn’t have to apologize for wanting two scoops of ice cream instead of one or for expressing anger when I’m genuinely upset about something.
But conversely, most men are often perceived as “healthy growing boys” when they eat and are seen as “tough” or “strong” when they express frustration. Seems rather inconsistent if you ask me.
Debate has helped me immensely to speak without disclaimers, and more often than not, I’m the only girl in the room. But ever since I stopped apologizing for being female, I’ve found myself being more authentic in my conversation.
When I speak, I want people to listen because I’m expressing my genuine thoughts, which I believe to be quite valid. If that makes me bossy or aggressive, then I really couldn’t care less.
If I were male, however, that would make me a leader. If I need to leave class because of period cramps, I’m not sorry that my body is performing a normal female function. I’m also not sorry for talking about periods. I’m not sorry for writing an opinion column on women’s issues, even if there are a few people in my target audience who are tired of hearing me talk about women’s issues. But most importantly, I’m not, nor will I ever be, sorry for speaking my mind.
Ultimately, I would encourage all girls to divorce the words “I’m sorry” from their vocabularies. This toxic society does not go out of its way to benefit you, so there’s no need to make your existence more accommodating for a toxic culture.
Please, do not dilute your excellence with apologies and justifications. Do not let people who fear powerful women shame you into eclipsing your light just because they’re too afraid to stare into the sun.
Make an entrance. Make yourself known. Do not apologize if someone else cannot handle the multitudes that make you brilliant and make you female.