“I’m Sorry but I just had to say I’m Sorry.”

I witnessed something in my classroom today that inspired me to write again about females in society.

I want to share a moment I saw between two students, a male and female. The male student asked the female student to borrow her calculator. She handed in to him, it was in his hands, and he dropped it. She immediately said “Oh I’m sorry!” and bent down to pick it up for him.

Photo Credit: Leyram Odacrem via Compfight cc

No one else in the room even noticed, and the two students went back to work instantly without a second thought. I immediately thought about this article I read a few weeks ago about how women apologize for no reason. Carmen Holota makes reference to this as well in her blog “Can You Hear Me Now?” when she states:

For years researchers have studied the syntax of women and how their language choices reflect their status in society. (There’s an interesting study from 1973, “Language and Women’s Place” that goes into further detail about this matter.) Lots of compliments? Check. Speaking more often in question form, rather than making a solid claim? Check. Apologizing? Check. Allowing male voices to take up more actual space in the conversation? Check.

The article I read a few weeks back is called “I’m Sorry, but Women Really Need to Stop Apologizing”. The first two lines of the article made me burst out laughing because it is all too true (but maybe I shouldn’t have laughed…). The author started off by giving some examples where she said sorry:

•To a waiter, when I asked again for water, after he repeatedly forgot to bring it
•To the dude who bumped into me at a party, spilling his drink down the front of my dress

Yup, that sounds about right. “Umm excuse me, sorry but if you have time could you maybe bring me that water I asked for? I know you’re busy, so whenever you have a chance, sorry! Thanks!” I know I have said something like this before. I felt like I had to hide behind this soft, meek cover in order to get what I wanted. I felt like I had to hide my true feelings.


Photo Credit: Itani stock photos via Compfight cc

The article continues on with other phrases that are also too common on women’s tongues:

“It falls in the same category as “I hate to ask” or “I know this is a stupid question” or another version of “No offense, but” or ending your statements with a question. It’s bled into our text messages (“sorrrrrryy!!!!!!”), our emails (“SO SORRY for the delay”), our emoji (you know, the bashful “eeek” face), and our workplaces. Even the rise of “sorry-not-sorry” — a joke, and hashtag, that implies I’m saying sorry but I don’t really mean it — is couched in apology. (Can’t we even own the apology–or the insult?!)”

I wish I knew the answers. I wish I could shake that student of mine and tell her not to apologize for something that wasn’t her fault. But then, I’d be a hypocrite because I probably would have done the same thing. And unfortunately, it so so much worse when it comes to technology. From Snapchat, to Facebook, to Ask.FM, there are so many outlets where girls (and boys, too) can feel threatened or place threats. It is so bad, in fact, that tonight at our school dance, absolutely no cell phones are allowed. This is to protect our students because young children these days don’t have the knowledge or the digital integrity to act with respect. Inappropriate pictures would be taken, tagged, and yet another girl has a rumour and humiliation to face on Monday. I want to echo Tara Smith’s comment in her blog “Women + opinion + internet = abuse?” when she said “I need to show boys and girls how they should treat each other with respect and as equals. My students need to be taught how they should use the internet for learning, communication and collaboration instead of using it as a playground for bullies and tormentors.”

While we hope that these issues with subside, more and more outlets are being created everyday that allow for the type of online abuse teenagers face. How will we fix a problem that is growing bigger and bigger everyday?


One thought on ““I’m Sorry but I just had to say I’m Sorry.”

  1. Good post Christine. I am also a guilty sorry saying person. I do it all the time, without even noticing. Your post reminds me of a pre-intern I had a few years back. She said sorry so much that we actually had to work on it in her teaching. I’m not sure if ti is a habit or what we use to fill the awkward space. Maybe it is our desire to keep the peace as women.


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