If you listen carefully, this simple phrase is continuously whispered by half of the students bustling on our campus. It’s spoken when chairs screech on the floor. It’s echoed as the starting point and closing remark of sentences. It’s mentioned even when multiple people are to blame. Uttering this simple yet dangerous phrase has become second nature for some women.
I often catch myself, and fellow women, apologizing for things that should not be apologized for. As our mouths open to state our answers, opinions and truths, the word “sorry” creeps in before anything else. As we form relationships and interact with others, “sorry” manages to cause a disturbance. “Sorry” has poured into so many of our actions, but some things should never be apologized for:
The intricate folds of our bodies.
The edge to our tone.
The sharpness of our opinions.
The push to lean in.
The shove to make space for our voices.
The need to be real and honest.
The tears and laughter seeping from our beings.
This simple phrase has far greater implications than merely apologizing for our actions. Words have an impact on our self-image and aspirations. Every time “sorry” is stated, a denial and suppression occurs. In that moment, we become labeled as wrong. Our bodies, opinions, reactions and needs become inappropriate and incorrect. This inherent and often unnoticed apology tells us and those around us that we are not worthy.
If you listen closely, stating, “I’m sorry,” has become a widespread phenomenon. Such occurrences do not merely happen by chance. Our apologies are connected. Your sorry is linked to mine. They are born from the same source. As women, we are consistently told by our surrounding institutions, media and even those close to us that we are to approach the world with caution and one step below our male counterparts.
These messages can be subtle and indirect or a slap in the face, but regardless of how they are presented, they still make the same point. Women are seen as weak and passive sex objects. The size of a woman’s body is more noticeable than the size of her mind. A woman’s worth stems from her ability to adopt a limiting notion of beauty. I’m bombarded by these messages every time I open a magazine, turn on the TV, hear men’s howls and whistles, and listen to women critique other women. Messages and stereotypes have the power to socialize people into believing these lies.
Our shields can only resist a certain amount of bullets. After a while, they all come rushing in. Perhaps, the messages of women’s inferiority have broken our shields and have burrowed deep within us. From within comes the need to apologize. We have adopted unnecessary insecurities. We have become subjected to the power of socialization and dangerous ideas that have poisoned our minds and actions. We, women, are silencing ourselves as we apologize for who we are and what we think. But we are not weak for letting these beliefs seep past our shields. We may have fallen victim to these simple words, but we hold immense strength. We have the power to change our vocabulary. We have the power to radiate new messages.
We are strong and filled with inspiring ideas. Our minds hold beautiful knowledge. Our worth comes from fulfilling our own ideals and passions.
“Sorry” is not necessary. Be courageous enough to be yourself. You are not an apology.
Maja Tosic is an LSA senior.