Sorry, Not Sorry – What the Hell?

The Pantene “Sorry, NOT SORRY” video was all over social media, the news, and talk shows.  The goal?  To illustrate just how often women apologize for things they should not even think about apologizing for, and how to shift their semantics to sound more empowered and strong.  As part of the #ShineStrong campaign, Pantene may be on to something.

As a teacher, I heard female students apologize before asking a question, much like the female professional in the commercial in the boardroom. Over the course of my career, I had countless female students open my door and say, “I’m sorry” before asking me if I had a minute to explain a homework assignment or borrow a book: they were coming for help, and that was nothing that should have carried any shame.  I witnessed female teachers who had to make no more than ten copies apologize for standing at the copier when male teachers walked in expecting to make hundreds of copies.  The most heartbreaking example is a female student who would raise her hand to her shoulder level, desperately try to get my attention with extended fingers, and then apologize to me as I approached her for bothering me and probably being wrong.  She is the one I worked the most with on self worth and confidence.

Women use “I’m sorry” in place of “Excuse me,” “Got a minute?” “You’re in the wrong but I don’t want to inconvenience YOU,” and a multitude of other phrases.  The commercial does an excellent job showcasing these unfortunate daily circumstances, and I hope that its message reaches the students and colleagues it brought to my mind.


The second half of the commercial, when it’s actually #ShineStrong, would have been so much more powerful if the men had said they are sorry.  I cannot begin to express how much I wish the guy in the commercial who hogs the armrest would apologize to the woman sitting beside him.  It kills me when the man in bed does not apologize to his significant other for stealing the covers in the first place but rather spoons with her because he’s cold.

Just as we are gearing up to teach girls and young women to be empowered, we need to also teach boys and young men to be more aware of how their actions, words, and attitudes affect those around them and more importantly the how and the when to say they are sorry.

What the Hell?  If we are going to show women how to use their voices, we must show men how to use their voices as well.  Emotional literacy is not just a female thing.  It’s a human thing.

Oh, and maybe Head & Shoulders or Selsun Blue could get in on the act and create a #dandRUFFSORRY campaign to help men feel more secure about apologizing when necessary.  Just a thought.

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