Stop Saying Sorry


Pantene’s latest viral video is telling us to cut down with the unnecessary apologies…

Sorry seems to be the most controversial word. Late last week Pantene, the shampoo company, released their latest viral video in which they examined the female of the species’ propensity to apologise with an, often unnecessary, alacrity.

A professional woman interrupts a presentation with a hedging, “Sorry, can I ask a stupid question?” Another young woman approaches a colleague with “Sorry, do you have a minute?” Women apologise when men take their armrest space in waiting rooms, when handing their children to partners, when making room at the boardroom table for male colleagues. It’s a lot of sorry. But then the music swells and we see women not apologizing for asking formerly stupid questions. Waiting room girl hogs both armrests with a victorious smile. The mom with the kid hands the child over with a gleeful “Sorry, not sorry.” It’s a new dawn and Pantene are aiming to please, and trend, with a #shinestrong hashtag.

This Don’t Be Sorry campaign is the latest entry in a series of corporate-funded movements to supposedly empower women. Mattel put Entrepreneur Barbie on shelves last week and a few months ago Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In organization were trying to implore people to ban the word bossy when talking about female leaders. The former movement came with the hollow hashtag #unapologetic, the latter had Beyoncé on board and garnered a backlash from internet feminist commentator Bell Hooks.

So are apologies the latest thing to lean out from? Or if we stop saying sorry while reaching past someone to access the office fridge at lunchtime will they whisper malevolently about our manners during a slumptime tea break? The Pantene video may be a little mawkish but it does address a worrying workplace trend where women aren’t as confident as men. A 2010 study identified that women do apologise more than men, because males have a higher threshold for what they think warrants a “Sorry…” It’s not down to caveman surety, just a more pragmatic approach. Women are too ready to apologise and while we’re pretty sure a new hair regime isn’t going to change that, it’s pretty great to get a sorry-free conversation started.

Jeanne Sutton @jeannedesutun

P.S. Here’s one Pantene made earlier about the sexist labels attached to women in the workplace.

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