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Published:January 10th, 2011 11:52 EST
Don't Say "Sorry"

Don't Say "Sorry"

By S. D.

My feminist theory class last semester was in some ways life-changing. The professor offered some very interesting thoughts and anecdotes. However, this article has to do with something she said on the very first day of the class.

She was taking questions from students about the class, and one girl raised her hand and said, "Sorry, but when are conferences going to start?" Or something of the sort.

The professor immediately said, "If you are asking a question in my class, please do not preface it with `sorry.` You should not be sorry to ask any question in this class, especially a good one like that, and especially if you`re a woman." She then went on to say, "We`ll talk about this later in class, but many more women than men begin asking something by saying `sorry.`"

After a few days, another girl again began a question with "sorry." The professor pointed it out. We were learning about how a feminist consciousness causes us to see events in a new light. (For example, that the media going on about Hillary Clinton showing off a bit of cleavage during the 2008 election was a joke on the outside of things, but to the feminist consciousness, it was deep down something saying, "You`re a woman who wants too much power in politics, and we have to diminish that power, so we`ll do so by reminding you that you have boobs and we judge them.")

The professor mentioned that, with a feminist consciousness, it`s easy to look at this "sorry" as yet another one of the ways that women have had ingrained in them that they are less important (for lack of a better word) than men. As mentioned, many more women say "sorry" before beginning a question than men do. It`s as though we have been programmed to think "we are doing something wrong by asking, so we must first apologize," while men have not.

This statement was received with quite a bit of disagreement. Both men and women in the class felt that this wasn`t true - that they didn`t say "sorry" before asking a question, and even if they did, it was a matter of politeness.

However, as the semester went on, all of us noticed when someone said "sorry" in the class before speaking. At the end of the semester, a girl who was sitting next to me was telling her friend that she had actually tallied up the amount of "sorry"s from women and the amount from men. The women in the class had collectively said "sorry" more than twice as many times as the men.

Perhaps this really is an indication of how women have been considered inferior to men for centuries. Or perhaps not. Whatever it might mean, it is definitely something worth taking note of. Perhaps next time you want to ask a question, you will feel yourself about to say "sorry" and stop yourself from doing so.