I don’t know why it’s taking a shampoo commercial to take women to task on this, but I’m glad it does.
This Pantene video called "Why are women always apologizing?" throws up scenario after scenario of women saying “sorry” when they’ve done nothing to apologize for.
It’s a before-and-after premise — not unlike a beauty makeover, but this is a forthrightness makeover. In scene after scene, one woman after another apologizes for … nothing. For asking a question at a meeting, for having her elbow on the armrest of her own chair. Then the video shows the same women being properly unapologetic.
I don’t think anyone’s counting but I suspect “sorry” is among the most common word in women’s vocabulary.
We say “sorry” even when it’s the other guy’s fault — often it is guys — as if we’re doing something wrong by, oh, talking in a meeting/not having correct change/taking some time to order a meal/sitting/standing/breathing.
Georgetown linguistics professor Deborah Tannen has done a lot of work about the gender disconnect in conversation, including an analysis of the “sorry” gap.
Men often regard an apology as an admission of culpability and weakness. Women use it as a social lubricant, to mean “I’m sorry that happened,” not “I apologize for doing that,” because the women didn’t do anything wrong.
We women also use it as self-deprecatory and, by doing that, we give the impression that our time, our concerns, aren’t as important as those of whomever we’re addressing. We’re tugging a virtual forelock, and that creates or reinforces the other person's perception that we are not equal or worthy. We say "sorry" even when we’re addressing a workplace subordinate or someone we are paying to work for us, like an auto mechanic.
Men are more likely to see the apologizer as losing status to the apologizee. It’s why many high-profile male apologies are phrased to be passive-aggressive — “I’m sorry IF you were offended” — pushing the burden onto whatever thin-skinned namby-pambys out there can’t take a joke.
This Pantene spot doesn’t do much to promote stronger hair beyond a shine-related hashtag but it could, I hope, do something to create stronger women.
The schmaltzy line from the old novel “Love Story” is, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” True, maybe, but loving yourself means never having to say you’re sorry unless you really did do something wrong.
Follow Patt Morrison on Twitter @pattmlatimes