About a month ago, I watched this video of Lily Myers reading her poem called Shrinking Women.
I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. As a young woman, I have had four professional jobs out of college. At all four of them, at one time or another, I have had a female boss. I have had strong willed bosses that are classified as “bitches” when they advocate for themselves and their staff, and other bosses who don’t live up to their management potential for one reason or another. Through it all, I have seen how standing up for your staff, being maternal while firm, is a hard line to walk as a woman.
More than anything, I have seen how often women say “I’m sorry.” Because I am a strong willed woman who knows what she wants and says it, I often have been labeled as bossy (sometimes by my bosses themselves!) and can be seen as abrasive or “bitchy.” So when I watched that video, I felt like I was lucky to have grown up with strong females around me who tell you to go out, get what you want, and don’t think twice. They taught me not to use being a woman as an excuse, and to stop whining already.
And yet, the line that stuck me was when Lily talks about how when she asks questions, she qualifies them with, “Sorry,…”
I have caught myself continually writing, “I’m sorry,” into emails and other correspondence, professionally and otherwise, before asking a question, asking someone a favor, or simply asking someone to do their job. I have stopped doing this as often as possible unless I should actually be sorry for the thing I am asking someone to do.
It’s hard. Do it today. Every time you start to write, “Sorry” see why you’re writing it. Are you asking someone to do something because you screwed up? Are you asking them to do something sucky, like count the number of clear push pins on a bulletin board? Or, are you asking them for something that is part of their job, part of their role, or just something you know they’ll know?
You don’t have to be sorry to email me and ask me a cooking question, or how to use Photoshop or WordPress or a camera, or if you can come over this weekend to borrow something from Jeff (like a drill or a table) or me (like a headlamp or a dress.) You don’t have to be sorry to ask me if I can send you a file for work, or respond to your email, or check my documents to see if something has be mailed that should have been mailed.
Watch Lily’s video, guys. And stop saying sorry. You owe it to all the women (and men) out there to stop acting like your need for knowledge, information, or tools is something to be sorry for.