You may have seen an article or social media shout-out about the gmail plug-in that highlights words like "just" and "sorry" in your emails to point out grammatical things that might be holding you back from sounding confident and direct. It’s called the “Just Not Sorry App” and is meant to make people speak more strongly, and like they know what they're talking about. "Don't use words that make you seem small and unimportant! Empower yourself!" it seems to say. My sister sent it to me and said, "Hey! It's like your project!" And then I got nervous that maybe some people think it IS like this project. But it's not. In fact, I think this app is problematic, as well as potentially harmful. I dislike it because it feels like scolding; I dislike it because women are not the only people who apologize, though recently they've been getting a lot of attention for it.
As I did some reading to learn about this app, I found articles praising this shiny new way to fix our language. Articles like, " 'Just Not Sorry' Gmail Plugin Points Out When You Diminish Yourself in Emails," from Bustle.com, and "New Chrome Extension Helps Women Stop Apologizing and Be More Direct In Emails," from themarysue.com, among many others seemed to think that this app could be the answer. (To be fair, there are also some good critiques of the app, and I encourage you to look those up as well.)
I hate that there is now an app to serve as a way to further police people who have been policed, and tofurther shame people who have already been shamed. Forced "encouragement" to change the way that we write is ridiculous, as well as impossible. Highlighting my not-good-enough speech/writing patterns will not help me feel better about myself. Forced empowerment doesn't exist. You know why I speak like this? From 26 years of being socialized and encultured to speak like this. And though I want to speak like I know what I'm talking about, and allow myself more power, etc, that's sure as hell going to be on my terms.
And you know what else is ridiculous? That this is an app FOR WOMEN. Your submissions are proof that this compulsory apologizing is not just a women's thing! After we started receiving these submissions, I learned more than ever that lots of kinds of people apologize compulsorily. It's not a “women's issue.”
"Oh yeah! Is your blog about that women-apologize-too-much thing? I've been hearing about that a lot."
"No, it's not about that. Well, yes, I suppose you could think about it like that. Wait, NO IT’S ACTUALLY REALLY NOT!"
Ok, let me walk it back. Yes, some women apologize a lot. And also, lots of other people apologize a lot too. The process of resisting apology is wholly intersectional, and should be acknowledged as such. Resisting apology is about carving out space for marginalized voices, bodies, and minds.
I'm thinking about an early post from my friend Justin. He writes, "I've been disabled for all my life, and during most of that time I've found myself apologizing and being sorry to my friends and family for being disabled...I'm NOT SORRY I have a disability." Justin's specific experience is informed by his life as a disabled person, and also as many other aspects of his identity. Our experiences as whole people shape our worldview, the way we speak, and the way we think. And so when I apologize, I'm not just apologizing as a woman, but as MYSELF in all of my various aspects of identity. If we consider apologies a "women's issue" we are a) losing an opportunity for coalition with other marginalized people, b) invisibilizing similar experiences of non-women people, and c) blaming women for the issue. And in doing all of this, we are d) not realizing what the structural issue is. The structural issue does not have to do with women, or queer people, or people of color, or disabled people. It has to do with the fact that people are made to feel that they are not worthy of taking up space and time, and that their existence matters less. We are told, and subconsciously internalize, that some people are more worthy of space, voice, power, and existence. And because of this, there are apologies swarming in email inboxes and buses and workplaces and in my own queercrip brain and maybe yours too.
I will continue to resist apology on my own time; I will resist when and how and why I feel like it. I will keep making choices. And most importantly, I will keep making connections.