Some time ago someone with a kindred spirit brought a Linkedin post to my attention which highlighted the fact that women tend to apologise, more than men and even when not necessary. Almost as if to say: ‘I know I shouldn’t as a woman’; ‘I know I don’t deserve as a woman’; ‘I know a man wouldn’t do that’ etc.

Most of all I liked that it was a man who wrote it. Most of all it struck me that this man felt irritation and perhaps even a little anger towards us women. Healthy anger. As if to say, “wake up!” If you are where you are, you don’t have to justify yourself to anyone. If you are where you are, you must not even feel guilty or otherwise lacking in respect for your male colleagues or men in general. You, like them, are due respect. You, like them, have earned the role you play, the responsibility you bear, the gratitude you deserve.

So why do we always tend to apologise? 

How many times does a conversation, especially when addressed to a superior and even more so when functional to a request, begin with: “Sorry to bother you, but I need to…” Could it be that mothers taught us that politeness is the key? But then why is it that men are more direct, not less kind, and still do not abuse apologising? But is it not rather that in the meanders of our ego, there is the belief that a woman, who occupies a position of responsibility in a man’s way must somehow level the ground, put her hands out, make it clear that she deserves and has the qualifications. Sometimes almost saying: ‘sorry, I know I shouldn’t be here. They put me there, I swear it is not my intention to play a role that is not mine and that I recognise is the preserve of men. Forgive me if I exist and if I am unfortunate enough to need you. It will not happen again.

“But why? Why do we still feel the need to ‘protect’ ourselves in some way? Perhaps women feel more responsibility (some would say: ‘they are naturally inclined to a greater sense of responsibility’ but I want to avoid using the expression ‘naturally inclined’ because a sense of responsibility is matured, cultivated, it is not innate).

So what is it that always leads us to apologise? The legacy of years of self-denial (remember the decalogue of Famiglia Cristiana,  the well- known Catholic Italian magazine?).

Patriarchal culture despite feminism and the achievements made? But might it not be that deep down, we ourselves struggle to get a certain sense of inadequacy, of inferiority, out of our minds? 

Then it happens that we are used to violence and a part of society would like to hear us say: ‘Sorry I was abused, I dressed too skimpy’. Or: ‘Sorry I didn’t report it straight away, I know that the hell I went through and am going through counts for nothing. In fact, now that I think about it, I might even have made it all up, otherwise I wouldn’t have waited so long.  And our torturers, without many excuses, continue on their way unpunished.

I would like us to take notice of this habit and for each of us, in our daily lives, to start eliminating superfluous excuses from our vocabulary. It would be a first step towards acquiring security, which would lead us to acquire many more, with less sacrifice, less expectation and less inequality. 

And I close with this piece, which should remind us that there are still people who see women for all that they are, in their entirety and in their being determined and in all their facets:

Billy Joel – She’s Always a Woman (Audio) – YouTube

By Cinzia Costi

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