Illinois, Women in the World

Stop apologizing for existing

Castle at Illinois State UniversityI recently started a new job at a large state university, and I have been a little disturbed by something I have witnessed since the students returned to campus last week. No, I’m not talking about how filthy the restroom outside my office is now (seriously, you’re supposedly adults: clean up after yourselves!) What I am talking about is how often I hear the young women in my vicinity apologizing for existing.

It happens to all of us, but especially to those of us who live or work in heavily populated areas where there are a lot of people coming and going. You step around a corner or go to open a door and almost run into someone who is coming toward you, heading in the opposite direction from which you are going. Neither of you has done anything wrong. You simply happen to be trying to exist in the same time and space, and each of you has a need to move in the opposite direction from the other. Not a big deal, right?

But the thing that bothers me about this common, everyday (sometimes every hour, when classes are letting out all at once) occurrence is that the males I am almost running into on a regular basis will usually say, “Excuse me,” while the females will invariably say, “I’m sorry.”

“What are you apologizing for?” I want to ask them. “You haven’t done anything wrong!”

Why do young men so easily accept their right to exist and be where they are in the moment, while young women automatically apologize for being in someone’s way when that other someone is just as much in the way as she is?

You may believe that you do not need feminism, but as long as you live in a society where young women are conditioned to apologize for simply existing, then you need to acknowledge the fact that we maybe still have a long way to go.

So, do society a favor and stop apologizing for existing. The next time you walk around a corner and find another person walking where you want to put your feet, just be polite. Say, “Excuse me.” But don’t apologize for being there.

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