13 things women shouldn't apologize for
July 26, 2016 at 8:00 pm
As women, we are constantly being asked to apologize. We are asked to make ourselves smaller, less significant, less plain, more beautiful, more subservient, more acceptable, less vocal, more agreeable, less this and more that. If you’re reading this, remember that you don’t have to apologize. There are movements out there solely dedicated to empowering women because some institutional, educational and systemic entities exist solely dedicated to disempowering women. Here are the things you should never apologize for:
Standing up for yourself
What we’ve seen in the media lately is women standing up for themselves against police brutality, and this isn’t the only thing that you don’t have to apologize for standing up for. Advocating for your right to be heard, seen, and treated fairly extends to everyday life — at work, school, or any other time or place where the situation calls for it.
Calling out the ‘isms’
Vocally combating racism, sexism, classism, ageism and any of the other ‘isms,’ is often looked at with disdain. As much as the world will try to police our bodies, they will certainly attempt to police our words. Words have power, and as Fredrick Douglass said, “power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will.” Don’t apologize for speaking up!
Showing up for your sister
Sisterhood is so important every single day. It’s easy to let pettiness diminish our alliances with each other, and true, authentic, consistent sisterhood is work that’s well worth it. We have to show up for each other, celebrating each other’s brilliance and triumph. And we must do so without pause or apology.
Calling out your sister
There’s two sides to the coin of sisterhood, but they both equate to support. If one of my musician sisters has an off-key performance, does it really help her to tell her that it was lit? Honesty can be challenging, but if it comes from a place of love and concern, we shouldn’t be regretful for offering feedback. Apologizing for bringing attention to mistakes, bad habits and destructive behavior is counterproductive. We have to stop apologizing for supporting our sisters in this way. Granted, everyone isn’t ready to hear that
Several reports have shown that black women are now the most educated group in the US. We don’t make the most, we don’t have the most opportunity, yet somehow we’ve persevered toward higher education and scholastic achievement. That’s nothing to scoff at or apologize for. I read an article where the basic premise was that “marrying down” — meaning marrying someone without an equal level of education — could “spell financial ruin, especially for black women.” Education is never something to apologize for because it is supposed to create access for the person receiving it and anyone connected to them. Our being educated as a group will be a benefit to those we marry, regardless of their educational standing.
How you look
This one is difficult. We are constantly bombarded with images and narratives that say we should look a certain way, or else we’re wrong. Remember that although there is always room for improvement, loving the skin you’re in is an act of bravery and resistance against the forces who would tell you that you aren’t beautiful as you are.
It’s not just about spa days, manicures, pedicures and the like. It’s about not always being on edge, releasing tension, relieving stress and enjoying one’s self. Self-care is taking a moment to breathe in a hostile work environment. It’s having brunch with your girls to remember that you have allies in this life. It’s a solo trip to the beach three hours away or a good book on the couch with some popcorn and wine (because you lightweight have been wanting to jock Olivia Pope’s style). Self-care is a necessity, so no need to apologize for tapping in.
If you can’t do something, you can’t do it. If you don’t want to do something, you don’t want to do it. The answer is no. People will ask why, try to compel you to change your mind, perhaps even become angry with you for having the audacity to answer a question that had two options (yes and no) with the latter option. ‘Yes’ and ‘no’ are your right. Exercising that right warrants no apology.
For those of us who have read Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes, we recognize the power of saying this word with vigor, in abundance and without fear. ‘Yes’ can be transformative when used thoughtfully. It can be adventurous when used often. It can also be stifling when used sparingly. There are a lot of moments when we’re inclined to say yes but allow something to stop us. It’s the girlfriend who is giving you the side-eye when that guy is hollering at you and asks for your number. You want to say yes, but she’s shaking her head. It’s when you’ve said yes to going natural, and your grandma keeps asking when you’re “going to do something with your hair.” We not only have to say yes, we have to embrace our yes.
Walking away from unhealthy situations
This is a form of self-care. Sometimes friendships evolve or start to fade or relationships become volatile while we aren’t paying attention. Many times, a job turns out to be causing us more harm than help, and more stress than purpose. It’s as simple as the invitation to drinks when you said you were going to focus on goals over socializing. Choosing to walk away can be a practice in discipline, a huge life-altering decision or both. The point is that you have the right (and the duty to yourself) to make that move.
Embracing your achievements
You will be called braggadocios. You might even be shushed, but never push off your shine! This isn’t a call to arrogance, but often we shy away from the light shining on us, not out of humility but out of fear. An achievement is something that you worked hard for, lost sleep for, maybe even lost friends on the way toward. You better take your bow!
People are quick to say, “Girl, you’ve changed,” in a very negative and judgmental tone. If I were the same at 28 as I was at 18, it would be a problem. The truth is that there’s comfort in familiarity, and your ever-evolving self presents something new and unfamiliar. Some will embrace your changes and your growth, while others won’t be able to handle it. Either way, keep it pushing. As Octavia Butler says, “All that you touch, you Change. All that you Change, Changes you. The only lasting truth is Change. God is Change.”
Choosing a different path
All of your friends are getting married, having kids, buying homes, and you just picked up and moved across the country to pursue your lifelong dream of [insert dream here]. You’re single, your finances fluctuate, and you’re in unfamiliar territory, but you’re happy. The world will tell you to settle down. The translation, in your mind, will be that it is telling you to settle. It’s not your job to fit into the mold(s) that society has set out for you, and it’s not your obligation to apologize for choosing to set your own course. After all, what happens to a dream deferred?