Sorry, but Pantene’s “Not Sorry” video misses the mark

A new ad by Pantene tells women, “Don’t be sorry.” Here’s why I disagree.

Pantene took a page out of Dove’s book with its new “Not Sorry” ad by playing on women’s insecurities. The video depicts women saying sorry at work, at home and in the bedroom, and then it urges women not to be sorry but to “be strong and shine on.” It strives to empower women with the message that we don’t need to undermine who we are or what we do by constantly apologizing.
When I watched the video, I thought, “Oh, my God, that’s totally me!” I’ve said “sorry” in every scenario depicted in the video. And countless more times when maybe it wasn’t warranted.

But is that a bad thing?

I’d rather apologize for something I didn’t do wrong and err on the side of civility. Sometimes, “sorry” lets me be assertive or get my point across without the guilt or pushy stereotype. Sometimes, “sorry” is simply a sign of good manners.

For example, I’d rather say “sorry” (even though I’m not) when asking the waiter — for the third time — for a soda refill than have him spit in my drink. But a lot of times, I really am sorry. Did I feel remorse when I apologized to the woman in the checkout line behind me because I had so many items? Yeah. I hate it when I’m in a hurry, and someone in front of me takes forever.

We as women tend to feel bad when we think we’re stepping on toes, getting in the way or asking for help. Apologizing isn’t always necessary, but it can be a symbol of graciousness and endearment, not always weakness and defeat. And as the old adage says, “You catch more flies with honey.”

There is nothing wrong with being sorry for being rude (like interrupting the presenter in a work meeting), inconsiderate (like hogging the covers) or when it just means being the bigger person (like when someone steals your armrest).

Deleting the unwarranted “sorry” from your vocabulary in the workplace couldn’t hurt if it helps others to view you as more expressive. But you can be apologetic and also powerful. If you’re a rude tyrant, no one will respect you. I’ve had several female bosses who were sensitive, kindhearted and understanding, yet they were also driven, smart, confident, authoritative and demanded respect.

What’s next — are we going to be commanded to stop saying please, thank you and excuse me? Perhaps Pantene thought they could just cling to the coattails of popular movements like #banbossy, but suggesting that women who apologize were not strong and powerful was a total miss on their part. Sorry, Pantene. I’m not buying it.

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