Hardwired For Sorry [conclusion]

One

The Power of One

I shook my head as I reviewed Ope’s first draft for the series. Her prose though beautiful did not resonate with me. This piece lacks heart I thought. It did not. The problem was me. I could not conceive that a girl would have insecurities about her height. That others brought them on was beside the point. How could she not see how lucky she is? Someone said that privilege is invisible to those who have it. I am the petite girl with graces, how could I know?

Aware of my bias, I reread Ope’s piece, processing her ideas and connecting them to my experiences.

Tall girls seem to be the norm where I live. I have watched little girls grow up to be gorgeous tall women and none has expressed any reservations about her height. But once when I asked one why she enjoys watching the TV series, Suits, she replied, “Because I look like Gina Torres, and she’s badass!” Was she looking for a role model to validate her six-foot frame? By questioning the premise of her heightend apologies, I see how Ope has become a lighthouse for tall girls and short boys too.

Stories are a way to share our humanity and reading stories is both a conscious and unconscious search for validation.

When Abi submitted her article, she mentioned that every sentence of her rant was factual and she had exceeded the set word count. In fact, every contributor to the series burst through the imposed word count to set their stories free and I, wielding the editor’s scissors, could find little to trim.

Abi’s article stemmed in part from people’s inability to see the pervasive misogyny in her society. Just as I could not connect with Ope’s story at first, they could find no basis for the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s quotes, which Abi shared, tagging them mischievous.

Adichie says that gender is a difficult conversation to have and as Sheryl Sandberg notes, the subject itself presents a paradox, forcing us to acknowledge differences while trying to achieve the goal of being treated same. It seems Abi wanted to make gender visible to men and women.

Some dismissively brand articles like Abi’s feminist. Have you ever been in conversation where a word popped up that made you stop listening and start churning points in your mind to deconstruct what the other person is saying? Anything that reeks of feminism arouses this impulse in some. So, when Abi signed off as a feminist in her bio, I was tempted to remove it.

There are two jars of honey in my cupboard. One label says the honey is from wild flowers and the label on the second jar says the honey is from honeydew. Humans are too complex to categorize into neat labels like honey. This explains why feminism has many definitions and connotations as well as branches—socialist feminism, African feminism, free-the-nipple feminism, and so on.

Those who take this as a sign of confusion should remember all the other philosophies that are similarly ‘confused’: democrat, conservative democrat, republican, liberal republican, catholic, catholic charismatic, Christian, evangelical Christian—are you laughing yet? Wherever human agency exists, there will be divisions, sub-divisions, and further divisions of the sub-divisions. The challenge then is not to merely dismiss ideologies because of labels but to listen in spite of them.

When a woman shares her story, it should cause us to remember our own challenges. At the very least, it should broaden our understanding of our world and our place in it.

After I pitched the idea of the series to Ekpos, she replied, “My own issue is different; people are always saying sorry to me!” Other challenges like physical disability eclipse gender, but only partially. Ekpos relates an incident at the airport where a porter looked at her and exclaimed, “Kai, fine girl like you; wetin happen to ya leg?”

She notes that wit is often the bridge through awkward situations. We need to laugh at ourselves more and get the world to laugh and then see with us. Amy Schumer uses comedy to good effect in her I’m Sorry sketch. According to Schumer, her show has been likened to putting shaved carrots into brownies. Emancipation is a journey, smile you’re on camera!

Ekpos makes the distinction between things she could and could not control. Disability and gender were thrust upon her. The will to overcome these perceived limitations was hers to invoke. The external factors, which make women hardwired for sorry, will not change overnight. But women can take charge of themselves by rejecting the messages they have internalized.

Bel takes this approach in her article. Although she was invited to the table, as were the women in Schumer’s sketch, she tottered at the edge, self-doubt hampering her stride. Many women are echoing songs their parents and grandparents taught them, songs that romanticized a woman’s lowly place in society. They are unconsciously complicit in their disempowerment. Bel noticed that the same self-doubt that tortured her was also present in the minds of some very fine, intelligent women in her company.

By looking inwards with a view to understanding herself, she finally gave herself permission to stand. In her words, “Fortified with this knowledge, I set out to change my story . . . I have begun to tell myself, first, that I am bigger on the inside than I am on the outside.”

Amy Schumer’s sketch isn’t about semantics, in my view. Sorry is still a useful word. However, the characters in the sketch were really using sorry to: diminish their accomplishments so they could be likable, temper their requests for their entitlements with ‘humility’, register their opinion as though it isn’t worth hearing, take nurturing to the nth degree by assuming responsibility for things beyond their scope, and mask impostor’s syndrome. 

If you, man or woman, are concerned about the external and internal factors that predispose women to shrinking themselves, then you need to answer this question: what change or sacrifice do I make to ensure women are unapologetic about taking up space in the world? One thing. Then follow through. Ripples will occur. This is the power of one.

I can’t thank you enough for writing, reading, liking, sharing, and joining the conversation.

timi

 

 

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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34 thoughts on “Hardwired For Sorry [conclusion]

  1. A week ago I attended a presentation on body language at a writers’ conference. The presenter spent a lot of time pointing out the differences between the body language used by men and women. Much of it boiled down to the difference in the power relationship. For example, women smile more than men–a sign of submission and friendliness. Women touch to be friendly. Men touch to show dominance. I suppose you might say that women have a century’s old experience of being less powerful. Saying “sorry” is one example. Thank you for this series and for the examples of women who have found their strength.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nicki, you continue to broaden the conversation, thank you so much.

      I’d like to know the ways I’m selling myself short, especially the subtle ways and this series brought some of those things to light for me.

      Btw, the conference must’ve been interesting. As a woman, I sometimes ‘struggle’ to write about male characters. I would have loved to hear about the nuance and power play. I hope you write about it, so I can visit your blog and read your take.

      Thanks again.

      Like

  2. Timi, I should apologize too. I’ve become a stranger again. I hope I’ll be able to fix it soon.

    Ok, I had an auto-response to this series when I saw it. It springs from the annoyance I feel when I see these gender-focused discussions. I didn’t quite expect to find much to sympathize with in it and for that reason didn’t quite read it until now. Right now I read a bit of Ope’s story and it suddenly occurred to me that this urge to apologize for something you can’t help about yourself is real. Because I’ve felt it.

    Ope is tall and that raises a lot of resentment toward her from all kinds of people. I used to be called arrogant just for talking. It got so that I became apologetic as soon as I opened my mouth. I really started to believe that I must really be arrogant. After all, so many people said that I was.

    Growing up, I was surrounded by siblings and family who alternated between clapping me on the back for being so smart and knowledgeable and sounding irritated once I made as if I might have something to say. I became so conscious of the possibility that I was probably much smarter than people around me that I learned to avoid talking when I was around people. No need to embarrass them. Sometimes even I thought perhaps I wasn’t really smart, just very opinionated and stubborn so people shut up because it was less trouble than arguing with me to show me what I was wrong about. So I tried to learn to ask questions instead. But even that was a problem because people would complain that I was trying to trick them with my questions, sort of trip them up and embarrass them.

    I have been apologetic for being mentally agile for a while now. And it has also probably been, at least, partly responsible for my tendency to keep to myself. I probably wouldn’t have realized it if I hadn’t recently started really noticing that things I apologize for saying are what I find those I apologize to eventually coming round to say to me as if they had just discovered the holy grail. It seems like I live way in the future that I can’t talk to most people about without making them feel stupid for which I would then have to apologize.

    I guess I can credit the stories on the series then. I personally don’t remember ever feeling like women take up space in the world. I’ve always found women fascinating and a pleasure to have around…when they aren’t breaking my heart, that is, lol. But I can appreciate a little more now how life must feel sometimes for a woman in a world of hurting and generally insecure, scared people.

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    1. Hi Odii, thanks for sharing. It must have been difficult growing up and trying to figure out who you are. “Apologizing” can be a way to conform and gain acceptance.

      @ being smart, I like to think that being gifted is a beautiful thing. But knowing how to ‘package’ our giftedness (without apologizing), to a world that needs it is a useful skill or it won’t be received.

      Sometimes we don’t see or hear others because of preconceived notions. I’m glad you stayed and read and even found points that resonated with you. Indeed the challenge is to listen in spite of the ‘labels’. The question is, now we know women have internal and external obstacles to cross, what are we going to do about it? One thing.

      No need to apologize for your absence lol. You find women fascinating- wonderful! 🙂

      Like

      1. Lol. Yeah, it was a journey. I didn’t think I would ever look back and see anything to like about it. Now it’s hard to remember why I thought it was so hard. 🙂

        I agree about “giftedness”. If I am being honest, I never consciously knew that I was smart. School was terrible for me. After my first year in secondary school, my grades pretty much tanked. All I knew was that I could talk good about pretty much anything. I didn’t even know that I was well informed about anything. It was just normal for me to talk about stuff I cared about. And figuring stuff out was always fun which was why even though I found studying for tests and exams pretty boring I always managed to get through exams by figuring problems out on the spot.

        I didn’t know that I was in any way particularly intelligent. I only heard it said about me and I never knew what to make of it. But I saw that somehow I made people uncomfortable and it made me very apologetic.

        I think I’ll still figure out how to relate to people without making them feel “put on the spot”. I’m very much out of circulation for now still so I can’t make the necessary mistakes to learn right now.

        What can we do about it? One thing I need to say about it is that women themselves need to be at ease. I can’t say it any better than Ope did in her own story: “accept all of yourself, your womanhood and even that it intimidates some men”. Accept it all. Make peace with what you are and just let yourself be. There really is nowhere else to start.

        There will always be men who feel threatened by women. The error is to think that they feel threatened by some natural attribute of yours or by your achievement. It has nothing to do with you. It’s all to do with their own self-perception. As people get better educated, such people as promote the errors of such men will lose ground both because of increased enlightenment and because of greater vocalization of wiser men in your behalf.

        Education is obviously key. But my approach is less about telling people to value women than it is about simply getting people to see a bigger world than what exists in their minds. The bigger the picture the smaller their insecurities will come to be in their own eyes. I am convinced that an appreciation of life as a vast range of possibilities is able to turn the smallest-minded person into a more accommodating individual. The deepening of Internet consciousness and the explosion of human innovation are bound to make such an appreciation more and more a common thing for people. So I think this problem will be pushed back considerably in the near future.

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        1. Am I right in deducing that you are hopeful about a much fairer world regarding gender in the future? That would be good.

          Yes, I think that confronting the ‘invisble’ barriers, the insidious messages we have internalized may be paramount for women … and men. I shared Diahann’s thoughts on this, that: women and girls have been known to do as good a job as anyone of objectifying, suppressing, or disempowering themselves.

          Sharing stories can help get people “… see a bigger world than what exists in their minds.”
          Thank you so much for sharing your journey. Someone may be on a similar path and benefit from it. This spoke to me: “… the necessary mistakes to learn.” That mistakes are part and parcel of learning …

          Like

  3. I really enjoyed the series Timi. You did a brilliant job putting it all together. And the writers too did really really wonderful jobs.

    Looking forward to reading much more from you 🙂

    Every time I catch myself saying sorry or apologizing generally these days, I try to examine myself.

    I have also had a lot of people give me knowing smiles and reveal their reasons for saying sorry too–they found this series very relatable and important. Thank you Timi, you’re amazing.

    I cannot say this enough, it was an amazing experience working with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ope thank you for being willing to be vulnerable. You broadened my perspective. Because of your story, a few more women have admitted that they went through a similar experience regarding their height when they were younger. I will be careful to build up tall girls.

      Ha ha, examining the sorry behind the sorry 🙂 It’s a good thing right? We should hold each other accountable. I’m working on that one thing…

      You prose is beautiful. It is a privilege and joy working with you!
      Thanks again. 🙂

      Like

  4. Ah omo! Can I say that? Like nobody, I mean NO LIVING BEING, not even me, has ever articulated my thoughts exactly as you have in your conclusion. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    Humans are so complicated and I don’t mean that in a bad way but in that things aren’t just black & white, it isn’t this or that. There are a dynamics & eccentricities. Thank you. Just thank you. Looking forward to more. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This was a great series with some wonderful perspectives of how “sorry” lives in each of the writer’s life. I appreciate your honest insights here to what the whole process of curating and editing brought up for you. And love the reminder that what we have the power to make the world more expansive for all the women in our lives, ourselves included. Like you said, “the power of one.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t think anyone enjoyed this series as much as I did. What a privilege to share the stories on this platform and become closely acquainted with all the words.

      Special thanks to you Diahann for writing about this topic on your blog. After I read your take and watched the video, I could not sleep! Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Hello Timi,

    Thank you. All the blog series that you arranged have been so enriching and I have learned positively.

    “There are two jars of honey in my cupboard. One label says the honey is from wild flowers and the label on the second jar says the honey is from honeydew. Humans are too complex to categorize into neat labels like honey.” You have a wonderful gift of seeing metaphors for life in seemingly ordinary things. 🙂

    Have a great week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Nedoux, thanks for your feedback. I feel as though my work is done whenever reading my blog at least broadens our understanding of our world.

      Thank you for your kind words about my use of metaphors from daily life. You make sewing much more about other things than sewing, especially for those of us who dread threading a needle. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post!!! I so love this thought: “If you, man or woman, are concerned about the external and internal factors that predispose women to shrinking themselves, then you need to answer this question: what change or sacrifice do I make to ensure women are unapologetic about taking up space in the world?” Amen to that!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting series, Timi. I think we all have our own demons to battle, concepts of self whether internally or externally imposed, that get in the way of our being all that we might be. Putting ourselves down, being ‘sorry’ for who we are, may be one of the most insidious. Sometimes, even our blessings (those things we receive without effort, like beauty and intelligence) can be obstacles. So, from your perspective, which is tougher to overcome— self imposed or societal imposed concepts of who we are? –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @, So, from your perspective, which is tougher to overcome— self imposed or societal imposed concepts of who we are?

      Hmmm. Self-imposed. I’m with myself 24/7 and my self-talk is the most dominant. I’m reminded of a quote I read somewhere (paraphrase): give me the benefit of your convictions if you have any, but keep your doubts to yourself for I have enough of my own 🙂

      What’s your opinion Curt?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Tough one, Timi, thinking of a child who is told over and over that she is no good until it becomes a deeply ingrained self-image. But I am with you. It is amazing what we can accomplish if we believe in ourselves. Or how often we defeat ourselves without any help from outside. –Curt

        Like

        1. True, tough one. My answer is simplistic. After all belief comes from somewhere …. Life isn’t always fair but we can be architects of our destinies. I guess that’s why stories of people overcoming odds inspire many. And summer blockbusters are about the redemption of man from aliens or whatever 🙂
          Thanks for sharing.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. Beautiful sum up, Timi.

    “Many women are echoing songs their parents and grandparents taught them, songs that romanticized a woman’s lowly place in society. They are unconsciously complicit in their disempowerment.”

    Indeed. That’s why I responded to Abiodun’s contribution with:

    “If my aunt had advised me not to get a legal degree in order to avoid “competing” with my husband, I would have told her to check her ignorance at the door before trying to give me advice.

    “When we don’t take time to educate the ignorant . . . the ignorance perpetuates.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Nancy and thanks for reading and contributing to the conversation.

      Indeed education is very much needed.
      @ your comment on Abiodun’s aunt, if the goal is education, then in that culture and context such a ‘direct’ approach is counterproductive. The message remains the same, but how we get it across would vary from culture to culture.

      I read somewhere that tact is telling someone to go to hell and making them look forward to the journey! Lol! I hope I can achieve that level of diplomacy sometimes 🙂

      Like

  10. I think that we all should be like you were when you could not fully comprehend someone tall. You re-examine yourself and re-adjusted your viewpoint. Intelligent people do this. It dismay me when this doesn’t happen enough. How many times at my family’s dinner table did we hear, “There but for the grace God go I?” Or, “Walk a mile in their shoes!” We need to teach empathy in school because clearly the general population doesn’t have this come naturally. Great ending to your series, Timi.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. There’s so much going on in the world, it’s easy for our empathy buckets to run dry! 🙂 Storytelling is a fantastic way to generate empathy.

      I agree that we need to learn about empathy- what it is and what it is not. I can try to put myself in your shoes and understand your position, but I may still disagree with it.

      Thanks Robin. I’m glad you read and commented on the series.

      Liked by 1 person

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