Monday, March 19, 2007

Who ISN'T Sorry Now!

There's an interview in today's NYT with author Lionel Shriver: After Lean Times, Prizes and Not One Apology. Along with shedding her birth name of Margaret Ann, Shriver also cast off the "feminine" habit of undervaluing herself.
Her observation that women — meaning her fellow [Orange Prize] nominees — are generally “uncomfortable with naked ambition, trained to have low expectations, embarrassed by head-to-head competition, and virtually obliged to act abashed when they win,” was seen as embarrassingly direct.

...Ms. Shriver made no excuses then and makes none now. “I’m as capable as anyone of manipulative self-deprecation,” she said recently, speaking in her apartment in South London. “It’s obviously a ploy, but I don’t think it’s an obligation. I do think I have the reputation increasingly as someone who is insufferably arrogant. I don’t want to be.”
If it was Mr. Lionel, instead of Ms., you can bet that Shriver would be hailed as "confident" instead of arrogant.
“...a lot of it has to do with the fact that I’m an American. Perhaps, owing to my nationality, I tend to be more forthright and less apologetic. For Pete’s sake, I have been utterly obscure for most of my life. I’m supposed to apologize now? No.”
Hooray! Though I shudder to think that English women are even more apologetic than Americans.

(On the other hand, the Brits are masters of aggressive apology: Think of John Cleese as Basil Fawlty, simultaneously cringeing and sneering over his despised guests in "Fawlty Towers." I used to channel him when dealing with obnoxious customers in my waitressing days.)


J. F. Constantine said...

Hi Bella!

Love your comments on "apologizing" both in the post below and in this one on Lionel Shriver.

This is a habit I have been working very hard to break. My hat is off to Ms. Shriver. :)

Suz said...

Thank you for both these posts and the link to the NYT piece!

In a 30 year legal career I experienced the apologetic female syndrome so often that, sadly, I probably didn't notice it more than half the time.

A memorable example was back in the mid-1980's. I attended a briefing for "potentially responsible parties" (one was my client) involved with an EPA-designated Superfund cleanup site. The technical briefing was well-run and very informative, but it nearly made me crazy that the main presenter - a woman - kept saying "sorry." Not that she was really apologizing for anything, nor that she needed to.

A few years later I worked with a smart and talented woman who started way too many statements with "For what it's worth." Not quite a "sorry" but also regrettable. Usually her comments were worth more than anyone else's.

I don't want to think how often I probably did something similar.