"Sorry not sorry" is still having its moment, but for many women, plain old "sorry" is still going strong too. Satirical feminist website Reductress nailed it with its headline "Woman Changes Email Signature to 'Sorry,'" but now it seems one business is taking a page from the site's book.
Inspired in part by Fast Company's article from June 2014 arguing women should stop apologizing, a company called Cyrus Innovation built a Gmail plugin called "Just Not Sorry." The plugin highlights wishy-washy words and phrases thought to undermine a message (think: "sorry," "just" and "I'm no expert") in the body of your email, as though they're misspelled. Though the project keeps the allegedly female-specific problem in mind, the plugin itself isn't gender-specific: Men and women can both download it to make sure they're saying what they mean.
CEO Tami Reiss said she was motivated to develop the product when she was at a brunch for the League for Extraordinary Women, according to a Medium post. After discussing the way women present themselves in the work environment, Reiss came to a realization. "The women in these rooms were all softening their speech in situations that called for directness and leadership," she wrote in a piece on Medium. "We had all inadvertently fallen prey to a cultural communication pattern that undermined our ideas. As entrepreneurial women, we run businesses and lead teams ?— ?why aren't we writing with the confidence of their positions?"
Reiss wrote that the other women at the meeting were excited by her idea. Others find fault in the message behind the product: On Monday, Lenny Letter editor Jessica Grose penned a Washington Post op-ed criticizing the plugin as reductive and shaming of women and their speech patterns. Grose noted that this latest slam of "sorry" is part of a larger trend of scrutinizing the way women speak. The reasons why those patterns might be perceived to be predominant in women is more complicated, she wrote.
"I'd argue that they are [using "sorry" and "just"] not because they are carelessly conforming to gendered expectations to the detriment of their careers," Grose wrote, "but because they've learned through trial and error that using speech this way is ultimately more effective."
In the future, Grose just hopes the language police call off their dogs. "Maybe if their communications weren't constantly picked apart, even by well-meaning observers," she wrote, "they'd have more of the deeply felt confidence they need to succeed."
h/t Fast Company