Opinion: I refuse to apologize

Bobbie+Szabo

Bobbie Szabo

Bobbie Szabo

When I was approached last summer about being a columnist for The Kent Stater, I did not know exactly what taking on such a position would entail. I did not know people would actually read what I had to say. I did not know that some people would really empathize with my experiences and send me emails thanking me for telling my story.

I did not know that others would comment on several of my articles enthusiastically explaining all of the reasons why I am an idiot.

Nearly 30 columns later, I am aware of the repercussions of being a woman with an opinion.

One email I received from a man in response to an article I wrote began with the following statement: “As a woman with an opinion, I am sure you can rationally realize and respect that I have my own contrary opinion.”

The condescension of the opening statement and the following paragraphs that clearly demonstrated he had not actually read the column in question were not the aspects of his response I found irritating — “As a woman with an opinion” and the use of “rationally” frustrated me.

His opening sentence insinuated not only that women do not have opinions, but women are also irrational when faced with disagreement. If his comment was not based on sexist notions, he would not have felt the need to include my gender in the discussion at all.

If the reader actually was incensed by the opinion stated in the article rather than who was presenting that opinion, he would have argued based on the evidence I presented rather than my identity as a woman.

In another email I received from a man, I was told the enthusiasm I display in expressing my opinions is “cute,” and that I am a comedic genius.

While this email did not specifically address my gender, ask any woman and she will tell you she has received comments just like those.

Those comments were meant to diminish my confidence. They were meant to make me feel small. They were meant to put me “back in my place.” They were meant to make me stop talking.

I refuse.

I will not apologize for coming on too strong or being too aggressive in my ideals. Being unapologetic is one of the hardest things for a woman to be, as we are socially conditioned to apologize for everything.

We take up too much space, we speak too loudly, we express an opinion too enthusiastically, we are not dressed appropriately, we eat too much or too little, we are too assertive and we let people walk all over us.

Using the platform I have earned at The Kent Stater to its fullest is something for which I will never apologize no matter how many men tell me I need to stop.

I continue to mention the gender of the individuals from whom I have received unwarranted and condescending comments because every single one has been a man.

I have not had a single woman make gender-based, derogatory comments on any of my columns.

In fact, the majority of the comments I have received from women have been positive in nature. Those that have not been positive have been respectful, though. They have treated me as an equal instead of a child incapable of comprehending complex ideas.

Of course, I have also received incredibly encouraging and heartfelt emails from men. I have received respectful messages of disagreement from men. Men have been some of my largest and most ardent supporters, and I am so thankful for them.

I am so thankful for everyone who has read one of my columns and felt something — whether that feeling was of hope, support, agreement, disagreement, objection or anger. It is comforting to know there are people listening even when it seems like I am shouting into an abyss.

Being an unapologetic woman with a platform for her opinions is difficult, but the comradery and community I have found because of that platform is worth everything to me.

Bobbie Szabo is a columnist, contact her at [email protected]