This Pantene commercial calls women out for saying ‘sorry’ too often

What are you sorry for, really?


screenshot.

That’s the question Pantene is putting to viewers in a video for its Shine Strong campaign. The video is, of course, an ad for Pantene — shiny hair is among the supporting cast. This tweet pretty much nails it:​

But it is an intriguing — if simplified — look at how often women say “sorry” for things that we  have no reason to be sorry for. The ad, dubbed “Not Sorry,” shows a woman apologizing for asking a “stupid” question, another apologizing when she hands off her toddler to her husband and a chorus of apologies from women as they scoot their chairs over to accommodate a male co-worker who just showed up to the meeting.

“Why are women always apologizing?” Pantene asks in the video description on YouTube. It’s the latest in a line of campaigns designed to get women to think about how they present themselves and why being authoritative is seen as a bad thing. In that description, there are echoes of debates around upspeak and Sheryl Sandberg’s “Ban Bossy” campaign, although that campaign has faced its share of criticism. Ban Bossy also an antidote of sorts (in the form of Nasty Gal founder and chief executive Sophia Amoruso’s book #GIRLBOSS).

Pantene’s video adds to an existing conversation about and it’s likely to make you think the next time you are tempted to say “sorry.” The video does take an eyeroll-inducing turn when some of the women say “Sorry, Not Sorry” as they confidently ask questions, delegate tasks or go about their days. As AdWeek notes, “the message undercuts itself a bit” when the woman who apologized for reclaiming her covers proceeds to take all of the covers.

And while the hashtag-inspired campaign appears to have the viral success that Pantene intended, the real significance is in fine print on the company’s Web site.

[The American Association of University Women] and Pantene will join forces in the 2014-2015 academic year on a new program designed to challenge women student leaders on college campuses throughout the country to initiate change and tackle biases and stereotypes that permeate our culture.

According to AdWeek, Pantene is launching an accompanying Shine Strong Fund in collaboration with AAUW,  “underwriting monetary grants and helping college women have access to influential leaders.”

Bethonie Butler is a producer and a reporter on The Post’s engagement team. She oversees online comments and has also contributed to The Style Blog and She The People.
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