The Girl Who Said Sorry

Written by by Hayoung Yim | Illustrated by Marta Maszkiewicz


What’s a girl to do in a world filled with contradicting gender expectations, aside from saying sorry?

The way we teach politeness norms to children is often confusing, changing based on gender—and can have lasting effects. And while everyone should be courteous and accountable for their actions, apologetic language out of context can undermine confidence and perceived capability.

⭐⭐⭐

41sfef4abgl-_sx260_Cover:

I was a little torn on this cover. On the one hand, I like the simplicity. It really emphasizes the vulnerability of the little girl. On the other hand, it just seems so … empty. I feel like more could be done with the title, and that would solve a lot.

Illustrations:

Really lovely. I adore the simple sketch approach with splashes of watercolor. Page layout is excellent as well. Of note: I’d like to draw special attention to the dedication page – I adore the little illustration.

Story:

This is a tricky topic, so I’ll approach it with care. The premise of the book revolves around “unrealistic” expectations placed (primarily) on girls. The idea conveyed is that girls (and women) cannot live up to everyone’s expectations, so we are constantly saying “sorry.”

Various scenarios are presented:

  • One person says the girl is too thin; the other discourages her from eating a cookie.
  • One person tells her she’s too quiet; another says she’s too loud.
  • And the little girl always responds by saying sorry.

Ultimately, I like the way the book wraps up. The girl realizes that she can (and should) apologize for genuine mistakes; however, the rest is just an expression of herself. She realizes that she can be herself “without apology” while still aiming to make others happy.

The reason I like this conclusion is that the scenarios presented DO have a happy medium:

Dress appropriately for the occasion/activity.

Eat well, AND make healthy choices.

Interact with others, AND be mindful of what’s going on around you.

Aim to be a winner, AND don’t gloat when you win.

Speak your mind, AND do so kindly.

I think little girls tend to hear these seeming contradictions because parents/teachers aren’t taking the time to fully explain things. “Be a lady” is vague (at 33, I still don’t really know how to comply). Whereas, if a parent teaches a little girl some real-world application (i.e. chew with your mouth closed BECAUSE it’s unpleasant to see what’s in your mouth), it all makes a lot more sense.

In conclusion: this book could prove to be a useful resource to parents; however, I do believe that discussion is in order. While some kids feel this contradiction, many don’t. If your child has developed the habit of saying “sorry” when an apology is not warranted, then this may be a good springboard for discussing further. If not though, it may prove more confusing than helpful.

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About the Author

Hayoung Yim is a third-wave feminist, environmentalist, advocate for evidence-based public policies, and diverse writer.

A UofT graduate in political science and English, she strives to highlight issues to developing children in an approachable manner.

She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she dreams about implementing social change through popular culture.

In her spare time, she likes to travel through time and space.

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