Brow Beat

Freeform’s #NotSorry Campaign for International Women’s Day Is Hardly Empowering

Add “sorry” to the list of profanities that Freeform won’t allow characters to say—at least, if you’re a woman. For International Women’s Day, Freeform has launched its #NotSorry campaign, which will bleep out the word “sorry” every time a woman says it on the air. About 50 “sorrys” will be censored throughout the day Thursday, with an on-air #NotSorry meter tracking the number of omitted words. “Women should not be sorry for asking for equal rights or equal pay,” the campaign announced. “Women should not be sorry for seeking justice, speaking out against harassment or asking for gender parity. “

Disney’s young adult network gave viewers a taste of the action with a promotional montage of female characters from Grown-ish, Shadowhunters, The Fosters, and The Bold Type, who were all censored for saying the dirty word. While Freeform’s campaign may have its heart in the right place, hoping to encourage women to be bold in the face of cultural norms that condition them to be more apologetic, it feels like clumsily executed lip service. Omitting the word from its characters—likely in many scenes in which the apology is actually warranted—isn’t going to close the gender wage gap, provide women with more promotional opportunities, and ensure a workplace environment that is free from sexual harassment.

Instead of presumptuously censoring women’s speech at a time when they already tend to speak on-screen less than men, Freeform’s programs could question why women feel the need to say sorry in the first place. The network has already produced some interesting women-driven shows like The Fosters, Grown-ish, and The Bold Type. Perhaps its time would be better spent addressing the deeper meanings behind those empty apologies in the scripts themselves.