I Am Not Banning Bossy

My daughter can be bossy and I will continue to tell her so. And when my son is bossy, I will tell him also. Guess what? When my daughter thinks I am bossy, she tells me too. Most of the time, it’s because I am being bossy and I want to tell her that’s it’s because I am the boss. Honestly, it’s far better than being called a different 5 letter B word that I think is more detrimental and meant to be hurtful.

If you haven’t heard yet, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and some other highly successful women have joined together and are telling us to “Ban Bossy“.  The irony of them telling me to ban something is not lost on me, it’s pretty bossy.  Here is the message of the campaign: “When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a ‘leader.’ Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded ‘bossy.’ Words like bossy send a message: Don’t raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys — a trend that continues into adulthood. Together we can encourage girls to lead.” Seems like a pretty good message right?

The message suggests that because girls are called bossy they are going to be discouraged from being leaders, from asking questions and will have low self-esteems.  Does bossy equal ambitious? or strong? or brave?  This video suggests so. I am not so sure I am on board with that way of thinking.

I personally do not equate “bossy” people with being great leaders. A great leader has the ability to communicate and delegate, they have creativity and a great attitude and they are able to direct without, you know, being bossy.

One of the catch phases of this campaign is “Change the Words. And We Change the future.”  Sounds wonderful. I wish it was that easy. You can “ban” or change words but really does it change anything? Nope. A rose by any other name…. right? Maybe instead of a campaign to ban a word, more energy should be focused on nurturing and bringing out the leadership qualities in girls, instead of putting blame on a word that some may or may not find hurtful.

That being said, I do love the purpose of the campaign. This campaign continues the conversation about how we view women and leadership. Girls should be themselves, be strong, brave and leaders. Should girls be encouraged to strive for leadership positions as much as boys? Absolutely! Is banning a word going to do this? I don’t think so.  What needs to happen is a whole social shift in they way we view women in leadership positions.

Yes, my daughter is bossy. But she is also creative, hilarious, a free spirit, helpful, empathic, beautiful, loving, brilliant and strong.  I am going to encourage my children to use all of their wonderful attributes to accomplish their dreams and strive for whatever their hearts desire. Hopefully I do a great job of this as their mother, that they grow into confident young adults and don’t need to be protected from “bossy” or any other 5-letter word.  If she wants to be a CEO or another high level position, she’s going to go for it regardless of what she called.  And hey, if Beyonce and Condoleezza Rice were called bossy, it wouldn’t be a bad thing if my kids turned out half as successful as them.

Yes, encourage your little divas to grow into leaders if that’s what they want but while you’re at it, teach them to rise above words. There are going to be lots of bumps and turns on the road to adulthood, let’s get our children prepared for whatever comes their way. Speaking of Diva’s, I hope the next campaign isn’t to ban that word, they might not be able to find any strong female celebrities to star in the video…

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10 thoughts on “I Am Not Banning Bossy

  1. This is an interesting point. I definitely agree with you that I think banning the word bossy won’t really accomplish anything. I believe what’s more important here is the awareness that’s being raised that girls are called bossy and boys aren’t, generally speaking, and everything that goes with that. And I think it takes time to go from being child-like “bossy” to having the qualities a true leader has for most people (although like all things, there are exceptions).

    1. Absolutely, boys are generally not called bossy and little girls are, however, in my limited experience, little girls are quite a bit more bossy than little boys. I think we probably agree that even with all the equality milestones women have worked for, there is a long way to go before we see true equality, and it does need to be taught to both boys and girls from a young age. You are right, it definitely it takes times to go from “bossy” to leader, but I don’t think the bossy label will prevent a girl from become a leader (as demo’d by those celebrities that were hurt by being called bossy!)
      I also think that maybe us women sometimes like to be bossy.. why not embrace it 🙂

      1. I think the bossy label held me back. I guess it just depends on how much you are able just ignore the labels people try to put on you! I was a very sensitive kid (okay, I still am…). So perhaps that’s where the value lies, is in reinforcing our kids to be able to fight back against the boxes other people try to put them in 🙂

      2. I love that, not the it held you back part, but teaching our kids (boys and girls) to fight against the labels. Maybe we should start a “break the box” campaign…

  2. I think the point is not the word but the connotation of it…Sheryl Sandberg has often been called bossy for her actions and decisions when a man in her position would never be seen as bossy they would be powerful and successful. It’s about educating our sons and daughters on equality and encouraging our daughters to strive for whatever goals they want. This campaign reminds us to be aware that the words we use have impact and meaning on our daughters even if we say them in innocence.

    1. Sure, bossy might be used more towards girls/women than towards boys/men, just like “jerk”, “douche”, “bully” tend to be used towards boys/men and not girls. Although, I do see the intention of the campaign, I really believe it is targeting the word – allowing women to play “victims” to it. The word itself although may not be nice to hear, is not in itself responsible for there not being more women in leadership positions. I am pretty sure we are going raise strong women that will not need to be protected by banning bossy and more so raising men that appreciate and respect women.

      1. I do not want to downplay that words can cut deep and of course they can affect each person differently, there are many words that stick with people and can have a lasting impact. Also, I am not by any means attacking Sheryl Sandberg!S She continues one of the most important conversations out there regarding women in the workplace and needing equality. She is obviously very educated, successful and from what I have read about her a great person. This is just one campaign that I am not completely on board with!

  3. When I first saw the “ban bossy” campaign I had two reactions. The first was what you say, shouldn’t we focus on banning that other five-letter B word first? At the same time, I do think the language we use has major impact, and especially the words we use unconsciously (without realizing we reserve them for girls). We internalize those labels so that they can be hard to see. So I do think drawing attention is important.

    1. I think one thing we all agree on is that the attention and conversation Ban Bossy has got going is an important one even if we don’t all agree on the way the campaign is presented. Girl and boys alike need to have labels placed on them especially at a young age.

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