I will not #banbossy.
Have you heard of this campaign? Started by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, the impetus is to stop calling young girls ‘bossy,’ because, apparently, the word negatively impacts girls who are assigned the label, encouraging them to pipe down and calm down, and ultimately, recoil from their potential.
Sandberg, author of bestseller Lean In, a guide to business success for the female top 1 per cent, has recruited celeb endorsement for this initiative, most notably Beyoncé – because she is not bossy. She’s the boss. (Insert snark here.) The Girl Scouts, Victoria Beckham and Condoleezza Rice have also jumped on board, supporting a cause that wants to bring ‘bossy,’ an oppressive, silencing stereotype, to a halt.
I don’t have enough space here to address the irony of (mostly) bossy women joining hands to eradicate a word that, by their own admission, fits their bill and clearly didn’t stand in their way of success. So, I’ll move on.
The Ban Bossy campaign video has been viewed more than two million times, and everywhere I look on social media, it seems people are talking about it.
I think this idea is ridiculous. I think a campaign to ban a word is ridiculous. And I’m not alone.
“Let’s not ban bossy. Let’s reclaim it, like Tina Fey, who wrote her book Bossypants as a badge of honour. And let’s stop treating girls as fragile flowers who will wilt and fade under the least amount of stress. Real leaders of both genders need thick skins. And ‘bossy’ is by no means the worst name they can call you,” Margaret Wente wrote last week in The Globe and Mail.
I wholeheartedly agree with her. (There’s something I don’t say often.)
Ladies, please, do suck it up.
While I can somewhat appreciate the general sentiment behind this campaign, I can’t get on board. Bossy is not the problem. Making it a problem deflects attention from a much bigger one.
A friend of mine posted Wente’s op-ed on Facebook, starting an interesting conversation. A handful of female friends commented on the post, defending the ban-bossy bandwagon, describing the word as sexist and infantilizing. Men are called ‘assertive,’ while young girls are the sole recipients of the ‘bossy’ label. But just as many comments defended Wente’s position, echoing her sentiments.
There is nothing inherently wrong with ‘bossy’ and I don’t think using the term is as detrimental as Sandberg et al. are making it out to be.
Bossy girls (and boys) are confident. Words and labels don’t easily shake confident kids. The kids, be they girls or boys, those who are quiet, reserved, those who lack self-esteem and confidence to speak up, it’s them we need to worry about.
What words are being used to describe them? How many words will we need to ban in order to help them live up to their full potential?
Making ‘bossy’ a problem distracts from the real ‘b’ problem: bullying. Words do hurt. But bossy is the least of my worries in the classroom.
Check out this soon-to-be ineffectual campaign here: banbossy.com.
I’m an only child. It’s no surprise I was assigned the ‘bossy’ label early on. Year after year, my report cards commented (and not always in a tone of praise) on my take-charge attitude in group projects.
Teachers pulled me aside, asking me to step back and let my classmates take the lead. I ordered around my friends. Family. My parents, even. I still do.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been called bossy, both as a kid and as an adult. I always took it as a compliment.
I’ve been called another ‘b’ word, too. This word, some ban bossy supporters say is the pejorative equivalent of ‘bossy,’ only used exclusively to refer to assertive women, not young girls.
And know what? I usually take that word as a compliment, too.