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Embrace your inner ‘Bossy’ Girl

I am really having difficulty with the ‘Ban Bossy’ campaign that has been going around the Internet.

Really people? What idea makes people think that the word is the issue? Or that removing a word will change the way that women, or anyone for that matter, are treated? Because if this is true, why not ban any words that can be used in a harmful way. Does calling someone fat or ugly cause an eating disorder? Let’s ban those words. And in the meantime, let’s get rid of the words jerk, idiot, stupid, weirdo, moron, crybaby, chicken, and any other words that have been used in a detrimental fashion or that hurt people’s feelings.

In fact, we could create a futuristic society, like in the book Brave New World, where in order to control people’s ability to think clearly and creatively, the only words allowed to describe if something was ‘good’ or ‘bad’ were the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Superlatives were banned. For really good or really bad, you were only allowed to say ‘double plus good’ or ‘double minus bad’. I know this seems like quite an exaggeration from simply banning the word bossy, but really, where does it stop?

One of the points made by the proponent of the Ban Bossy campaign is that the gap in confidence between boys and girls starts early. Apparently, according to the campaign, girls’ self-esteem drops 3.5 times more than boys between elementary and high school.

I do not pretend to know what are all of the factors contributing to this difference in self esteem. However, one thing I do know is that boys are pushed and pushed hard, often much harder than girls. Boys are called names by coaches and teachers much more often than girls. Even into adulthood, male bonding includes calling each other nasty and gritty names as a way of pushing each other forward to improve and to show up fully.

My husband, who is an amazing athlete, describes how in sports training, boys are called all kinds of names and pushed really hard to do their best, be their best, and not be swayed by a momentary feeling or upset. Boys are expected to toughen up, get strong, and be confident in spite of their fears or weaknesses. They are demanded upon and expected to take it.

Of course this treatment has it’s downside; I am not saying that this is all good. However it does force the issue; It forces boys and men into not taking everything so personally. Isn’t it possible that this is a part of why men find themselves more able to compete in cutthroat and competitive markets without collapsing under criticism and name calling? Men grow up in a world where they are given endless amounts of ruthless ‘shit’ from each other both in fun and in the pursuit of excellence and with the intention of not selling out on themselves. Perhaps this is part of why they are tougher and more self confident.

By banning the word bossy, or any other ‘word’, we are not only giving the word itself way too much power, we are once again treating women as if they are fragile and need to be handled with kid gloves. Let’s only say nice things to little girls. Let’s boost their egos, pat them on the back, and tell them it’s ok even when they mess up badly. In doing this, aren’t we contributing to their lack of self trust, their lowered self confidence, and to their greater difficulty when pushed hard or criticized?

Apparently, according to the Ban Bossy campaign, little girls are twice as likely as boys to worry that leadership roles will make them seem ‘bossy’. Rather than trying to remove the word, let’s work on supporting girls to stop caring so much about what other people think of them. Because if it isn’t the word ‘bossy’, it will be being called ‘bitchy’ or ‘controlling’, or ‘unfeminine’ that will scare them.

The word is not the experience. Bossy is just a word like any other. The meanings of words change with time and culture. It only means what we make it mean. For many people, ‘bossy’ implies domineering or overly authoritative. That definition of bossy is already changing in popular culture. The Urban Dictionary defines the word bossy in this manner:

Bossy describes a girl who is the alpha-female or the queen bee.
She is gettin paid, stayin fly, and is the leader of her crew.
Respected by all, loved by some.

 example
“I’m Bossy! I’m the first girl to scream on the track. I switched up the beat of the drum”

What an empowering perspective! In this instance, the word describes someone who owns their power.

In her article on CNN, Dr. Peggy Drexler says it well:

The problem isn’t the word itself, but how and when the word is used. Ban “bossy” and other words will spring up in its place: “Bitchy,” “cold” and “aggressive” come to mind.

Instead, the focus should be on how to reclaim the positive and indispensable nature of “bossiness,” turning it from a word used to describe the domineering and unlikable to one used to describe those very necessary qualities for those who lead.

Sheryl Sandberg (the founder of the ban bossy campaign) is bossy, and it’s a quality that likely played a pretty key role in helping her become one of the technology industry’s most successful women. So, how about an initiative to reclaim bossiness as a point of pride?

Bosses are bossy, plain and simple. As Sandberg even notes: “…if you look at my childhood, if you look at the childhood of most of the leaders we talked to, they lived through being told they were bossy.” And, well, look where they are now.

In fact, moving to abolish the word “bossy” risks sending the message that there’s something wrong with those characteristics associated with bossiness: taking charge and speaking your mind. Again, the problem isn’t the word, or the behavior, but the reaction to the behavior, and the acceptance among women of the word as a disparaging one.

https://www.cnn.com/2014/03/11/opinion/drexler-sandberg-bossy/

Yes. I personally am bossy. Very. Bossiness has it’s good and it’s bad side like most strong qualities. I have been known to be presumptuous, overbearing, demanding, controlling, and more. Many women/many PEOPLE who are authoritative and strong willed, who are powerful and who are leaders, also have these qualities. It is often part of the package.

On the positive side, I am the manager, the one who always gets things done, the first to take responsibility for both myself and others, a supervisor, the one in charge, the creator, and the authority of my own world, the boss.

Hopefully, over many years of ‘being the boss’, I have learned to decrease the effects of my presumptuous, controlling side, and enhance my egalitarian, fair minded side. I do believe that with experience, personal growth, and maturity, I have actually developed into a good leader who holds authority well.

Rather than ignoring our bossy side and ignoring the dark side and pitfalls inherent in being a strong minded, strong willed leader, let’s embrace both the good and the bad of it. Let’s empower little girls to take charge in constructive ways. Let’s empower women to stand fully in their power and not be swayed because of some goofy childish name calling.

Empowerment comes from an inner sense of self trust. The ability to speak up and take a stand for what you believe in comes from the ability to withstand judgment and criticism, rather than run or hide from it.

Two quotes that I love:

‘She who hesitates get bossed’
‘Own your authority, or someone else will’

I keep thinking of the LMFAO song, ‘I’m Sexy and I Know It’. I would love to see a video of little girls singing and dancing to the tune of an ‘I’m Bossy and I Know It’ song, sung by an empowered female role model such as Beyonce or Jennifer Garner.

Let’s embrace our bossy selves!

~Inspired Girl

Excerpts from the Lindsey Lohan song  “Bossy”

Stop touchin’ me without permission
Don’t disobey, answer to me
Said if you wanna play, follow direction
We do this my way, my way, my way

What do you really want
What do you wanna know
What do you wanna see
Where do you wanna go

If you leave it to me, we will not go slow
I got places to be
When you ready let me know

I’m just a little bossy
I like it how I like it when I like it and that’s how it is
I’m just a little bossy
You got a problem wit it
If I want it I get it now

Let me shine for you
Huh, huh
Let me shine for you
Oh, oh
Only if I want to

I’m just a little bossy
I like it how I like it when I like it and that’s how it is
I’m just a little bossy
You got a problem wit it
If I want it I get it now

I’m just a little bossy
I’m just a little bossy

 

3 Comments

  1. I’ve always used the word “bossy” in air quotes because its not really a clear idea. It brings to mind only sexist opinions on women. Never do you hear people say a man is ” bossy”. I overhead some 20 something men talking about how they’d dump a “bossy” woman because they could find an obedient one in a snap. What a sad state of affairs!

  2. Wonderful commentary! Let’s get to the root of this campaign and work on empowering young men and women regardless of what “words” others use to towards them. Good to see I’m not alone in questioning how silly this campaign is.

    • Thanks Monica! I am glad you liked it. And I too am glad to find that others are questioning this campaign!

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