Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Banning "Bossy"

Have you heard of this campaign? It was started by Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook in an attempt to build girls self confidence. She believes that when boys assert themselves they are called "leaders" but when a girl does, she's called "bossy," which is in essence telling her to be quiet.

Can banning a word be the answer to improving the self confidence of girls across the nation? Sandberg isn't the only one who wants to ban bossy. The Girl Scouts, Beyonce, Jennifer Garner, Jane Lynch, and even First Lady Michelle Obama have all jumped on the ban bossy bandwagon.

What's in a word, though? Does being called "bossy" really have that kind of effect on girls? I'm not sure. If you ban the word bossy, won't girls who speak their minds just be called pushy, snotty or bitchy? And who's going to stop using a word just because you say so.

If girls are truly less interested in leading than boys, it's probably not because of a
word. It's not because we're telling them to keep quiet. It's because as a society, we're sending them the wrong messages. We get them more interested in superfluous things, the things that don't matter in life. They become "typical teenage girls."

The top toys for girls last year consisted of Barbies, Bratz and Disney Princesses. Dolls with perfectly sculpted bodies and faces, the princesses, most of them not being able to get through life without their Prince Charming coming to their rescue. iPad Air came in at #4.

We let them watch shows in which these are their role models:

Plus reality shows about teenage girls getting pregnant, teen dramas where kids are leading "glamorous" lives full of shopping, drugs and sex.

And do you know what music they listen to? If they listen to hip hop or rap they are constantly being told that women are bitches and hos. Nothing worthy of more than a lay and discarding.

 So are we deterring a girl from following her dream of becoming a CEO of a giant corporation or President of the United States by calling her bossy? I don't think so.

For some, I believe leadership is an innate quality. I think someone who possesses that will not let people quiet her. She will not allow the world to hold her back merely with a word. In fact, she may embrace it.

What about those who do not have that innate leadership quality though? How do we instill that sense of leadership within them? How do we help raise her confidence and self esteem so that if she wants to try, she's not afraid of failing?

On the Ban Bossy website, it states girls are called on less in class and interrupted more. How about we fix that? How about teaching all children to let name calling roll off of them instead of letting it bother them?  Or we teach them the difference between "bossy" and assertive? How about we try to stop the name calling? Or maybe parents, teachers and adults who come into contact with children on a regular basis instill self confidence in girls by letting them know that they are smart, and can achieve anything they want if they work at it. Encourage them to be leaders.

I don't fault Sandberg and those backing her campaign. I think what she's trying to do is noble. There are some helpful tips about raising girl's self confidence, but much of the focus is on banning "bossy."  I think there are better ways of empowering girls than trying to get a word banned.


  1. Your best blog yet! Nicely put Megan!

  2. I think Sandberg is way off. She's trying to fix a (relatively minor) symptom without looking carefully at the underlying disease. Actually, I think this a pattern through most of her public work, the nauseating "Lean In" business completely included. Agreed that she's trying for something noble, but her time would be better spent elsewhere.


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