Thursday, March 13, 2014

Why I won't #banbossy

Oh, this world we live in.

It's nothing new, this observation that assertive little girls are often referred to by adults as bossy. It's nothing new, the fact that this word is not usually used in reference to boys the same way. It's nothing new, the notion that it might make some girls less likely to speak their minds. It's nothing new, this idea that we need to treat children in a more gender neutral way to encourage all of them to reach their full potential.

It's nothing new.


It's news though, right now, because women in positions of influence have decided to jump on the bandwagon to crusade against this word.

It's just a word.

For the love.

Here's the thing.

Just because Sheryl Sandberg says we're supposed to care, we're supposed to get all riled up about this now? Seriously?


I'll tell you why.

There are a million other far more worthy causes that these women with actual power and influence could be channeling their energy into. They could be advocating for a plethora of causes. They could be using this platform to talk about industries and professions where women are underrepresented. They could be talking about how women still get paid a fraction of what men do for the same work. They could be talking about how cutting assistance programs and aid disproportionately affects women and children.

They could.

They could be doing something that would actually help people in real time.

Instead, they are talking about a word.

A word that, in all likelihood, they heard at some point. I word that I heard many times when I was a little girl. A word that I ignored. A word that didn't define me. A word that, quite literally just annoyed me then, just like it annoys me now.

One of my daughters came home upset not too long ago from school. She told me that her friends didn't want to play with her anymore. I asked her why. She said they all told her she was being bossy. I asked her if she was being bossy. She said yes. So, instead of ascribing any sort of value to the word or allowing her to believe that the way she was treating other people was justifiable, I asked her why she thought she was being bossy.

Turns out she was telling them all what to do. She was telling them what to play at recess, who to do it with and how to do it. She was being bossy.

There is a fundamental difference between being assertive and being bossy, something that is totally being missed in this new found social conflict. Being assertive means giving voice to your opinions. Sticking up for yourself. Using your words. It doesn't mean ordering other people around...that's what being bossy is.

No one wants to deal with someone who is bossy, regardless of their gender, regardless of their age, regardless of the position they hold. Period.

Instead of trying to get an entire society to stop using a word (which seems silly if I am being honest), why aren't they focusing their efforts on teaching girls (and all children for that matter) that other people shouldn't be allowed to define them?

I've taught my daughters from the time they were born that the things other people say are just that - words. Words only have the power that we allow them, so why would we choose to give so much power to one little word?

Women can do whatever men can do, though there is an argument to be made that little girls would never question that truth unless we kept giving them reasons to, which is exactly what this project is doing.

"Stop telling little girls they can be anything they want when
they grow up. Not because they can't, but because it never
would have occurred to them that they couldn't."
~Sarah Silverman

My girls are both smart and talented and passionate about science and math. Not because someone told them they could be, but because no one ever told them they couldn't be. 

Considering they are both in the STEM leadership group for school, I'm thinking it is working.


  1. OH I'm so ruffled by this continuation of 'make everybody the same and equal' bullshit! Bossy is as bossy does. Boys are bossy, girls are bossy, people get bossed all the time. The guy or gal above you at work is your BOSS! We all need to get a bit thicker skin I think and I totally agree they could be using their energy to do something really worthwhile... alas they chose to pick on the 'bossy' word *sigh*

  2. thank you. i couldn't quite put my finger on what about this campaign didn't sit well with me, but you have explained it to me, for me. i suppose that's why you're a writer and i am not.

  3. *claps*

    I love everything about this so much.

  4. You seriously just keep getting better and better. Totally nailed this.

  5. There is a distinct difference between being bossy and being a leader.

  6. The focus on the word weakens this entire "movement." Focus on making young girls into strong capable leaders, including not letting a little word stand in their way.


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