Monday, March 17, 2014
Should We Ban "Bossy"?
There are been a lot of rumbling (and yelling) in the blogosphere of the mom world concerning the recent media push to ban the word bossy in describing girls. It all started with Facebooks COO Sheryl Sandberg stating that instead of being called "bossy" little girls should be call "leaders". This statement first made its appearance several months ago, but didn't pick up steam until this past month. As with anything that gains social media momentum, there have been A LOT of opinions both for and against this movement. However, I haven't always seen very coherent reasoning's for either side (this is not an all inclusive statement, I have read and heard some great arguments but they have been few and far between). I originally wasn't going to write it hear because first I'm not a "banwagoner" and second I'm not sure how many people actually read this. But then I read a status from one of my Facebook friends. We all have at least one of these friends, we don't agree with ANYTHING they say or believe, and often times their statuses give us actual hives because of the word vomit that is spewing from them, however, we are unable/unwilling to "unfriend" them due to social obligations that would become weird after a social media diss such as "unfriending'. This particular person looked at the ban on bossy as a push for political correctness that was just trying to take away our freedom of speech (a whole other issue I'm not getting into right now), and that we should embrace bossy as a sign of being a strong woman.
So in response to this particular status, and many similar ones I've read over the past weeks, I am going to throw my hat into the "ban bossy" bandwagon and provide my two cents on the issue. First of all something I've seen a lot of is people not being in favor of banning a word. I would just like to simply state that we are NOT actually banning the word, we are just trying to change the way we use it. I don't think I need to harp on this too much, it seems pretty obvious but you never know. Second a lot of people are saying that being called bossy needs to be taken as a compliment and seen as something that only strong women are called. And here is where the issue lies. Yes, it is true that usually strong women/girls are the ones who are called bossy (girls are called bossy exponentially more than boys) however, even if YOU are taking it as a positive, most people are NOT. The connotation of the word bossy is very negative. The Websters Dictionary definition of bossy is: "given to ordering people about; overly authoritative; domineering." This obviously is a very negative definition and it is what people MEAN when they call someone bossy. The same qualities that earn a woman/girl the title of bossy, are the same qualities that will earn a man/boy the title of strong, efficient, leader, etc. All of these words have a vastly more positive connotation than bossy, however they are used for people possessing the very SAME traits, the only difference is their sex!
Here is where the issue lies. We as a society are using language to subconsciously punish girls for having the same qualities we want to reinforce and mold in our boys! When we call a girl bossy and then turn around and tell her male peer he has great leadership qualities we are telling her that that type of behavior is unbecoming and wrong for a girl to partake in, and that only males should be intelligent, be able to preside over a group, and be vocal in their opinions and beliefs, Even if we are not intending for this to happen, it is what we are doing, and until we start telling boys that they are bossy for these behaviors, we are instilling gender biases in all of our children. Because just as we send a subconscious message to girls about what behaviors they should and shouldn't be engaging in we are sending a similar message to our boys. We are telling them that a "good" girl is one that is quiet and docile and follows the rules of the boys and that THESE are the qualities that they should value and look for. Now I don't know about you but that is not the message I want to send to my daughter or her male counterparts.
We will never ban the word bossy, and we will never stop it from being said. However, I propose that instead of banning the word bossy, we need to change the connotation of the word instead. We need to stop using bossy as a negative and change it to be a synonym of the word leader rather than an antonym. We need to use the word bossy equally with both boys and girls for the same behavior and with a positive attitude regarding it. We need to make bossy interchangeable with leader. Because we will never get rid of the word, and it doesn't matter how YOU view the word. What matters is how SOCIETY and our CHILDREN view the word. And until we change the word bossy into a positive nothing will change. So from here on out I vow to use bossy interchangeable with leader and use it for both boys and girls. So I can change how my daughter and the people around her view the word and the world they live in. Because my daughter, even at three, is strong, intelligent, opinionated, creative...she is a leader...she is bossy!