I actually agree that the term is often used unfairly to label women. But a good cause does not justify silly behavior that cannot possibly fail to backfire.
Having introduced “lean in” into the lexicon, Sheryl Sandberg is looking to take another term out: The Facebook COO, bestselling author, stirrer of controversy, and unabashed feminist launched a campaign this morning to “Ban Bossy.” It’s a move to strip the stigma often associated with assertive girls, reports ABC. “We know that by middle school, more boys than girls want to lead,” Sandberg says, “and if you ask girls why they don’t want to lead, whether it’s the school project all the way on to running for office, they don’t want to be called bossy, and they don’t want to be disliked.”
Sandberg isn’t sitting around quietly hoping someone will notice. In her PSA, she brings out big guns including Condoleezza Rice, Diane von Furstenberg, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Garner, and Beyonce; “I’m not bossy. I’m the boss,” intones the latter. Also attached to the campaign are Girl Scouts of America CEO Ana Maria Chavez and Sandberg’s Lean In organization.
I think it is a good thing to encourage fair-mindedness and civility. Using the term “bossy” every time you don’t like what a woman tells you to do (especially if she is your boss!) is rude. It is a bad speech habit that leads to a bad mental habit. So, to a point, I think that Sheryl Sandberg is right to encourage less use of the word. We all are better off when we guard our mouths.
But launching a campaign to ban a word is bossy!
How can Sandberg not see that she is living down to stereotypes by taking such a severe position and enlisting an army of women to join her in making this demand? I think it is pretty blatant.
When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy.” Words like bossy send a message: don’t raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys—a trend that continues into adulthood. Together we can encourage girls to lead.
It is simply nonsense to claim that boys who “assert” themselves in elementary school are called “leaders.” In our schools they are typically called “troublemakers” or “patients” to be medicated for ADHD. Typically, little boys in school see few older male role models. The teachers are mostly women. Yet despite exposure to mostly female teachers, little girls become “less interested in leading than boys.”
I don’t think Sandberg is really interested in figuring out what is going on. I wish someone would. But they would need to tell an accurate story. In Sandberg’s myth, girls are only victims. But that about the fact that women are more likely to aspire to higher education?–just to name one example.
And how soon before this becomes enforced in schools? Please spare us the insanity of another zero tolerance policy!