So Ladies, How Do We Feel About “Ban Bossy”?

When I saw Google’s support of “Ban Bossy” by Lean In creator Sheryl Sandberg, I was fully prepared to hate it. I clicked on the link expecting to see more Sandberg-branded sexism under the guise of feminism (women, you’re just not working hard enough!), and instead was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Ban Bossy raises the question: why are boys so often described in ways that affirm authority, while girls are so often described in ways that imply overreach?

From Ban Bossy:

When it comes to girls and ambition, the pattern is clear: girls are discouraged from leading. When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy”—a precursor to words like “aggressive,” “angry,” and “too ambitious” that plague strong female leaders. Calling girls bossy is one of many things we do to discourage them from leading. It’s no wonder that by middle school, girls are less interested in leadership roles than boys, a trend that continues into adulthood.

Here’s Beyonce with more information:

One of the things I hate about “lean in” feminism is that it leaves sexism intact while putting the onus on women to fix it, or work around it. What I like about Ban Bossy is that it confronts sexism at its source. Here, the message isn’t for girls to put their little noses to the grindstone; this campaign largely targets adults, calling for reflection on internalized sexism. Ban Bossy flags a specific example of sexist doublespeak and asks adults to stop and think when they hear that word, to catch themselves before they propagate sexist double standards. This thing is potentially most important when you’re young, which is probably why the Girl Scouts got involved.

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Is the word “bossy” inherently bad? Obviously not. (I mean: HELLO Kellis!) Overly authoritative behavior is a thing that exists in this world, and it’s useful to have a word that describes it. It’s not the word itself that is unsettling (arguably we could just reclaim the word rather than “ban” it); it’s how it’s applied. “Banning” the word “bossy” is hyperbolic. After all, we wouldn’t have a language anymore if we removed all the words that have been used to oppress women. But I suspect the creators of Ban Bossy phrased it this way knowing that the strong language would spark debate.

We’ve seen banned word discussions play out before, and honestly, I wish Ban Bossy had gone another route in their marketing. However, I do think it’s worth raising discussion about the larger pattern of how language is used to sneakily further sexism.

Because as we all know, “bossy” isn’t the only word used to undermine women’s authority. In my adult professional life, it’s usually “bitchy” that gets muttered or jokingly ascribed. At my first engineering job, the floor manager liked to tell me how “feisty” I was – which I think had a racial aspect to it, because he also liked to compare my features to various Latina movie stars. No one has ever really called me “sassy,” but I frequently hear that descriptor pinned on assertive young black women. These words each have their distinct flavors, but they generally serve a similar function: to backhandedly reinforce the idea that it isn’t normal for women to be self-assured, speak up, or be in charge.

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My hope for Ban Bossy is that it gets more people thinking about their part in the system. I hope people will hear the message of Ban Bossy and make the jump to the next conclusion that, “hey, these other words aren’t great either,” and “isn’t it eerily similar how women are dismissed based on appearances but not men,” and “wow, it’s really wrong that women’s work is seen as less valuable than men’s, we should totally raise the minimum wage and get to work on issues of economic justice, wtf is wrong with everything and everyone.”

I realize this is asking a lot.

Mostly, I want this campaign to be successful, and I want to see its success snowball. I want it not to be a fluke, or the one “women’s issue” that gets funding and attention this quarter. I want Ban Bossy to actively and explicitly help people make those connections, and work their high profile connections, resources and visibility to focus on the follow through.

I want actual change.

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Laura Mandanas is a Filipina American living in Brooklyn. By day, she works as an industrial engineer. By night, she is beautiful and terrible as the morn, treacherous as the seas, stronger than the foundations of the Earth. All shall love her and despair.

Laura has written 72 articles for us.

57 Comments

  1. Thumb up 14

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    Personally, I was really excited when I heard about this campaign. I was called bossy a lot when I was younger (along with “know-it-all”, which gives you some insight into my personality, hah), and both words really taught me that I should keep quiet if I wanted people to like me, which is something I’ve only really started to question in my last year of university.

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    It’ll surprise absolutely nobody who works with me that as a kid, “bossy” was a word tossed in my direction on the reg, probably moreso than any other insult. I think the damage goes pretty deep because the thing is that lots of women will grow up to be Bosses. I did, and so did a lot of the other girls in my school who were also called “bossy.” But whereas men are picking up social cues and media lessons about what makes a good boss vs. a bad boss, women are just picking up the cue that being a boss at all is inherently negative. I actually read Lean In hoping it would be about how to be a good leader, and was disappointed that it was mostly about why you should want to be a leader and how to obtain/maintain leadership positions. (And how to get your husband to do more housework.)

    Teaching girls to be leaders and bosses isn’t just about teaching them that it’s okay to be a leader or a boss, it’s teaching them how to be a good boss, and giving them positive examples of how that’s done. Because we’ve been conditioned as women to think that all bossiness is bad, that’s a hard place to start from when you try to figure out what about how you lead is labeled “bad” because you’re a woman doing it, and what about how you lead is labeled “bad” because it truly isn’t smart leadership.

    Anyhow, I would like to reclaim bossy. Also I’ve had Kellis in my head for two days now.

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      I am here for *all* of this.

      I had “bossy” thrown my way a lot, and pretty soon I just started hearing “sit down and shut up,” which even 12 year old me was 1000% unable to do. So I just kept doing my loud, bossy thing.

      But I really struggled later figuring out how to be a leader (which I very much default to on things like group projects) without being completely overbearing. I hadn’t really thought about it critically until I was reading about Ban Bossy. Now I really think I had so much trouble because girls and young women (myself included) get dismissed and get no guidance as to how to be an effective leader.

      IT SUCKS is what I’m saying, and this is making me hopeful that we can all be more thoughtful and proactive.

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    As a girl who was told all. the. fucking. time as a kid that I was bossy (actually, my mom kept telling me that I wouldn’t find a man because boys don’t like bossy girls. HA), I LOVE this. Chances are my future daughter is going to be JUST as strong-minded as I was/am, and I’m so happy that this is getting attention and hopefully there will be at least some change for little girls because my future female procreations become a real life thing.
    Also, that line from Beyonce…”I’m not bossy, I’m the boss.” DYING.

  4. Thumb up 14

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    I was called bitchy when I was a kid. It reminds me of the Nicki Minaj documentary, when she says, “when a man is assertive, he’s a boss. When a woman is assertive, she’s a bitch. There’s no negative connotation being bossed up, but tons of negative connotation being a bitch.” I find when people call a woman bossy, it’s their euphemism for bitch, but they want to seem nice.

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    i was lucky enough to escape the “bossy” label, mostly because i learned quickly enough to couch my desires and insights in placating, overly apologetic terms. now, i’m able to look back, and i resent how often i devalued myself and my ideas (which were good! i was smart!) for fear of being class bitch.

    and i see in my female friends and relatives what happens to those who aren’t so inclined to keep their head down — i have a young cousin, a 10 year old girl, who is just incredible. whip smart. vocabulary like you wouldn’t believe. this kid has known what she’s wanted from the day she was born, and she wasn’t afraid to go for it. i am so fucking proud of her.

    … and yet i see MY OWN FAMILY subtly shaming her at every opportunity. she’s sooooo ~bossy. she talks too much, it’s annoying, she aaaaaalways has something to say.

    YO. this is a GOOD kid, no trouble. she’s loud, yeah, and don’t get me wrong, it can be exhausting, but there is something so FUCKED about how she’s barely in her double-digits, and she’s already been pegged as worthy of dismissive eyerolls, just because she speaks her mind.

    i’ve never heard that about her brother. not once. it seems pretty clear from where i’m standing: girls are bossy, boys are the boss. i’m glad this campaign is making people think.

    • Thumb up 3

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      I didn’t learn soon enough to apologize for my insights, so I got called bossy A LOT in elementary school and high school and this campaign gave me the feels. But then because I was called bossy, I learned to hedge my claims and say “I think” even when I was damn sure I was right. I still do it and I’ve been out of high school for 10 years. I am also resentful of all the times I kept quiet to try to make people like me more.

      I hope things change in time for your cousin to keep rocking on with her bad self!

  6. Thumb up 6

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    I have no desire to idolize the braggadocio and selfish practices of capitalist bosses. Feminism should be about mutual aid and community leadership, not self-important individualism and bourgeoisie reverence. Your jump from the actual statements of the campaign “You have the making of a young executive” to “we should totally raise the minimum wage” is totally nonsensical. Take a tip from Emma Goldman: sometimes you have to work with rich women in feminist struggle, but the second you let them call the shots they will pull the rug out from under you.

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      Fair criticism! I think that particular jump may be wishful thinking on my part. We’ll have to wait and see how it plays out, but you’re right — I doubt the official campaign will take it very far in that direction, if at all. Fingers still crossed.

    • Thumb up 10

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      I don’t know if your problem simply lies with the fact that this is kind of tied to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In campaign, but when it comes down to it, squashing little girls’ confidence and strong minds young to keep them quiet and submissive by the time they’re adults isn’t something that just affects the top 1%. It’s actually probably the reverse. Encouraging the leadership potential of little girls isn’t “self-important individualism” and I actually consider that sentiment problematic and offensive. It boils to equality, and making sure little girls know that they are equal and just as capable to lead as little boys, which is a universal and horrible problem. We’re not just talking about raising little executives or little presidents, although that’s important because of the serious lack of women in those ranks, we’re also talking about raising little activists who will know it’s okay to speak up for themselves. Raising little Audre Lordes and Wilma Mankillers right along with the little (maybe with better political views please good lord) Condoleeza Rices and Hillary Clintons.
      And this isn’t just about little girls’ getting squashed early. This also affects grown women. Listen to people bash Hillary Clinton and it’s the same thing. Or how conservatives (especially fundamentalist Evangelical Christians) talk about women in general, keeping men as head of the household.
      I realize this is a simplified campaign but it’s an important one because this has huge, overreaching effects on girls and women everywhere. This is what women have been saying for centuries, what women are saying NOW. Malala, Wilma Mankiller, Hillary Clinton, etc. Because instilling confidence in little girls isn’t going to just churn out female executives (which, sorry, we do need more of), it’s also going to churn out women who feel like they can speak out against injustice.
      Sorry this is long and rambly but this hit a nerve. I filed a sexual harassment complaint today and honestly it took me a year and a half to do it because of this very thing, not feeling like I had the right to speak up.

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        “squashing little girls’ confidence and strong minds young to keep them quiet and submissive by the time they’re adults isn’t something that just affects the top 1%.” strawman fallacy, the whole point of my argument is that avoiding the word bossy has nothing to do with that and everything to do with encouraging attitudes of live and let die competition and individualism.

        And I don’t even know where to start with listing war criminals Condoleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton alongside Audre Lorde.

        Further I can dismantle your “huge overreaching effects…everywhere” argument with these three points:

        1. It only applies to folks who speak English as the predominant language, many languages won’t have direct translation for bossy and if they do it will have a different context that may or may not be applicable.

        2. Girls who feel like they can’t express their vulnerability without giving up being “a strong leader” will have that feeling reinforced (“Honey stop being afraid of presenting to the class, no one is going to call you bossy”).

        3. It justifies the early developments of oppressive dynamics outside broad gender relations i.e. “Hey don’t tell that white girl who keeps telling her Black boy schoolmate what to do bossy, she’s just being an assertive woman!”

        We need more women CEOs like we need more transgender soldiers or queer police officers. Oppressive systems don’t become nice just because a woman is placed in a position of temporary power. What kind of women are “bossy” enough to rise to such positions? Sarah Palin and Christy Walton, and the ‘liberal’ ones serve as a convenient derailment of serious issues, like

        • Thumb up 10

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          Oooookay.
          1) It doesn’t only apply to English speakers. Sorry. I’m Latina and First Nation and every woman in my family (we’re a strong willed bunch. Genetics, man) has dealt with being silenced through the use of terms of “bossy” or some variant thereof. Some of it is a cultural thing (and in white spaces, racist), but it’s still a thing. Not all of them are English speakers, and not all of them are American. Read some Wilma Mankiller. She has a lot to say on this subject and everything else I’m saying.
          2. That’s really reductive and makes me think you’re missing the whole point.
          3. We can deal with sexism while also acknowledging and dealing with racism. I know that’s a crazy concept. White girls do experience sexism (especially in the very white quiverfull fundamentalist evangelical Christian thing that is crazy sexist and horrible), and we can foster self-confidence and leadership abilities while also squashing racism in the bud.
          I see that we obviously have different views on representation of women and that’s whatever, but I hold to my belief in having women in positions of power. I want a female president. I want more female CEOs (of ethical companies). Representation is goddamn important. Men have proven time and time again that they don’t give a shit about reproductive rights, equal wages, rape culture, etc, and I truly believe we’ll only achieve those things when it’s women in positions of power to make those changes, probably because I’m a cynic and a man-hating lesbian (jk but really.)
          My views on the intersection of white supremacy/racism/classicism/western centricism and feminism tend to come from Wilma Mankiller, who was my first feminist role model.
          Also, you’re REALLY underestimating women when you say only sucky ones are able to rise to positions of power. See above, when I mention Wilma Mankiller like nine times. Again, ’cause she’s a god.
          Look, this was my experience, and the experience of women and girls that I know. I work with Big Brother/Big Sister, and I’ve been seeing this happen with one of my little sisters, who is nine and very intelligent, and a first generation American. Is this the only thing that feminism should be focused on? No, but it is part of it.
          Peace out.

  7. Thumb up 13

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    I think this campaign is a very g-rated, easily consumable campaign about sexism (which, for me, explains Sandberg’s presence perfectly). I think the term “bossy” is a safe, catch-all-gendered term that cleverly avoids issues of race, class, and gender identity in regards to those in leadership roles. To discuss the implications of the word “bossy” is more mainstream than, say, discussing the implications of misnomers like “fiesty,” “sassy,” “spicy,” “firey,””bitch,” etc. So, really, commercials like this feels like another feel-good faux-feminist fluffer nutter band aid on a problem that has larger implications than just don’t call women bossy.

    I agree with Lauren on just wanting actual change.

  8. Thumb up 2

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    This campaign has left me with mixed feelings. I agree that if we completely ban the word “bossy” from our lexicon we will no longer have a word in which to describe the legitimate act of being bossy. I feel like this campaign implies that any person, though focusing on young females, is displaying positive leadership skills when they are being labeled bossy. I don’t necessarily think that’s true. There are individuals who are legitimately bossy, who border on tyrannical.

    I’ve been called “bossy” and “bitchy” my whole life for speaking up. While there have been some negative effects of this, I’ve also learned how to spin what I want to say. I don’t have to be abrasive about my dissent; I have the capacity to express myself in a way that isn’t rude or mean, but still effectively communicate my ideas. These are the leadership skills that we should be teaching all children. You don’t become a leader by demanding to be followed, you earn the trust of your followers.

    Ultimately, I think we should reclaim the term “bossy,” and we should instill and cultivate the values of positive leadership.

    Anecdotally, I was at the grocery store a month or so ago, and a young girl, probably about 10 years old, was in line behind me with her family. A new lane opened, and she dashed to get a spot as I was moving my cart to do the same. Her father made her stop and move back and let me go first. I tried to argue with him to say it was all right. I really didn’t mind waiting, and plus she moved quicker than I did, but he wasn’t having it. I kick myself every day for not telling that girl she was smart and observant and to never give that up. Instead I moved to the front of the line in silence because I didn’t want to make more of a scene.

  9. Thumb up 8

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    This is interesting, if maybe a little one-note. I think it’s super-important that the false link between assertive females and so-called bossiness is severed, but it does seem a little bit like they’re still cleaving to traditional notions of leadership, and over-arching bosses.

    I feel like I’m pretty much the opposite of bossy; when I’m leading people at work (mainly guys at least a decade older than me), I feel more like a kind of omniscient agony aunt than a boss.

    Yes: tell the assertive girls it’s a good thing for them to be assertive, but don’t forget to tell the totally laid back girls that they can get shit done too.

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      My totally laid back missus gets shit done through what I lovingly refer to as positive manipulation. She’s clever and gets the people she’s in charge of to do stuff by making them think it’s their idea, thus making them super invested and wanting to achieve the task. I consider her to be a genius. She can calm down even the most raging client and turn the situation to her advantage. I’m assertive and I totally admire the opposite.

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      I think it being one-note is something that will make it a successful campaign. Social change has to happen in bits and pieces. If they tried to make a commercial breaking down every single thing that’s wrong with the patriarchy, people would just tune it out and it wouldn’t get very far.

      Just look at “Votes for Women” and “Gay Marriage.” Easily defined goals, straightforward, simply worded in a neat little package. Not necessarily the most important goals, but simple and clear. There are thousands of other issues worth fighting for, but each one needs it’s own easily swallowed campaign to get anywhere.

      A 1 minute commercial with just one thing to say has the potential to reach a lot of people and start a dialog about other related issues. They couldn’t realistically achieve that with a complicated campaign.

      I totally agree about different types of personalities also being able to get shit done. Like Riese said though, the starting point needs to change. For a woman in a leadership position, determining whether she is being called a bad leader because she is a woman or because she is actually a bad leader is a difficult and persistent problem. Hopefully this will prove to be a starting point for something good.

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    I think it’s interesting that Jane Lynch is a part of this because the only role I know her for is a woman who is the epitome of “bossy.” I know her character on Glee is really outlandish, and that is not how Lynch is in real life, but there’s a bit of irony in how she is making a PSA to break a stereotype that her role on Glee sort of reinforces.

  11. Thumb up 5

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    Ok I was really waiting for something like this on AS to pop up because I HAD NO IDEA WHAT IT WAS. One of the greatest women of all time, Hermione Granger was also called ‘bossy’ and an ‘insufferable know-it-all.’ And like many of you, I could of course relate. Lots of kids especially the boys said I was bossy complete with hand on your hip action other hand pointing out your directions.

    BITCHES GET STUFF DONE.

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      I don’t know why I even submitted the comment without my insight. Ok, anwyay! I think that yes as women we should be called assertive, not bossy. I think that in general women want to get more things done. IDK. And I also think most of the time our brains are kinda like constantly mulling things over and probably over analyzing 1000+ things we don’t really have to worry about.

      This reminds me a little brain teaser I once asked my family after seeing it on TV.

      One day, a son and a father went fishing. On their drive back home, the father and the son got into an accident, hitting a tree. Another car passed by and called 911. When the paramedics arrived, the father was pronounced dead but the boy was alive, only just so. He was rushed to the nearest hospital where he was brought immediately to the operating room. The surgeon walked in and said ‘I can’t operate on him because he is my son.’ Who was the surgeon?

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          YAY!!! 5 stars for you Colleen!!

          My mom, dad, sister and brother in law couldn’t seem to get it. Also my co-workers.. Which brings us back to this post. The answer is pretty simple but people are so accustomed to how men get positions like that. At work when we’re looking at doctor’s names and it only shows the last, 90% of the time everyone will assume it’s a male. I think it’s time we stop thinking that way and look at how women over the years have become more empowered and assertive. It’s not like women can’t be in a position that is administrative and I think it’s a shame that others think they get it because they had sex with their boss and not on their own.

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    I love the word bossy! But that`s probably because I have reclaimed it and it is practically a term of endearment for me. All my friends and family call me bossy all the time, but they say it as an observance of my directness, not as a put-down. My girlfriend always talks about how when I start new jobs, I just naturally Boss my way into a position of being in charge of people. She actually told me once that it was one of her favourite things about me, haha.
    A lot of my heroines growing up were called “bossy” and they were all awesome, so I guess it never really bothered me.

  13. Thumb up 5

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    I definitely remembered being called “bossy” when I tried to assert myself as a child. I also remember my father repeatedly telling us that men don’t like women who are more intelligent than them, so we should stop being “know-it-alls”. (He also frequently insisted that men are inherently smarter.) What I learned from this is that I should shut up or be reprimanded. At the same time, my brother’s bad behaviour was usually dismissed with some variation on “boys will be boys”. Basically, I think there’s a lot of things that need to change w/r/t how adults talk to children. I see the same patterns repeating with how my relatives talk to/about my young nephew and niece, and it’s destructive.

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    What I like most about this campaign is the fact that it’s a campaign about teenage girls and their self-esteem that isn’t about body image. The accepted narrative about why teenage girls have low self esteem goes something like this: girls are dumb so they read dumb magazines for girls / women that make them think they’ll only attract boys if they lose weight which makes them feel bad about themselves. This kind of narrative places the blame for teenage girls’ low self-esteem back on teenage girls and women and completely ignores the role that boys and men play – ignores the way this is all going on within a system that privileges boys.

    Teenage girls have to put up with so much harassment, the fact that we’re starting to have campaigns that acknowledge this and that acknowledge that harassment (not girls’ ~shallowness~) leads to low self-esteem is a major step forward although clearly the campaign isn’t going to achieve any kind of radical change.

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    yeah, i am glad this is empowering/speaking to people and i’m glad it’s not putting the blame/responsibility for creating change on female people.

    BUT sources are important, and i am deeply opposed to Sheryl Sandberg’s philosophy/way of life for many of the reasons Emma articulated and a few others. so overall, i am “eh” about this campaign, and will continue to look for more nuanced, profound discussions of how to create a less fucked-up society.

  16. Thumb up 5

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    Oh man, I just hate this “Ban Bossy” campaign. I hate it SO much.

    Of course little girls (and grown women) should be encouraged to lead, and shouldn’t be dissuaded by sexist stereotypes; that is a real battle, that needs to be fought. “Ban Bossy” is a semantic fight, and a stupid one at that.

    Does “bossy” get thrown at girls more than boys? Maybe, though I don’t really think so, at least not in the way the article suggests. In any event, it’s not inherently a bad or sexist word. The little kid who takes all the blocks and won’t give them back unless the other kids do what they say? If that were my preschool class, I’d tell them to stop being bossy regardless of their gender, or the other kids won’t want to play with them anymore, and have no qualms about it whatsoever.

    But if a teacher praises little Johnny and calls little Susie bossy for the same behavior, is the problem the word “bossy”, or the ingrained sexism of the teacher? Is telling the teacher that “bossy” has been banned from their classroom going to change his/her attitudes? I deeply doubt it.

    So you’ve “banned bossy” and called the fight won, without addressing real problems of sexism. No one should feel good about simultaneously policing language AND missing the point.

    What bothers me most about this is that the authors are seizing on a current trend of broadening definitions and/or vilifying words. For instance “bully” and “bullying” used to mean something very defined, but are now so frequently used that they are almost meaningless, and have become a lazy catch-all for more specific (and usually more intense) words. A grown man who is suffering so severely at the hands of coworkers that he has to quit his job like Jonathan Martin did? That’s not bullying, that’s harassment, and the minute someone lays hands on him, that’s assault — so why don’t we call it that?

    Naming is powerful, so call a thing what it is: bullying, harassment, or sexism, or in children’s lexicon, unfair, not nice, playing favorites, and, sometimes, yes, bossy. “Banning” a word doesn’t change underlying assumptions about women and girls’ ability to lead. Instead, it makes the battle seem trivial if it can so easily be fixed by a little semantic change.

    Rant over.

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      I just want to throw in my two cents about the real life usage of the word bossy. I work at an elementary school. I work mostly with second graders. I have never ever heard a boy be called bossy. I hear girls get called bossy frequently. Not everyday, but often enough to take notice of. Not by teachers. By other children, both boys and girls. Whether they learned it from parents or tv or wherever, kids are still learning that boys are leaders and girls are just bossy.

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      Apart from anecdotal evidence I don’t know if any hard research has been done into whether “bossy” is used more for girls than boys, but in my mind that’s kind of beside the point. It is absolutely a fact that assertive girls get shut down more often than assertive boys, and yes, “bossy” is probably one of the words that is frequently used for that purpose.

      My problem with this campaign is that telling people to stop saying stuff largely doesn’t work. Instead, it annoys people and makes them tune out. I realize that the aim of this campaign probably isn’t to actually have the word “bossy” banned, but I agree with the author that their choice of catchphrase hits pretty much exactly the wrong note for what they’re trying to accomplish.

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        I think reading into the campaign as literally as you are doesn’t really capture the essence that Sandberg and her team is trying to cultivate. Banning the word won’t fix all problems of sexism and, as you discuss, bullying and harassment. I agree that it is certainly is a very ambitious task to wipe a word from people’s vocabularies. However, my reading of the campaign is that it should create some sort of discourse about how we think about this word and should in fact create awareness of how it has been used to categorize little girls who assert themselves in leadership positions. EmVee, I think you are reading this campaign too literally and are not seeing it as a tool to further discourse about how we think about female leadership. If you look at the website for the campaign, it gives leadership tips and a place for women to share their stories about the issue at hand. To me, the campaign’s efforts appear to be more discursive than combative in terms of erasing the word all together. I don’t think it’s intended to be a far-reaching effort to ban sexism all together but I think it furthers the dialogue taking place on such an issue.

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    You know, more than “bossy” i hate when someone says “Hey Ladies.”
    It’s usually a dude on the street, or a dude at work, and whatever he’s gonna say after that, i don’t wanna hear it, it’s gonna be insulting, offensive, or just plain old eye-roll worthy.

    There’s been an attempt lately to ramp of the “don’t say the R-word” campaign: http://www.r-word.org/ and i wish that whoever decided to put ban bossy on the google search screen had put their efforts behind this campaign instead.

    besides, those dudes i work with, the insulting ones? they’re just gonna start saying “oh, right. i’m not supposed to call you bossy.” and pick a more insulting thing to say.

    do they do focus groups before they roll out campaigns like this? because this one seems to miss the mark so bad.

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      Yes, exactly! You said what I meant, but concisely. There are bad, hateful words out there that we should actively try to remove from general use, and deflecting those efforts is a waste of resources.

      Fight sexism, not vocabulary.

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    I think that attacking internalized sexism and sexist double standards in language is good. I don’t like the idea of venerating executives, and authority figures in general for that matter, and teaching kids of any gender that they should aspire to be authoritative in the models that our society tends to prescribe. I don’t like the idea of teaching kids that it’s right to want to lord it over others. We should be promoting less toxic models of management and coordination. And teaching kids the idea that leadership is what you have when people WANT to follow you, when they DO follow you, not something that you get by claiming authority.

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    The campaign does seem a little juvenile but it leaves me wondering if that wasn’t part of the goal. This is obviously something safe to share with young women of all ages so I understand avoiding terms like “bitch” to keep it PG for a broader audience. The focus is more on trying to stop this behaviour from being reinforced at a young age (by parents, teachers, peers, etc.) rather than fighting the “grown-up” versions of “bossy” which we all know exist. I think it serves it’s place and any inch of progress is still something.

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    Oh, also also also, I had a thought when I was was walking to class. What if instead of teaching little kids to aspire to be “executives” or “leaders” we taught them to aspire to be “organizers”? You know, people who use their skillset in being able to coordinate amongst and between, inspire, and get the best work out of, groups of other people, in a mutually respectful and less-inherently-hierarchical way, for a good purpose?

    When I think organizer I think political work, but there’s no reason that an organizing model can’t be applied to other settings as well.

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      I like this idea! I also think you could take it a step further and make it more about kids thinking about what qualities and skills they have that stand out and make them awesome and how they can use those to be successful individuals. Because I wonder… what about girls who are naturally not interested in being “leaders” or “organizers”. It is totally okay to want to be a “listener” or someone who works independently. I would like to see this become more about talking to kids about what they like about themselves and what they think their strengths are.

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        Yeah, there is also that. I was very much a work-independently person as a kid. It bothers me that one particular skillset, the skillset of people-wrangling, is often presented as the one that everyone should aspire to eventually, rather than one useful skillset among many.

        I took this particular campaign as being specifically about girls who are showing interest or aptitude in that particular skillset, which is why in my comments I didn’t focus on others. But you are right. It’s okay to be happy with being a physician, engineer, welder, carpenter, nanny, sculptor, journalist, etc, without aspiring to be the one who manages the others – and it’s not a sign of lack of ambition either, because wanting to increase your skills, your proficiency in a chosen craft, is ambition too.

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    As a little girl, I had a very soft temper, and so did my sister. I often heard my mom say of some of our classmates that they were “a little bossy”. Always speaking of little girls. When she found some little boys to be annoying, she used the word… annoying. :P

    “Don’t let her boss you around!”
    “That little girl is so bossy, did you hear her speak to her mother?”

    Obviously some of these kids WERE taking up too much space. But girls were bossy. Boys were annoying, or “seeking attention”.

    I grew up wanting to not be perceived as bossy. Even today, I often shut up in the most diverse social situations that involve taking decisions, when I really should speak up. Then people ask me : “OMG why did you not say anything?!”

    I love this campaign.

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    I feel like all these comments are along a continuum of increasing harshness and threat designed to warn us when we are being too “uppity”–remember that word? Sassy, Feisty, Bossy, Bitch and Dyke. Underneath it all is implied that something, prob a violent something, will have to be done if we continue. Change can be made thru programs that teach cultural competance, sensitivity training and the value of diversity but it will mean the world will look vastly different.
    (i.e. It’s not winning that is important but HOW we win.)

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    Bossy (and it’s synonyms) is one of the most important words for men when hunting for a relationship. Men love feisty women, it’s the best relationship you can have. Men hate bossy women, it’s the worst relationship you can have. Vice-versa for women looking for men.

    If you are getting called bossy, chances are, you are a bit*h (formally a narcissist) and have insecurity that makes you want to control other people (when you don’t have that right) or you are a sociopath / machiavellian. No one wants a relationship (lover or friend) with those three personality types.

    And you clearly are, as instead of knowing yourself, you are suggesting that everyone else should be banned from using a certain word. (bossy bit*h)

    People don’t use technical vocabulary such as machiavellian in natural language, they use slang, I’m sorry but the fault is yours, not other people.

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        Quote “Vice-versa for women looking for men”

        The article was complaining about the word bossy being coined to women. There is a reason why it’s used, and it hasn’t got anything to do with the reason presented.

        Bossy is a negative word to describe a negative personality. It’s also a “warning sign” among men, the same way “momma’s boy” warns women of poor relationships, or similar to bossy, “he’s controlling” = negative, stay away form him.

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    And authority? In formal situations a women gets called a “strong women”, it’s a positive meaning, which reflects her authority and confidence.

    In casual situations, she will be called feisty, both have men viewing her with admiration. Bossy is a negative word which describes a negative personality type. It has nothing to do with leadership or authority. It’s a quick natural way to say, “she belongs to the dark triad”, stay away.

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