High-achieving women such as Beyonce and Condoleezza Rice have joined Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new campaign to ban the word “bossy.” No, really. They want to ban the word “bossy.”
Here are just a few of the reasons that’s a horrible idea.
1) Banning words is un-American.
Full stop. I shouldn’t have to point this out. You’ve heard the phrase “It’s a free country”? Yeah, well that’s ‘murica we’re talking about. Let Putin ban words and thoughts. We don’t do that. We embrace thinking and full utilization of not just the English language but every language. If you teach me how to say something funny in Mandarin, I’m going to say it. Because I’m an American.
2) Girls are strong. Stop overprotecting them.
It completely conflicts with the “Lean-In” message to treat girls like they’re dainty little flowers who change their entire personalities if someone utters a not-even-that-mean word in their general direction. If you want women to take over companies and give up their wombs until they’re approaching 40 to do so, you have to toughen them up, not cater to their slightest hurt feelings. Seriously.
3) ‘Bossy’ isn’t even gender-specific.
True story. My 4-year-old came home from school on the day of the BanBossy campaign launch to tell me that a little girl told a little boy in the class that he was being bossy by not letting them play with the toy he was using. I think that the entire crew will survive this horrible slight and that they might even grow up to be functioning members of society. But the idea that “bossy” is something only girls hear is just not in any way matched by my experience. Or my daughter’s.
Further, even if there were a sex differentiation here, it’s not the one described by the campaign here:
When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy.”
For crying out loud. Has anyone been near a public school classroom recently? I have never in my life ever heard anyone call an assertive little boy a “leader.” There are probably few places more hostile to any male behavior of any kind than our oversensitive, girl-centric classrooms. If a little boy asserts himself in the classroom, he’s sent to the principal.
Yes, there are some slurs that girls face more than boys as they mature. But many of the ones dudes get — I’m thinking of a**hole and d*****bag and what not — deal specifically with being too assertive. Where’s their campaign?
4) Tina Fey is a bossypants and I love her.
5)We’ll still need words for when people are unduly assertive.
Word banning doesn’t work because of a little thing I like to call the English language. Let’s say you’re on the playground and someone is, as the Random House dictionary puts it while it’s still available and not prohibited under the Sandberg Word Burning Act of 2014, “given to ordering people about; overly authoritative; domineering.”
You can’t say they’re being bossy by demanding you play the game their way and not letting you have a say so what do you say? You’ll just have another word to use that means the exact same thing as bossy.
6) Making people feel bad for using adjectives is pretty bossy.
So wait, all the cool and beautiful girls who are super-popular and wealthy got together and decided that not only were they not going to use a word but that no one else could either? No, that’s not bossy at all, is it.
7) Not everyone’s a leader and it’s time to stop shaming people who aren’t.
This is perhaps the most important point. The BanBossy site says:
Together we can encourage girls to lead. Pledge to Ban Bossy.
This biases the idea that the only way to be a leader is to order people around or be super assertive. In fact, there are all sorts of ways of being human and even of being a leader. And the idea that girls aren’t fully actualized unless they’re acting the way boys used to act before we medicated them away from it is not nearly as female-affirming as it sounds.