[Guest post by Dana]
As March is National Women’s History month, it’s no surprise that a new Hollywood-infused campaign with women and girls’ supposed best interest at heart, has debuted. The campaign, as you probably know by now, is called Ban Bossy. It’s being spearheaded by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Sandberg would like you to refrain from using the word, especially with regard to the fairer sex.
In Sandberg’s words,
“I was called bossy when I was in ninth grade. My teacher took my best friend Mindy aside and she said, ‘You shouldn’t be friends with Sheryl. She’s bossy.’ And that hurt.”
(And yet, in spite of that, Sandberg grew up to be the COO of Facebook).
“We call girls bossy on the playground. We call them too aggressive or other B-words in the workplace. They’re bossy as little girls, and then they’re aggressive, political, shrill, too ambitious as women.”
Few would disagree that women in places of power still struggle against stereotyping, and too often do not garner the same level of respect as their counterparts.
That tired, flaccid paragon of modern women, Cosmopolitan refers to it as the ABC’s of the office: “Aggressive, assertive, angry. Bossy, brusque, bitch. Cold, calculating, careerist.” And while that may be how some view this, not all female bosses see it that way nor do they see banning a gender neutral word as the solution.
So, how do we to fix the problem? Well, according to the campaign, ban the word bossy. Stigmatize it and those who use it. Shield women from its hurtful edge while granting them victimhood status. We’ve come a long way, baby. Not so much, really. When the solution to the assumed negative impact experienced from being called bossy is to be bossy telling others what words they should and should not say, well that is not progress. And squelching another’s speech is no solution at all.
Another option, albeit crazy, is to face the problem head-on. Encourage women to push back, stand up, and lean in as they embrace their inner-bossiness. Instead of the powerful and successful women involved in the campaign scolding us for using the word bossy, let’s have them remind us of how they met with success in spite of the word bossy. Clearly, it didn’t hold them back.
And although she does not appear in the campaign video, it might be especially instructive to hear from Tina Fey, actress/comedian and author of the autobiographical bestseller, Bossypants, whose book flap reads in part, You’re nobody until somebody calls you bossy.