Tuesday, March 11, 2014

I clicked the link on my Google search engine. "Ban Bossy." The images have been all over social media since Monday morning. There's a video on Upworthy and dozens of news articles and blogs and commentaries all on the campaign which purportedly aims to "encourage girls to lead." 

The premise is that girls who demonstrate leadership qualities like assertiveness and strength of character are labeled as "bossy," and thus they are cast in a negative light and choose instead to recede into the background. (The irony that this whole bossy nonsense was incited by Sheryl Sandberg, the creator of the "Lean In" movement, is not lost on me. Hey, Sheryl...not ALL of us get ahead by rubbing shoulders with powerful dudes and saying nice words. I think that only works when you are already propped up by wealth and privilege in the first place...but I digress.)

I'm ALL IN when it comes to empowering young women and eroding the confidence gap that causes massive self esteem issues for girls, but this "bossy" thing is so missing the point. Avoiding the label of "bossy" does little to close the ACTUAL gender gap for women, and instead takes a whole ball of social stereotypes and the bigger crisis of opportunity faced by young women today, and whittles it down to a happy campaign about a single word. To suppose that banning the use of the term "bossy" will somehow catapult women out of the shadows and into leadership roles is, well, ridiculous.

This isn't a problem of language. It's a problem of teaching young women to be compliant and rewarding them for silence and conformity. 

Personally, I was an extraordinarily bossy kid. I owned the living shit out of my bossiness. As an adult, I've harnessed those same traits that, when I was a girl, were cast in the pejorative...and I've made being bossy a huge fricking asset. I bossed around a school district that kept my autistic son literally confined to a broom closet, and I ordered around a few state legislators to ensure other kids with disabilities had equal access to educational resources. I've demanded fair treatment from people in my life and in my business. I've taken charge of my health care when I was dissatisfied with my medical team. 
Yes, I've been accused of being "bossy." Even been called a "bitch" more than once, and I am perfectly good with all that. 

Because it's really all about teaching women to be explicit about what they want. In fact, I am doing my best to raise a daughter who is unrelentingly bossy. I want her to harness that confidence, and stand up to the people in this life who keep women down. I want her to fight for opportunities and a fair wage. I want her to move from being bossy to being the boss. 

So, ladies, ignore Sheryl. Go ahead and lean wherever the hell you want to lean, and go show them who is boss.

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