Sheryl Sandberg’s non-profit is running a campaign stop calling girls and women ‘bossy’ under the belief that, “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.”
I was always called bossy growing up. I loved it. To me it was a compliment because the word consisted of the word “boss.” It seemed to imply that you had some sort of power or leadership over the person that was saying it to you. But this is my experience and the legitimate concern of #BanBossy is that this word (and cultural attitude) convince girls that they don’t want to be in a leadership position where they might be called the B-word.
Like a lot of women’s causes, I agree with the idea but I think the execution is not only wrong, but harmful itself. It’s yet another way we try to empower women and girls by treating them as if they are such delicate creatures that they need to be protected from the world, that they cannot handle it on it’s own the way it currently exists. I think it’s more empowering and healthy to teach people how to say, and sincerely embrace, “fuck the haters” than to run around, ad nauseum, trying to silence or dissuade every hater for the rest of your life.
It reminds me of this, my very favorite gif set:
She may have been tossed a sexist question that the male radio host wouldn’t have given a male guest, but her response reflected her worldview, not her blind adherence to the way people treat her.
The healthiest thing you can teach a person is that they are not a sponge being tossed around in the world, absorbing whatever people say and think about them. They are a rock and when people interpret their actions in a negative way, it is the fault of the other person’s perception, not of the person they are trying to force their expectations on.
Consider people with addictions. Like girls they are facing an uphill battle of living in a culture that sends harmful messages to them. They will have to be around alcohol again or in situations where they could slip back into their vice. The wrong approach would be to teach them that the solution is to get rid of all the alcohol and all the drugs in the world. Bad stuff will always be out there. We can only be responsible for how we respond to it.
The world will never be free from harmful thoughts and hateful people. As helpers and encouraging people we would waste our time trying to remove the problem. We can’t remove the problem. We can teach people how to respond to the problem. To women and girls who are called bossy, the message I would like us to send is: don’t wait around for a white knight to come and make the world safe for you. Make it safe for yourself. Refuse to let other people define your reality.