Recently, there has been an effort by organizations like The Girl Scouts of America and Lean In to ban the term “bossy” as it applies to young women. The idea is that women are not taking on leadership roles because they are worried about being branded as bossy, and therefore, as a bitch (that’s my paraphrasing). The general concept is to encourage girls to not be afraid of taking on leadership roles in business and life due to the fear of being labeled as too assertive. It’s a great idea — building self confidence in young girls through the banning together of women as a whole. But the campaign itself sucks.
Before I get all kinds of hate thrown my way, or someone asks me if I’m a parent, let me preface this a little. No, I do not have kids. I went to college with the idea of being a teacher and I focused on the study of gender and inequality in schools, so I have some insight into childhood development and what is actually happening to our children. I also work in educational-technology sales. I’m a woman straddling two male dominated industries, and there have been times where I have been made to feel inferior, or made to feel like speaking up is not okay. To be honest, a lot of that comes from myself. I internalize things like crazy and I am still at the point in my life where I care what people think of me. I grew up being told that a lady acts a certain way — that aggression is good, but women have to use it in a certain way. Basically, being manipulative and sneaky, “playing the game,” is how to get ahead, rather than being upfront and aggressive about what you want.
Men drive the wheels at my company. Women in leadership is scarce and will probably continue to be so as we grow and develop more leadership roles. What I’ve found in the last few years are that men aren’t holding us back. We can talk about the white, male patriarchy all we want, but when it comes to a lot of things, we hold ourselves back. We check ourselves. We second guess ourselves.
It is shit like the ban bossy campaign that tell girls that being assertive and dominate aren’t good. Don’t be bossy, we banned that.
By banning bossy, we are making our future daughters soft in a world that stamps out the soft pretty quick. Time and time again, we hear that men are surpassing women in leadership roles because of things like family planning, educational advancement, and just plain old inequality—which, yeah, obviously. But let’s be real here: We hold ourselves back. We ask for permission, instead of apologizing afterwards. We stop careers to focus on our families. We say, hey girls, boys are natural leaders, but you need a campaign to get you there.
We need to flip the switch a little here. Instead of banning bossy, we should embrace it. Women who are in leadership are women who aren’t afraid to tell someone where to stick it. I’ve seen it. They plan on an even playing field. They don’t ask to be pandered to. Call them bossy, they revel in it — because your opinion doesn’t matter to them. They make 6 figure salaries and are too busy juggling work and life to give a crap about you. Men are critiqued all the time for being thoughtless in business — essentially too bossy — but they succeed because they don’t let themselves be torn down by it. Women in leadership succeed for the same reason. The road may be harder, but if you want it, you learn from it and you keep climbing the corporate ladder.
The Ban Bossy campaign is feeding more fuel to the fire. Instead of teaching girls to embrace aggression, they are inherently saying that there is something wrong with it. We don’t need to ban bossy because we aren’t teaching our girls to be bossy. Expecting women to be coddled to is exactly what we don’t want. It holds us back. Campaigns like this show men that women need special treatment. If this continues, the next generation is going to be full of young men with even less respect for women trying to make it in business, and a group of girls to afraid of being bossy to fight to be a boss.