Commentary: What's So Bad About Being Bossy?

Everyone is weighing in about a campaign to stop using the other b-word.

Posted: 03/19/2014 03:00 PM EDT
Beyonce

Last week, a new hashtag was introduced. And this week it continues to go viral as women are tweeting, talking and arguing over whether or not they’re going to #banbossy or pull a Kelis and be their bossy best.

The campaign to eliminate the word “bossy” from how we describe little girls and grown women who aren’t shy or demure was started by a partnership between the Girl Scouts and Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of the bestseller Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. Sandberg believes that it will be much harder to have a generation of female leaders if that word doesn’t disappear. “When a little boy asserts himself, he's called a 'leader.'” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded 'bossy,'" it says on the campaign’s official website. “Words like bossy send a message: don't raise your hand or speak up.”

And because the easiest way to get a movement underway is for it to go viral, they asked people to head to Twitter and tweet their support to #banbossy. So far, thousands have pledged that they are done saying phrases like “You sure are bossy” to take-charge, opinionated women and girls. Plus, stars like the idea, too. Esperanza Spalding is in, tweeting “I pledge to #banbossy.”  Alicia Keys is in. Beyoncé isn’t just in, she starred in a video posted to the Ban Bossy website and says, “I’m not bossy. I’m the boss.”

But not everyone agrees with Bey. Black feminist icon Bell Hooks tweeted “Don’t ban bossy. Be bossy and proud.” Cultural critic Denene Millner called the campaign “dumb.” And quite a few people agreed with Ann Friedman who wrote an essay arguing that the Ban Bossy movement wants to “try to expand girls’ options by restricting the way we talk about them. It’s counterintuitive, and it makes feminists look like thought police rather than the expansive forward-thinkers we really are.”

Of course some feel like there is nothing more expansive and forward-thinking than believing you can act and be your truest self without fear of being labeled a bad word. And then, of course, others don’t see “bossy” as a bad word, but instead an adjective that connotes a certain level of attitude and control. For every story of a woman who felt oppressed by the word, there is one who proudly claims it as her own.

Fortunately, all of this editorializing about the campaign on Twitter, blogs and talk radio shows means that everyone is going to be talking about the other b-word for quite some time. It can give parents and educators a chance to check themselves and consider if they have been using a double standard with assertive little girls and boys. It will also provide awareness to us: if you feel bad when people call you “bossy,” you are not alone. In the meantime, keep doing what you’re doing and ignore anyone who tries to steal your assertive shine—because, as Beyoncé said, “I’m the boss.”


The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.


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(Photo: Splash News)

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