On the whole #BanBossy vs. #BeBossy debate

Some smart people have written some very smart things on this latest Sheryl Sandberg / TeamWorkingLady / bossy-is-a-bad-word marketing fiasco, so I’ll let the links do the talking:

Ann Friedman — NY Mag’s The Cut

Katy Waldman — Slate’s XX Factor

Jessica Roy — TIME

And my favorite: my friend Zara Kessler on Bloomberg View. Zara has coined the word “bossiful”, which we should ALL be using immediately. Goal for the weekend: use it in a sentence with 5 different people. Just spreading the bossy love.

Above is the star-studded #BanBossy campaign video, which has the right message but, ultimately, just the wrong hashtag. It goes back to the basic Lean In debate: do women adapt their attitudes and vocabularies to the already-existing culture, or do we attempt structural change? Sheryl says get with the program; the women linked to above say we’ve gotta change the paradigm. (Disclaimer: I agree with them.)

On a personal note, sure I was called bossy when I was younger—mostly by boys, but often by girls too. Sure it hurt—because it was somehow an insult; because it suggested I wasn’t “chill” enough, that I needed to just relax and care less about the class project, or the dance we were choreographing for a school show, or the extracurricular we were organizing. And yes, these were good lessons to learn about interpersonal communication and social interaction. You can’t go through life bossing people around indiscriminately. (Not that I was doing that, I hope…) Couch your commands in kindness; delegate with reason; lead with humility.

But bossy isn’t bad. I figured that one out soon enough. Bossy gets things done. Bossy doesn’t take no for an answer. Bossy knows that without her, things don’t happen.

Bossy is being a leader at the age where standing out from your peers is scary, uncomfortable, and not “popular” or “cool.”

And that’s really, really good. So, as those writers have articulated in the links above: don’t ban bossy. Celebrate what it truly means in a youth context. Encourage its positive affiliations for girls who are afraid to stand out. Don’t ban the word, because that makes it a stigma. Turn it into a compliment, because it means you’re speaking up.

As for me, right now I’m not the boss; far from it. But I damn well plan on being one. And being called “bossy” as a kid? There’s no shame in that now. In fact, in retrospect, it was definitely a compliment.


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