Ban bossy? Or how about: ‘don’t be a dick’

You may have seen the #banbossy campaign that’s doing the rounds.

The premise, from the Ban Bossy website is, “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. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys—a trend that continues into adulthood. Together we can encourage girls to lead.”

My very first thought was, “Wooh! Yes! Equality for all!” But then I thought about it further after seeing a tweet this morning that read: ‘Maybe girls should EMBRACE the word bossy, not ban it.’ – via @rightwinggirl08

While I don’t advocate anyone to embrace being what the traditional definition of ‘bossy’ is, there are many perspectives that point to why we shouldn’t be trying to ban the word:

1) Promoting the banning of a word seems a little authoritarian in itself.

2) Bossy men aren’t always regarded as ‘great leaders’. They’re also called ‘dickheads’, ‘arrogant pricks’ and ‘cocky’ and they have to deal with the side-effects of these names, too.

3) An attempt to close the gap that is the great divide between girls and boys isn’t aided with a campaign targeted purely at females, for a topic that is not specific to only one gender.

4) This divide HAS been closing, albeit slowly, but there is much to be said for the men and women who have supported gender equality.

5) There are far, far greater insults than being called “bossy”. Being ignored is one of them.

6) Humans are emotional and competitive. Negative words will always be used, it’s how we handle them that’s key.

7) The tagline ‘I’m not “bossy”, I’m the boss.’ is inherently flawed. It creates a false association between leadership and being bossy. The best leaders are the ones who lead by example, not those who domineer and give orders.

8) ‘Leadership’ is not the only path to success. Being successful means different things to different people.

9) Our younger selves do many things that we look back on with regret, or rather, with a mature perspective, and being “bossy” is sometimes one of them. But it’s a natural way for young humans to assert themselves and their worth within their families, friendship circles and societies. It can be hurtful to be caught out on our behaviour, but it can also be strengthening.

My take on all of this?

Be human, be genuine, be real.
Show your children how to be compassionate and collaborative to fellow humans.
Be ambitious, be bold, be curious.
Do what you enjoy and you see value in.
Be a leader, if you want to be.
Or not!
Be what you want and respect others for what they want to be.

Just don’t be a dick.

Further reading:
Sheryl Sandberg wrong on ‘bossy’ ban by Peggy Drexler
Don’t ‘ban bossy’, Sheryl Sandberg. Tell us what to do next. by Alexandra Petri
The seven most ridiculous things about the new Ban Bossy campaign by Mollie Hemingway

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