I’m sure many of you have heard of the “Ban Bossy” campaign by Sheryl Sandberg. The campaign has garnered some celebrity support from Beyoncé, Condoleezza Rice, and Jimmie Johnson. The goal is to encourage girls to lead and be ambitious by banning the word bossy. I understand their intent but I don’t agree that banning the word bossy will encourage girls to lead or be ambitious. My mom has always called my brother and I bossy. She didn’t use the word as a put-down, to lower our self-confidence or in any way try to make us less ambitious. Instead she was pointing out that we were being overbearing, pushy or controlling. She was pointing out a behavior that needed to be altered. My mom always set out to empower us and encourage us to lead.
The campaign encourages people to discontinue labeling girls as “bossy”, instead we should say they have “leadership potential.” I question why we we should give a word so much power. What if that little girl is being “bossy?” Bossy is defined as “fond of giving orders; domineering.” Synonyms for bossy are pushy, overbearing, authoritarian, dictatorial, controlling and others. Those aren’t traits that I want my leader to have. I’ve seen my 6-year-old cousin act in a “bossy” way. Bossy is the best way to describe her behavior. When she barks orders and demands things, I wouldn’t say in that moment I would label her as having leadership potential. She may have leadership potential, but in that moment she is acting bossy.
I think “Ban Bossy” has the right idea, but I don’t think using the word bossy is the real issue. I think people are giving too much strength to one word. You’re giving the word power, instead of focusing on behavior and the empowering of little girls.