Sheryl Sandberg may be synonymous with Lean In, but Ban Bossy is her new catch phrase.
The Facebook Chief Operating Officer’s organization Lean In has joined forces with Girl Scouts USA CEO Anna Maria Chávez and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to launch a new campaign called Ban Bossy. In hopes of encouraging girls to be leaders, the three women are on a mission to ban the word bossy so girls around the world aren’t afraid to raise their hands and speak their minds.
Of the word bossy Sandberg says: ”This is a word that is symbolic of systemic discouragement of girls to lead. We are not just talking about getting rid of a word, even though we want to get rid of a word. We’re talking about getting rid of the negative messages that hold our daughters back.”
The campaign points out that by middle school girls are less interested in leadership opportunities than boys because they are worried about being labeled as bossy as depicted in one of the two videos released with the roll out of the campaign:
The second features various celebrity backers including Jennifer Garner, Jane Lynch, Diane Von Fϋrstenberg and the almighty Beyoncé:
There have been several proponents of the campaign who have signed on to the idea of banning the word bossy. More than 100,000 people have already signed a pledge on the site to stop saying the word and convince other people to do the same.
What’s more? There is lots of evidence to back up the detriments of labeling girls as bossy. A Girl Scouts poll has found that more than a third of girls who are called “bossy” lose interest in leading and stop making decisions or suggestions. A New Republic article points to linguist research which has found that the word bossy is overwhelmingly used in a sexist and pejorative way.
Despite many proponents, there have been many who have come out against the campaign. While some argue that the word bossy isn’t derogatory or a criticism of women, others say that bossiness is a healthy and productive part of childhood or feel that it’s important to teach girls (and boys) the difference between being bossy and a leader (bingo!). Parents, in particular, have had a lot to say about the campaign.
Initially the campaign had me hooked (I mean Beyoncé – need I say more?) but the more and more I think about it I’ve come to a different conclusion. While I see that the campaign had good intentions, I think it’s really misguided. Banning a word because of its negative connotation doesn’t solve a problem, it creates a new one.
Instead of an initiative to ban the word bossy, I would have loved to see a campaign that teaches kids – boys and girls alike – that you can be bossy in a positive way. It’s called being assertive, and being assertive is a great leadership quality. There are so many real life positive examples of girls being leaders, like the ones I’ve highlighted here and here and here and here. I personally would have loved to see a campaign that featured these girls and the incredible leaders they are.
Instead of banning bossy, we should be teaching girls to be the boss. Turns out Beyoncé was right all along. That part the campaign got right.
Photo Credit: Ted via Flickr