Don’t Ban Bossy. Teach Girls to Be the Boss.

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


Jim Ven
Jim Ven8 months ago


Jerome S
Jerome S8 months ago

thanks for sharing.

BJ J3 years ago

Sticks and stones. . . . .

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago

It's dumb to ban words just because you don't want to be called by them. If you don't like a label you have been called, change your actions. This is just more pc stupidity!

Sara Gustavsson
Sara Gustavsson3 years ago

it´s only because the man does not what women to be bossy. They want the power to them self

Amy L.
Amy L3 years ago

It seems overreaching to ban the word "bossy" - I saw a study a while ago that said there were more women in college plus more women then men graduating. Women are moving into more scientific fields and business fields. Some of the toughest negotiators I've come across are women. Additionally while we have been subject to institutional discrimination and the glass ceiling - it seems that as the older generations that supported these oppressive ideas will die off and make room for more progressive thinking. All of the young millennial guys I know would never dream of a woman making less money then them - they would see that as discrimination - and they would not give a hoot if they had a female boss. If we're going to kill a word off because we're afraid it's going to worm it's way into our psych and stick is the word "bitch" - I'm tired of hearing women calling each other "bitch" under the guise that it's playful. This needs to go away.

Rhonda B.
Rhonda B3 years ago

Thank you.

Lynn C.
Lynn C3 years ago


A F.
Athena F3 years ago

Good lord, you can't ban words, or reclaim them, or anything like that. They are what they are, and once they are, they always are to SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE. So if you care that people get hurt, just don't use that word, no matter if the "meaning has changed over time" or not. If you don't care, use whatever words you want. Just know that it's going to hurt/piss people off and take responsibility for your part in that little play.

There's enough words out there, we don't NEED to use them all if we're well aware that certain ones offend. We can speak the language of compassion if we put two seconds of thought towards what comes out of our mouths.

Words don't need to be banned. People have the right to use whatever words they want. If they aren't compassionate, that's on them, and eventually someone is going to probably explain it to them. Possibly in not-so-nice a way. Maybe one of those bossy women. :P

Girls aren't any bossier than boys. It's all individual. The word only became a negative in relation to almost exclusively females because certain men don't want women "getting any ideas about having any say so in anything". It's a big bag of BS and whoever buys into it needs to also buy a clue.

Julia M.
Tanya M3 years ago

And how is supposed to be banned? Will people get jailed for using the word "bossy" or something? Besides that, the campaign is full of gender stereotypes, like that teenage girls have lower self-esteem that boys. But I've read about Psychology research showing that there is no difference. Girls are as twice as boys likely to worry about looking "bossy", says who?

I see it dangerous to tell girls that bad behavior, such as being bossy, aggressive, bullies, lacking empathy and respect for the others is ok if you're a female. Have you even met those entitled young ladies who say: "I can do whatever I like to other people and don't care, because if you call me bossy you're oppressing all women"?