Let’s not Ban Bossy, Let’s Reclaim It

So, are you on the Ban Bossy bandwagon yet? You’ve probably heard of the initiative spearheaded by Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg and the Girl Scouts of America to ban the use of the word bossy because of its negative connotations. Their point is that if someone calls a girl bossy, it’s not a compliment, and the intention is usually to get them to tone it down. Boys are hardly ever called bossy, and if they are, it’s not insulting. The point is that that’s unfair. And yes, it is.

Ban Bossy

Now, I don’t mean “bandwagon” to sound at all belittling, and I think that it is a great initiative in that it has opened a valuable debate. About time. But, I would like to draw attention to the fact that we shouldn’t have let bossy get negative in the first place. Ok, I understand why, back then things were different, the expectations society had of women were much more rigid than they are now.

However, things have moved on. Extremely successful and powerful women are all around (and, yes, of course we could do with more! Go for it!), and Sheryl Sandberg’s success (and Meg Whitman’s, and Hillary Clinton’s, and Oprah’s, and Angela Merkel’s, and the list could go on and on and on) is an inspiration to us all.

So I suggest that, instead of joining forces to validate the bad rep the word “bossy” has incurred over the decades, instead of further entrenching the poor word’s misery, why don’t we reclaim it? Why don’t we simply decide that bossy is not a negative thing for a girl to be? Why don’t we wear the label with pride?

Reclaim bossy

After all, we did it with the word “gay”, didn’t we? Back in the 50s it was nice to be gay, and then in the 70s and 80s it had more pejorative connotations, and now it’s an adjective (or label, or whatever) worn with pride again, only with a different meaning than in the 50s. We flipped the word gay’s reputation by talking and campaigning and putting it out there, with inspiring people showing the world that they weren’t ashamed to be gay, that it was not something to be embarrassed about or afraid of.

So why can’t we do something similar with bossy? Imagine an army of successful, intelligent women all saying “I’m bossy and I’m proud of it!”. Our daughters would aspire to be bossy, and they would probably get a lot more done. They wouldn’t be hurt if someone called them that. I can see the T-shirts now: “Bossy and Beautiful.” Beyoncé says in the Ban Bossy video: “I’m not bossy. I’m the boss”. Actually, I love that sound bite, I vote for keeping it as it is. But, what about another one: “I’m bossy because I’m the boss.”

I'm Not Bossy, I'm the Boss

Now, obviously, being bossy is not at all the same as being a leader, just as being the boss doesn’t give anyone the right to belittle or demean others. And even if bossy becomes cool, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t also teach all our kids Emotional Intelligence. But bossy doesn’t deserve to be an insult, or even to be something to be socially feared. I say that we shouldn’t Ban Bossy, but that we should reclaim it. Bold and bossy, why not?

(And check out how this song reclaims the word “redneck”… The Boys ‘Round Here, by Blake Shelton, I love it. Seriously, who would have thought that being redneck could be sung about with pride? They’re making it hip, by showing us that it’s not necessarily what we think it is. Listen carefully, it’s even in the chorus: “redredredredredredredredredneck!”. Catchy. See how I leave you with a song for the weekend? You’re welcome!)

Boys 'Round Here by Blake Shelton


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