Amanda’s Corner: Let’s Reframe Bossy

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amanda's cornerThis week, Lean In (Facebook COO Cheryl Sandberg’s organization) and the Girl Scouts launched its “Ban Bossy” campaign. It encourages people to do just that—ban the word “bossy”—so that girls can be unafraid of being the leaders that they are. According to the campaign, “Girls are twice as likely as boys to worry that leadership roles will make them seem ‘bossy.’” High profile women like Condoleezza Rice, Beyonce and Jane Lynch have joined the fight against the B-word.

I applaud Lean In and the Girl Scouts for addressing the gender gap in leadership. But I have a big bone to pick with Banning Bossy.

Creating a national campaign to ban bossy is quite the bossy move.

The word “bossy” is filled with connotations: Shutting out others’ ideas or input. Assertion. Giving orders. Passion. Ambition. Being a boss.

Part of me says, so what if girls are bossy, Sheryl Sandberg? Girls should own their bossiness. Amy Poehler once said, “I just love bossy women. I could be around them all day. To me, bossy is not a pejorative term at all. It means somebody’s passionate and engaged and ambitious and doesn’t mind leading.” And let’s be real—all of the high profile women promoting Ban Bossy are absolutely bosses.

ban-bossyBut the other part of me says, I could only put up with bossiness if it encouraged open-mindedness, not shutting out others’ ideas or input. In Lean In, the book that inspired the movement, Sandberg wrote, “I want every little girl who’s told she’s bossy to [instead] be told she has leadership skills.” To a degree, yes. Every bossy girl likely knows how to be assertive and how to express her opinion, which are both valuable in a setting that requires leadership. But it isn’t healthy to praise bossiness at the expense of shutting out others.

I suggest we discourage close-mindedness and reframe bossiness—not ban it. I wish Sandberg and co. would have named the campaign differently because there is so much focus on the B-word. At the heart of it is the desire for girls to understand the depth of their own abilities. And that’s pretty cool.

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