This past week, Sheryl Sandberg and her organization, Lean In, launched a new campaign aimed at empowering girls of all ages to become leaders. The Girl Scouts of America, Beyoncé, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Jennifer Garner, and many more have already backed the “Ban Bossy” campaign.
The idea behind the campaign, according to Sandberg in an interview with ABC News, is to “help girls and women feel more confident and comfortable as leaders.”
Sandberg said, “Women do 66 percent of the work in the world. Women produce 50 percent of the food. Women make 10 percent of the income and women own 1 percent of the property. We are 50 percent of the population. We are 5 percent of the Fortune 500 CEOs. We are 17 percent of the board seats. We are 19 percent of Congress. That’s not enough for 50 percent of the population. We live in a world that is overwhelmingly run and owned by men.”
She makes a very valid point here, and the idea behind the campaign is excellent. We do have a gender imbalance among leaders of all kinds. That problem is not the word “bossy,” though.
As a woman, jumping on this campaign’s bandwagon as a postgrad would be too easy. By aiming simply to “ban bossy,” this campaign essentially points the finger and blames external circumstances and instances for why women don’t make up more of our national, world, and industry leaders. It says it’s someone else’s fault for why we, collectively, haven’t even made a dent in achieving our dreams and aspirations.
“Bossy” is one of those words that has a negative connotation simply because previous generations have made it so. Other words, like “geek,” “nerd,” and even “gay” to a point have undergone cultural shifts, which have made them more widely embraced and less of a stigma. The more effective way to combat the gender gap and empower girls and women to take on more active leadership roles would be to embrace being bossy and cause a cultural shift.
By embracing being bossy–the way many women have publicly done in the past week through a number of public outlets–we take responsibility for making our dreams happen. Banning bossy, instead of owning up to what we each are, shifts the blame and tells girls that they should have leadership aspirations. This isn’t always the case. Some girls and women have dreams of being a stay-at-home mom and running the PTA, not running a fortune 500 company or the world.
“Ban Bossy” may have a great idea behind it, and I’m all for empowering girls and women all over the world to follow their own dreams, but banning a single word isn’t the right way to do it. Encouraging ladies and men alike to embrace their individuality will do a better job of empowering everyone to achieve greatness. There are plenty of double standards for women already, and this type of feminism–the kind that only empowers one set of people rather than expanding rights for everyone–is just another one that shouldn’t see the light of day any longer.
I’m bossy, so what?