Don’t Ban the Word Bossy, Teach Our Young Women and Men to Lead

The cycle goes something like this: A little girl starts giving people orders so she’s called bossy. She gets older and keeps giving people orders so she’s called a bitch. Then she gets even older and actually becomes the boss and she’s called a bossy bitch.

Bossy

It’s because of scenarios like this that Sheryl Sandberg, Beyonce, the Girl Scouts, and a slew of other high profile women have taken it upon themselves to try and ban the word “bossy.” They feel the word puts young girls down and stifles their ability to become leaders. More specifically, on the Ban Bossy website it says, “When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a ‘leader.’ Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded ‘bossy.’ Words like bossy send a message: don’t raise your hand or speak up.”

Now, they do have a point to some extent. I’m sure some young women keep quiet for fear of having any type of negative label placed upon them. Boys probably do the same thing from time to time. However, based on my concepts of leadership, the #banbossy campaign is missing two big points.

1. Bossy and leader are not synonyms. I’ll even prove it thanks to the help of definitions.

Bossy: fond of giving people orders; domineering.

Leader: a person who guides or directs a group.

So, that means that you can be bossy without being a leader. You can also be a leader without being bossy. Or, you might be a bossy leader which is totally acceptable too!

It’s quite possible, then, that the little girl who is ordering everyone around really is bossy, so why not use that word? By banning this term we’re making assumptions that every little girl or boy is showing leadership qualities. While that would be amazing, that’s most likely not the case. Instead of banning the word, we need to teach people how to appropriately use it. It’s called educating the masses!

2. Men encounter similar issues, but are called other derogatory terms that apparently are ok to use. Your male boss is most likely an asshole or a douchebag while your female boss is a bitch. The word leader is rarely used to describe either gender (unless they are actually showing leadership qualities). Even the term assertive often has a negative connotation applied to it. Again, this leads back to the idea that none of these words are synonyms. Still, if you’re a leader you’re a leader (young or old, male or female) and if you’re bossy, you’re bossy!

What We Need to Do Instead

education

Teach youth the difference between being a leader, being bossy, and just being plain old assertive. It’s all well and good that you want to use a hashtag to #banbossy, but instead why don’t we make our view a little more positive? We need to focus less on banning words like bossy and instead teach our youth how to be true leaders. Let’s #teachleadership or #empoweryoungwomen or #teachchildrenandadultshowtousewordsappropriately (sorry, I couldn’t resist). But what I mean by all of this is instead of highlighting the negative we should be trying to prevent young women and men from feeling disempowered in general. We need to create better leadership programs and utilize positive role models to instill in the next generation that it’s okay to stand up for your beliefs, be assertive, and lead.

Educate the population on how to correctly use these words to limit their negative usage. At the same time, let’s start a campaign that teaches everyone the real definitions of these words and how to appropriately use them. There’s nothing wrong with a little brushing up on your English here people! Maybe we could start our own hashtag revolution. #DefineYourself or #DefinitionArmy. No matter what the plan, we need to start highlighting the differences between the words we use to create a brighter population that can better embrace language and their own personality traits instead of being defined by what adults inappropriately call them.

Now, it’s your turn! What’s your take on the Ban Bossy campaign? Should we stop using the word altogether or redirect the campaign’s focus?

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