Don't #BanBossy, change the culture instead

4 years ago
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So there's a new Lean In/Girl Scouts USA campaign to #BanBossy - i.e., ban the word "bossy" when describing young girls. I appreciate the effort to disabuse gender stereotypes, but why not try to change the culture instead of just wholesale removing a word from our vocabulary?

Bossy is not offensive like terms such as "bitch" and "cunt" can be in certain circles (though while we're at it, let's stop letting those words have power over us, too). Why not teach a young girl--or a grown woman for that matter--to take "bossy" as a compliment instead of an insult?

I am coming at this from the perspective, admittedly, of someone who was not probably considered bossy as a child. (I'll have to ask my mother on that one, she may disagree. I'm sure my younger brothers would). Rather, I remember often being tentative with my opinions and actions. That is until high school when two things started to change that: I took drama classes and I started writing for my campus newspaper.

The drama classes gave me confidence to stand and talk in front of other people--actually I found that I actually enjoyed it to a degree. If I felt confident in the reason for being on stage (in those cases, knowing my lines and feeling the part) then showing that to other people made me happy.

Likewise, working on my high school newspaper (first as a staff writer and later as the features editor) gave me confidence in my written voice which, in turn, gave me more confidence in everyday life. I wrote words, people read them, people gave me feedback. Even when people disagreed with what I wrote (which happened even in high school), it gave me confidence to know people were paying attention. I learned very quickly that people would often disagree with what I wrote. As a result, I started to develop a thick skin about their reactions, positive or negative.

I wish I'd been encouraged more as a child to be bossy. One can be bossy, but also be diplomatic and kind and pragmatic.

Bossiness and those other qualities are not mutually exclusive. Bossy as a word may have largely negative connotations, but I see it more as an extension of its root word. Someone who's bossy is in charge, and she's not afraid to be heard. She's not afraid to take action because she knows she's got to get shit done.

Sometimes I think I'm probably not bossy enough in my day-to-day life, but of course the older I get, the less I care about what others think about me. (Well, mostly anyway if I'm being 100 percent honest) I'd like to think now that when I'm not outwardly bossy it's not because I'm meek and afraid to take the lead, but rather because I'm observing, weighing options and thinking about solutions.

In the last few months I've had the amazing experience of becoming an aunt--both literally and in an honorary sense--to two amazing baby girls.  When I look at both of these girls I see their mothers, both of whom are outspoken, confident and assertive. Pretty damn bossy, actually.

It's my deepest wish that both of these babies take after their mothers.

Be assertive, be confident, be outspoken (but also, please, be diplomatic, kind and pragmatic).

Be bossy, damn it.

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