Sheryl Sandberg's #BanBossy Campaign: Watching a Master at Work

4 years ago

Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt of an op-ed by BlogHer CEO and Co-Founder Lisa Stone that ran in the Los Angeles Times.

Dear Internet, media, humans and haters: Face it, Sheryl Sandberg is the boss of you. She just proved it. Again.

Let’s part the waves of the #BanBossy campaign—and backlash—for a few minutes to acknowledge a master at work. On the first anniversary of, Sandberg again launched a widespread conversation about the status of females, and on her own terms. As with the launch of LeanIn, Sandberg and friends defined the topic, lined up pundits, presented infographics and kicked off the debate via a national media campaign.

In case you missed it, the campaign to ban the word “bossy” and its champions include women who, to be fair, also qualify as icons: Beyonce, Condoleezza Rice, Jane Lynch and Jennifer Garner on video, plus online quotes by First Lady Michelle Obama and Marlo Thomas. These leaders joined Sandberg, co-founder of, and Anna Maria Chavez, CEO of the Girl Scouts, to launch and this mission: “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. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys — a trend that continues into adulthood. Together we can encourage girls to lead.”

This campaign is so smart that even the #BanBossy backlash, which started almost immediately, works for it. “It seems that women like to be bossy, but don’t you dare call them bossy. That’s war on women,” wrote Charlotte Allen on Opinion L.A. “Given the nastiness that many women face on a daily basis, being called bossy is the least of our problems,” blogged Dobes on chimed in: “Wow. Once again, we prove that, as women, we really are our own worst enemy. Ms. Sandberg et al. are just trying to make people think before they use negative terms to describe women or girls who are starting to take on leadership roles. Can’t we support the spirit of the thing, if not the way they’re going about it?”

To the critique that Sandberg bossily launched this campaign to ban the word bossy, I ask: Were you coerced into participating? Or were you inspired to join the conversation—and to raise your own opinionated voice in the process? Think about it. The whole exercise looks like leadership and leadership training to moi.

I’m a believer that the effects of bossy start little but balloon into big problems for women individually and as a species. I was one of those easily socialized and intimidated girls who would have loved to have been brave enough to order other kids around, but instead I hid behind my sisters, my computer and my hair.

To read the rest of Lisa's post, click here.

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