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We’re Not Going To #BanBossy

#BanBossy

There’s a new girl power initiative spreading across the internet that’s backed by some of the world’s biggest bosses. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In has spearheaded the #BanBossy movement to stop girls from being branded as bossy, and to encourage them to become leaders. Now y’all know I’m all about uplifting women and girls, but I’m not convinced that bossy needs to be banned. For me, it’s not a matter of the mission of the campaign. I think it’s great. Absolutely, let’s give girls the tools to lead with confidence starting in grade school. Yes! Let’s do that! The thing that’s stopping me from getting all the way behind this #BanBossy movement, however, is a matter of semantics. Oh, and the fact that I don’t think it’s about the girls at all.

Why #BanBossy?

Why do we have to ban bossy? Why not just reinvent it? Teach girls to take it as a compliment, and be empowered by it?  Or even better, let’s leave bossy alone and deal with the real issues that hinder girls (and some women) from becoming leaders at a young age.

Low self esteem.

Self doubt.

Questioning.

Uncertainty.

And I’m not talking about the girls. Look, if strong leadership isn’t modeled, it’s difficult to know what it should look like. There are too many grown folks walking around lacking confidence, and looking to someone else to lead. When they come into contact with a young girl who is assertive and sure of herself, often, instead of celebrating that, they try to extinguish it. I know, because I was that girl, and in many ways, I still deal with the same challenges as a bossy, self-assured, confident woman.

Adults Need To Model Leadership For Girls

When I was younger, there were so many adult “role-models” who lacked a strong sense of self, and they projected their insecurities on me. Instead of dealing with their own feelings of self doubt and low esteem, I was berated for being opinionated, mouthy and bossy. If a girl is called bossy by her teacher, her teacher needs to deal with their issues…it’s not about the girl. If a child is called bossy by her schoolmates, the teacher should be educating the students on what leadership is and what it looks like. The child’s parents, when she goes home, should be assuring the daughter that bossy isn’t a bad thing, and that bossy little girls turn into women who run big things.

Fortunately for me, I was raised in a family where I was taught that it’s okay to question, and that my thoughts mattered. If I had a good idea, we went with it, and even when I didn’t have a say in the decision making at all (sometimes being a kid sucked!), I was still able to speak my mind and know that I would be heard.

I’m raising my daughter in the same way. She is always welcome to state her (many. many. MANY.) opinions, even if it drives me crazy. At the same time, I’m teaching her to be respectful of the opinions and ideas of others, because bossy and bitchy are not the same thing. Bossy and bully are not the same thing. Bossy and any other negative word that starts with a B are not the same thing. Let’s stop reaching, folks.

The #BanBossy website actually does have some great ideas for planting seeds of leadership in young girls. Some of the tips include encouraging your child to step out of her comfort zone, being conscious of the way you and she talk, and teaching her to respect her feelings. All of that is great, and there are some excellent resources in the form of printables and visuals on the site as well that I’ll print off and use with Ayva. The name of the campaign, and the focus on bossy, waters down the impact of what they are doing. It creates a potential cultural divide, and the topic of leadership almost gets  overshadowed by the provocative title.

Sheryl Sandberg, Beyoncé, Michelle Obama…those are my girls. I might not agree with every single thing that they do, but I am motivated by the way they lead in their respective fields. All three of them have been leadership pioneers in different ways on their journeys. So, instead of trying to #BanBossy, I look at them and I’m inspired to teach my Ayva instead to #PracticePerseverance, #StayStrong, and #BeBolder.

Cathryn

Wednesday 22nd of June 2016

Why is it whenever a female exhibits leadership skills, she is labeled with an unflattering word or remarked at unfavorably? No one gets to be the Boss without being bosslike (unless Daddy owns the company.) But, seriously even then following in the 'old man's' footsteps requires even a daughter to have some chutzpah to carry the load. I always jokingly tell my husband,"I'm not bossy, I have leadership skills." This is a wonderful article. It's possible to discipline oneself to utilize those Boss skills and lead without being a jerk and we definitely need to teach and show by example, the younger generations of women and girls that taking the lead and being confident enough to be the boss of a situation is an asset and a gift from God who created us all.

Kelly @ Texas Type A Mom

Sunday 16th of March 2014

I think you nailed it on the head with being respectful of others ideas. There's nothing wrong with being confident in who you are and having a great idea in your head you want to run with. Being convincing and motivating others is not a negative quality but something many strong women possess.

Brandi Riley

Thursday 13th of March 2014

I agree, Summer Len Davis! Nurture it and give her additional tools (compassion, listening skills, etc.) that will help her as she becomes a BOSS!

Brandi Riley

Thursday 13th of March 2014

EXCELLENT point, @Pegine! The girls being called bossy are going to be alright. It's the ones that aren't called anything that we need to spend time on. Or maybe...let's empower the "bossy" girls to take the more shy girls under their wings and lift them up. Let's remember, and teach ALL of children, that every child is different and will grow up to have different skills. Not everyone can be an aggressive leader. Some folks lead with quiet strength. Thanks so much for your comment! It has me thinking even deeper!

Jamie

Thursday 13th of March 2014

Love it! I get what people are saying with the BanBossy thing (same as the LeanIn thing) but I think both are out of kilter. I think it's important to teach girls to lead with integrity and strength.