Written by Barbara Gilmour, NJ Mom Squad Team.
There is a campaign now going on to ban the word “bossy” from our language. This has stemmed from the realization that when directed at girls, the meaning is very different than that directed at boys. This was brought to light in a December TED Women Conference that featured Condoleeza Rice, former Secretary of State, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, and Anna Maria Chavez, CEO of Girl Scouts, among others.
When a boy is labeled as “bossy,” it is often a sign that he has leadership capabilities, assertiveness, and has the desire to succeed. He reacts to the term in a way that encourages him to do more, be more. I doubt that a boy would consider this term a slur or poor reflection on his character; but rather a quality he should be proud to be called.
With a girl however, the implication is that she might be stubborn or pushy. She might be labeled “aggressive” or needing to have everything her way. When she raises her hand in class, or offers the correct answer, she may be considered a know-it-all.
As soon as a girl senses that someone is having one of these reactions to her, she will hold back, not raise her voice either in class or to support a friend or a point. She may second guess what she says and does; doubting her talents and abilities, as well as her desire to be the best that she can be.
At young ages, girls’ self-confidence and self-esteem can take a serious hit when presented with these scenarios. This is just one more instance where bullying can emerge. Let’s help our daughters and female students get past this label by encouraging them to be all they were created to be. Let’s encourage them to go after what they want, whether a position on the soccer team, an A+ on a test, or to run for Student Council President. Let’s support their leadership capabilities, while encouraging them to speak up and let their opinions be heard.
Let’s join the campaign to end the gender stereotyping that applies different meanings to one little word for boys and for girls. “We need to get rid of the word ‘bossy’ and bring back the word ‘feminist,’” says Sandberg. Let’s take the pledge to Ban Bossy at www.banbossy.com.