I’m on Board with Ban Bossy

There’s no such thing as a “bossy” boy.

There are only leaders, future presidents who will, one day, replace the sand box with an oval office to do what they do best: lead, direct, be bosses.

There are girls who do the same things. But these girls are never called “leaders” or “bosses.” They get the adjective of the word to mean that they are acting in a role for which they are not.

They are bossy when they seem to “act” like or pretend to be leaders, telling people what to do. And they are just “nice” girls when they don’t do these things, and that’s it.

As the parent of daughters who like to (ahem) lead, specifically other children who are twice their size, I get the problem with the “b” word. So I respect Sheryl Sandberg’s “Ban Bossy,” a new campaign against the gendered nature of “bossy.”

Ban Bossy is about encouraging us all to recognize the power of our words in shaping how we think. It’s about recognizing, out loud, that it means something when we verbally give men license to be the “boss” and women permission to be bossy, nagging, controlling, or bitchy.


Via Elle on Sandberg’s new initiative to ban bossy:

“Ban Bossy,” which they announced yesterday, is a call for people to strike the “bossy” descriptor from their vocabularies. Sandberg, Rice, and Chávez argue that the word is more pejorative than people realize—especially because it’s tacked on to women to snub them, while men are just praised as “bosses.”

According to Sandberg, Rice, and Chávez, the problem isn’t just that women and young girls’ feelings are hurt by the wordage. It’s that they’re often discouraged enough by it that they don’t speak up or assume leadership roles they’d succeed in. And that hurts everyone—men and women alike.

So, I get it and agree with it. No more bossy girls. Just boss girls. Boss women who know what they want and aren’t afraid to say it.

What do you think of Sandberg’s Ban Bossy movement or the gendered use of the word “bossy”?

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14 Responses to “I’m on Board with Ban Bossy”

  1. alexandra says:

    I don’t think bossy and assertive are the same thing. There are bossy children of both genders. And there are leaders of both genders… but bossy can be applied to male or female, and isn’t a leadership quality. That’s just my feeling on that word.

    • I don’t think bossy and assertive are the same either. But I do think that the words are sometimes used interchangeably when it comes to girls, in particular. There are, to be clear, truly “bossy” children, but there are also children, usually girls, who are doing the work of leaders but are called bossy just because they’re girls. I don’t think this happens all the time, but it does happen. And when it does happen, it’s unfortunate.

  2. Cher says:

    I think there is a huge difference between being “bossy” and being a “leader”. To me, a “bossy” person is one who tells other people what to do or how to live their lives, belittles another person for not having the same beliefs or actions as themselves, and is just basically a mean person. A “leader” is one who marches to their own beat despite what others say, accept that the people around them will have a different view or opinion and is cool with it, and is just positive in general. This applies to both genders. I think the Ban Bossy movement is creating a bigger wedge between the genders. I work in a male-dominated field and have never been treated as if I can’t do it because I am a female but rather that I can do it because I am a professional.

    • LindySez says:

      Cher, I would agree with you as an adult, but when talking about children, it’s used in a different way to describe them…you rarely see a female kindergartner called a “good leader”, at least not when I was a bossy child…

    • I agree with Linda, I think “bossy” as you, wonderfully, define it is often used with adults. With children, at least in my experience, “bossy” is gendered and is often applied when girls, for all other purposes, are doing what leaders do. It’s really unfortunate. I think your work is amazing, Cher, and I am so happy that you are being judged fairly based upon your work and professionalism rather than anything else. That’s my hope and wish and prayer for all women and girls!

  3. Elle says:

    I absolutely think that girls are frequently called bossy because they choose a leadership role, you see it in school playgrounds all the time. Like everything in life tho’ there’s a balance to be called for. And yes sometimes bossy is just bossy be it boy or girl.

  4. LindySez says:

    I was always called “bossy” simply because I knew my mind, knew how to get things done, and got them done. I went on to become a “boss” but most of my staff said I led well; and many of them followed me from one bank to another. So I say, ban bossy.

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  6. I can get behind it. I’d much rather be known as a boss than bossy. Although as long as I’m really being a boss – I don’t care what you call me! LOL!

  7. Cecilia says:

    I agree that we hear “bossy” used with girls more often than with boys. I’m also wondering how often it is that fellow girls use that word. That is, do we hear boys calling girls “bossy” or do we hear girls calling one another “bossy” more…in college I did a research paper on the way elementary school boys and girls play, and among the boys there is a hierarchy – there is the “leader,” the sub-leaders, and everyone else. Girls tended to play in smaller groups and on an equal level. It wouldn’t surprise me if girls tried to cut down the girl who asserted herself or tried to direct them.

    My girlfriend once called her daughter “bossy” because she tended to tell her friends what to do. I corrected her and said, “She’s probably the leader type.” 😉 On the other hand, I have told my son to stop being so bossy. I think it is probably good to cut that word out completely regardless of gender, and focus more on the behavior in more specific terms.

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