I've been seeing "Ban Bossy" images all over social media today, and it bothers the fuck out of me.
The campaign was created to "encourage girls to lead," and is based on the premise that little girls are afraid of being leaders because they fear being cast negatively as bossy. I support the goal of eradicating the confidence gap that contributes to massive self-esteem issues for little girls, but I'm not convinced that banning the word bossy is the key to closing the gender gap. You know what might work? Being bossier.
We should be telling girls to own the living shit out of bossiness. Instead of casting it as a pejorative, we should be reifying the idea that being bossy directly relates to confidence, and teaching girls how to harness that confidence in productive and powerful ways. This isn't a problem of language—the problem is our backwards system that rewards women for silence and compliance, and encouraging them to be less fierce is a supremely fucked up way to counter that. What is this wilting flower, let's-not-say-bad-words approach to empowerment?
The leader of the Ban Bossy movement is Sheryl "Lean In" Sandberg. Sheryl Sandberg is operating on a completely different plane of existence, where angling your body closer to dudes and not saying mean words is all you need to catapult yourself to success. And that might work in a world propped up by extreme wealth and privilege, where you're already at the table and not shouting outside the doors to be let into the building. I'll bet you a million (of Sheryl's) dollars that becoming the COO of Facebook involved a little bit of bossiness.
When you're bossy, you're explicit. You know what you want and you say what you mean. It's my dream, my goal in life, to be surrounded by unrelentingly bossy women, and I think it's far more effective to encourage girls to be bossy so that they might one day be the boss.