As some of you may have already heard, Sheryl Sandberg has launched a new campaign to empower girls and young women to become leaders. She has teamed up with other political figures and celebrities, Condoleezza Rice, Jane Lynch, and Beyonce to release a PSA called “Ban Bossy.”
In addition to encouraging girls to become leaders in their community, a goal for the campaign is to ban the word “bossy” from mainstream vocabulary in an effort to remove the negative connotations associated with girls and women who take charge in any given situation. Sheryl says that the term “bossy” is a loaded word that intimidates young girls away from speaking their minds and taking on roles of leadership.
This has been circulated all over internet and conversations have of course already begun. I have read all sorts of reactions about the campaign from people being all for it to others who think it’s just ridiculous. Honestly, I can see both sides of this issue.
For one, I love the idea that powerful men and women are behind the idea that girls and women should be just as encouraged to pursue leadership roles as anything else. There is undoubtedly a lack of interest from girls to take on certain positions because they have been culturally trained to think that their place is in other areas where they are quiet and following the lead of someone else.
I also love the idea that they are raising awareness about the stereotype that women are placed into if they do dare to take the lead of any group of people, and that stereotype being that they are too aggressive and pushy in their role. There is no doubt that a man can lead in a certain way and he is seen as assertive, while the woman can do the exact same thing as the man, but she will be somehow be criticized or put down for it. Examples of this are all over the place and it’s great that someone is finally recognizing it and bringing it to public attention.
So all of these goals are good, but I’m just not sure banning a word is the kind of approach I would take. I don’t even think we can actually put a ban on a word such as “bossy,” but even if we could, let’s face it…. people would still use it just to be assholes. They would see it as an even larger shaming tool than it has been already and they would use it whenever the opportunity came around. I even start to wonder how far should we be letting words offend us anyway. Yes, it’s shitty that people judge and use words to put down others, but there comes a point when we must realize that we can’t stop them from thinking the things they think and saying the things they say. I wonder if we would be better off just brushing it off and keep doing whatever we want to do, instead of trying to silence their words. We give up our power the second we let someone get to us with their words.
Instead of banning the word “bossy”, let’s think about what would encourage people in general to see women in power as a positive thing.
I would also like to challenge their idea of leadership. When I think of women as leaders, I think of them leading in all sorts of areas of life, at any age, and at all different levels. They can be leaders at school, at their jobs, in the home, in their families, in their local communities, etc… not just in the corporate career world.
What do you think about the campaign and how they are going about their efforts?