Have you heard of the #BanBossy campaign? Launched by Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In organization, #BanBossy is determined to wipe the word “bossy” from our vernacular when describing girls. The ethos is simple: “When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a ‘leader.’ Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded ‘bossy.’ Words like bossy send a message: don’t raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys—a trend that continues into adulthood. Together we can encourage girls to lead.”
I definitely remember being called “bossy” by fellow classmates and even a few teachers in high school just because I always had something to say. But when you look up the word “bossy” in the dictionary, some of the synonyms are “controlling,” “despotic,” “tyrannical,” and “draconian”—hardly the words you want to be throwing at young girls who are trying to form their identities. As #BanBossy’s website tells us, girls’ self-esteem drops 3.5 times more than boys’ between elementary and high school.
The campaign has some big names behind it, led by one of the most assertive ladies in showbiz, Ms Beyoncé Knowles herself, who tells us in the above video that she’s not bossy, she’s the boss. Also behind it are actresses Jennifer Garner and Jane Lynch, fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg, and American diplomat Condoleezza Rice. A few guys are on board, too, like NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson and the US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.
Some might argue that it is more important to try and change the mind-set behind what we label girls versus boys rather than banning specific words and that might be true. But initiating these campaigns to make people think about and debate these issues already means that mind-sets are being somewhat challenged. #BanBossy.