No need to ban “bossy”
There’s a difference between combating stereotypes and banning a word, isn’t there? Like Voltaire, I may disagree with what you say, but I’d defend to the death your right to say it. Promoting women’s leadership doesn’t require banning words or silencing dissenters. If it does, then the cause of the supposedly oppressed minority has in itself become the oppressor.
As a woman, I’m offended that Sheryl Sandberg and her followers think that the thought police need to protect me or I will lose all ambition, for fear of being called names. The sad fact is, being a great leader doesn’t always mean you will be well-liked, ask Abraham Lincoln, Gloria Steinem, or Steve Jobs. Anyone who is dissuaded from leadership by being called “bossy,” shouldn’t be taking up that mantle in a world where real leaders of freedom from Chinese political prisoners to Malala Yousafzai, are routinely shot when they try to create positive change. Banning the word bossy might provide a temporary shield against the sometimes harsh, sometimes unfounded insults of others; but it certainly won’t bring us closer to a first woman American President who would make me proud. I’m sure Margaret Thatcher and Melissa Mayer would understand exactly what I’m talking about.
A leader needs a thick skin
In fact, banning bossy only reinforces the idea that women have thin skin – which, if you follow my argument – isn’t exactly a great quality for a leader and hurts women’s advancement in the workplace. Our ongoing survey examines what professional skills and obstacles prevent women MBAs from achieving their career goals. Both men and women agree that ingrained stereotypes and double standards in the office are a problem. But banning bossy just further reinforces these stereotypes. It addresses the double standard only by creating another one.
I assume this campaign is inspired by the idea of ending the “r” word (retarded) as a reference for mentally challenged people, as well as those that aim to the use of words like “slut” that are usually specifically used to derogate women. Calling a woman or girl bossy is certainly not on the same level of insult. The level of shame it conjures up just isn’t the same.
If a woman is being called bossy, then she probably has no mental deficiency, nor does she have a problem going against stereotypes of women as innocent, submissive beings. The point of being bossy is that you have some sense of how to assert yourself, right? At the least, you threaten other people enough that they want to call you names, a backhanded compliment in itself.
I think we should take a page from Sheryl Sandberg’s core message and “Lean In” to bossy.
- Find strategies of learning how to deal with others better and lead through cooperation rather than be perceived as dictators.
- Go out and talk to those who criticize us rather than banning their criticism.
- Learn how to better deal with our feelings when people call us names so we can solve problems with a clear head.
- Embrace our inner directors.
- Deal with reality as it is, rather than complain about how life’s not fair.
Don’t Ban Bossy – Be a Leader
So stop being bossy and start being leaders. Even if that means letting people call you bossy.
Author: Megan Jones – Guest post for 3Plus International
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