Ban Bossy? Or Help My Daughter Be the Boss?
By Michelle Sassa on April 03, 2014
I am a sucker for anything pro-women, much to my man's inner eye rolling. So when I heard about the new campaign to Ban Bossy being launched by female heavy hitters Sheryl Sandberg, Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chávez and former secretary of state Condi Rice, I was all like, "Woo Hoo, you go girls! Where do I sign my fem-lovin' self up?"
You Go, Beyonce Girl! Way to own being Ms. Bossy Sauce!
The movement by Sandberg and her girl powered posse to promote female leadership is definitely and interesting (and controversial) one. As the Ban Bossy website explains:
“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."
The site goes on to cite that by middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys, and that fear of being seen as bossy, aggressive or controlling can hurt their self-esteem and hold them back later in life. Hot damn!
My daughter and her Girl Scouts friends at Liberty Science Center learning girls can be anything.
This really got the mom in me thinking. Have I been doing this to my own daughter just by calling her out on her unwillingness to play nice? If so, talk about a doozy of an oxymoronic feminine mystake.
Ya see, Beans came out of the womb knowing what she wants and hell-bent on getting it. So much so that her dad and I nicknamed her 'the heat-seeking missile.' At times I have called her STUBBORN, a DIVA, a BULL-IN-A-CHINA-SHOP, and behind her back am even guilty of referring to her by the worst b-word of all.
"Hon, your daughter is being a little BITCH.'
All negative labels, I know, I know. But I'm human, and sometimes it pisses me off when my eight year old insists on wearing the same salsa-stained skirt three days in a row, or, when I ask her to do something mandatory like go to bed, she defiantly says, 'No.'
It just never occurred to me that calling her Ms. Bossy Sauce might be a No-No too.
Not long ago, my Bean was butting heads with her playmate, another strong-willed girl fond of getting her way. "Shasta is being mean," my daughter whined. "She won't play American Girl dolls with me, so I want her to go home!"
A familiar scenario that had been happening more and more. I once again reminded her that relationships are a two-way street, and that we have to be open to other people's ideas. Then I reproached her, saying, "Don't be a Bossy Sauce or you won't have any friends."
Who knew that right then and there I was potentially hampering her leadership potential? Me! Card-carrying member of the girl power Femmarazz!? WTF? Had I singlehandedly set the whole women's movement back fifty freakin' years?
In my defense, how could I know? All these years, from the playroom on up through the boardroom, I myself had been taught that being bossy was not a good thing. In addition to being a girl, I'm a Virgo, the zodiac sign usually criticized for being "control freaks." I had to learn the art of compromise (aka playing nice) so I could get along with roommates, cubicle mates and ultimately, my lifemate. Then I got promoted to Creative Director (aka The Boss) at work, and suddenly I was worried about striking the right balance between getting my way and having everyone hate me. Here I was being paid to lead, dammit, yet the last thing I wanted anyone to call me was Bossy.
See the irony here people?
That's probably why I got all warm and gooey inside when I saw that Beyoncé ad with the quote, "I'm not bossy. I'm the boss." Hell yeah sister, now that's the way to own it.
Sheryl Sandberg suggests that instead of calling our little girls "bossy", we try saying, "My daughter has executive leadership skills."
That might be "Leaning In" just a tad too far, but I do like the sentiment. I'm not sure banning the word bossy is the answer, but I applaud all the discussion this movement has inspired. It's helped me appreciate that the take-charge qualities that may make my daughter a bitch to parent will help her succeed in life if she learns to channel them positively. I need to not only encourage her to lead, but show her how.
Same goes for my two boys. We've all had male bosses who were overly assertive, stubborn or controlling. Maybe we didn't call them bossy, but they were definitely PRICKS, A-HOLES or JERKS. At the end of the day, bad behavior is bad behavior, whatever the label, and we need to find a way to celebrate strength and assertiveness in all our kids without letting them become tyrants or dictators.
In other word's, maybe we should ban Bosses from Hell.
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