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Monday, March 10, 2014

Ban the word "bossy"

We're about to put the boys to bed, but I wanted to post quickly: Have you seen the Ban Bossy campaign? Lean In and Girl Scouts have teamed up to encourage people to stop calling girls "bossy":

"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."

It really struck a nerve with me. Growing up, I was always labeled "bossy," and, at 35 years old, I still feel that it's part of my identity. But it's good to be a leader, to be ambitious, to give direction, to have strong opinions and to speak up; and we should encourage girls to do so. As Beyoncé says, "I'm not bossy. I'm the boss."

Boss it up, ladies!

P.S. How to talk to little girls.

(Photo by Charles Gullung)

120 comments:

MAKwiek said...

Preach!

mjPilates said...

I'm 27 years old and I've been told I was bossy since before I can remember. I never thought of it as a leader, let alone a positive description. I always joked that I became a Pilates instructor so I could tell people what to do. But now I know I became a Pilates instructor to lead someone. :)

Nicole said...

This is exactly how I've felt my entire life. I was called bossy at a young age and am still self-conscious about how I present myself so as not to seem too bossy.

officiallyobsessed.net said...

It's an interesting concept to grapple with -- I'm a staunch feminist and definitely understand that words can have such power. And yet, I also have a 2 1/2 year old daughter who I chided for being bossy just this past weekend. I stand by my intention, which is to instruct her, in the same way that I think I would to a son, that you cannot boss people around, especially if you're doing so impolitely. But even if I would use that word in teaching a young boy, I also recognize that most people in this world would only use it for a girl. Do I hold myself up to my personal standards, or to the ones the world will present to my daughter?

Scout and Rice said...

Y'know, my little girl is totally bossy and it wasn't until I read about this campaign that I thought much about the word.
The more I think about it the more I don't like the word bossy, but I also think kids need to be taught respect and how to assert themselves properly - yelling at your parents because they didn't put enough cream cheese on your toast isn't assertive. Bossy isn't the right word to use because it seems like a put-down, somehow.

Marcy said...

My problem with this whole campaign is the first part of the quotation about if a boy asserts himself, he's called a leader. I don't know of many people who talk in terms of "leadership" with small children (ok, I'm probably projecting the small children part since mine are small) but I do know many people who would call out a boy for being bossy just as much as they would a girl.

Joanna Goddard said...

@officiallyobsessed, that's so interesting. i was actually talking about the same thing to a friend today. she has a daughter and said that her daughter is very bossy to her friends...and we were trying to think of different ways to teach her not to do that. like maybe, "make sure to give your friends some space," etc. it gets tricky for sure!

Joanna Goddard said...

marcy, that's interesting! i've never heard boys being called bossy, but i've heard girls being called it all the time. (i've actually teased some of my friends' daughters about being bossy, although now i won't do that again!) but interesting that you've heard boys being called bossy, too.

officiallyobsessed.net said...

I'm thinking maybe "Don't be rude"? Which addresses the behavior a bit more than the personality type. But, I have to be honest, it's hard to say that without thinking about Stephanie Tanner from Full House!

emy said...

I'm a preschool teacher (and formerly bossy girl), and I once overheard one of the moms (a high-powered corporate attorney) tell her (incredibly bright, strong-willed) daughter, "Remember what we talked about. It's OK to be a leader, but we aren't snarky." Other teachers who had brief encounters with this parent found her abrasive, but I always appreciated how direct and straightforward she was. As a young child, I was once told by an aunt that my intelligence would intimidate boys (and of course the message came across loud and clear from other parts of society. I about lived inside Reviving Ophelia as a teenager). I found my way, but I'm thankful that my student is growing up with a different message, and for the conversation that may emerge through this campaign.

Laurie Hoffman said...

This hit a nerve. I still have my 3rd grade report card where my teacher states, "Laurie is very bossy." I think the assertiveness I possessed then was beat out of me with comments like that.

Lynsey @ Eternally Wanderlyn said...

Love. Love. Love! I think we need to stop assigning behavior based on gender. Girls are bossy. Boys are leaders. Girls are sensitive. Boys should be strong. And so on. We need to teach children to be strong, capable, and balanced human beings.

Maria Dabboussy said...

I love this post so much! Bossiness is such a gendered issue!

Patricia Roberts said...

I've often teased and said to call me 'Bruce' because I'm the boss! This was a great post! The teachers in my daughters preschool class always said she took more of a leadership role. They said they didn't like labeling her bossy. This really stuck with me!

collette said...

I saw this today...it made me think of 6YOD whose teacher, at her four year old kindergarten class, called her "bossy" at her conference. We do talk to her about letting other kids make the rules when they play, but it's fine for her to be called "Future CEO" or "leader" which she is called more often than not!

Jovana M said...

What is the world coming to? I have hear boys called bossy just as much as girls. I was called bossy as a child. I did not see it as a negative trait because I was always the one among my friends who would organize every game we played and direct people. No one had a problem with it because I wasn't rude about it, it was just natural for me to lead them. To me bossy is not negative.

I feel like people have nothing better to do than come up with issues that are really non-issues, in my opinion. I would love for my future daughter or son to take after me, because that means taking crap from no one. It's always better to be the leader.

After bossy, what other word will people start having a problem with because they didn't teach their children self-respect and good self-esteem??? My goodness....

NotesFromAbroad said...

I was called bossy once and had no problem with it but then I do like to boss people around.

Words, they are just words ..

Kate said...

I love this campaign, probably because I was labeled bossy (among other lovelies), but I have to wonder how much it will accomplish. Gender expectations have very deep roots and while we've obviously made some progress, there are enough people who still think a girl/woman's place is to be quiet and cute rather than strong and smart that until that all changes, we will continue to socialize the will out of our girls. I have 27 month old boy/girl twins and I think she was born bossy, and I think many other girls are too. I talk to her about being nice/not mean to others, but I have no intention of changing her spirit to suit others.

Natalie said...

@Jovana M: I'm glad you never took it as a put-down, but it certainly is one. Even said gently or teasingly, people generally say it so that the person will stop acting in the way they perceive as bossy.
I think it's better to make ourselves more aware of the effect of our words, rather than assume that if someone is hurt or offended by them, they must have a self-esteem issue.

Natalie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
amy said...

I tend to think about bossy as being a director-telling someone what to do instead of helping them find the way- not leading. It comes from the intention and the delivery, not the act of being assertive or leading. For both men and women bossy isn't something to be, period. I think it's more important to teach children positive ways to show others the path to follow-to be assertive without being bossy is something to address in both genders.

RG said...

It's posts like these that are the icing on the cake of your awesome blog. Let's face it: calling a little girl "bossy" is the kid version of calling her a "bitch". Frankly I've always wished I was "bossier"! Girls should be allowed to be as assertive as they want and not catch shade for it. Unless they're just being mean of course. But that's another post. :)

Samantha Morelli said...

One of the problems is that we need to teach all children who show a propensity to lead, not just girls, how to be kind. Being an educator I see it constantly that the leaders can tend to be mean. Kindness with leadership is an amazing quality we should be teaching all of our children.

Diane Cayton-Hakey said...

I LOVE the term 'bossy'. In fact it makes me laugh a bit to hear someone use the term whether it be applied to a boy or a girl. I think there are a lot worse words used to describe women and I won't go into those. Bossy is good. It implies strength in a woman so what's not to love about it?

Jesse said...

my dad always referred to be as "the little general" when i was little. i always knew he was just teasing me a bit, but still i wonder if it shaped some of my insecurities.

http://semiweeklyeats.blogspot.com/2014/03/go-ahead-ruin-your-dinner.html

Julie Arthur said...

Ok, this whole thing is annoying. There's a difference between being "bossy" and being a leader. My older sister was always so bossy, "Do this, do that, wear this, wear that, don't do this," you get the point. That is not leadership. You can't always assume that a bossy little girl will be a good leader. Maybe she's just spoiled, or maybe she just can't handle not getting her own way. Bossy people can tell people how to do things just the way they want it done, but leaders inspire people to action, not just because they "said so."

sam said...

Love that Beyonce quote. I'm somewhat inclined to agree with Julie's comment above. There is a difference between being a leader or being bossy. I think being bossy has a negative connotation because in my mind, it means you're not being empathic to others needs and wants. A leader, or a "boss" as Beyonce puts it, is someone who can listen but also take charge. I don't know, being bossy just has this connotation of being selfish to me.

jill said...

I have two boys almost the exact age as yours, I grew up with a sister and 5 female cousins. I was always the bossy one. My older son is a replica of me right down to his bossy attitude. I think at his age it is being bossy, but it certainly can turn into leadership. I don't hesitate to call it bossy in him but I wonder if it will gradually morph into a more desirable characteristic in him whereas in myself it was eroded away to become something I was forced to think about.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jm said...

This is awesome!

Kathleen Heffner said...

I was labeled bossy, also. Once I told my husband that i was bossy and he disagreed!

Lauren Payne said...

Love it!

Unknown said...

love this! I was always called bossy too. It was a painful thing to hear. And now I'm not bossy but I am the boss. I should have owned it back then! nothing to be ashamed of.

Ailidh Carpendale said...

Well, I have 3 boys and they all get bossy sometimes and I tell them so. I suggest they use a more pleasant tone, remind them to speak kindly... I think bossiness is more about tone than anything.

I don't think we need to embrace unpleasant behaviour in girls because boys do it. I think we need to teach our boys to be careful, kind, considerate, and to lead without bossing.

Unless you are the boss, in which case, boss away. But nobody's gonna like it.

rachel delle said...

I can relate to this completely! The older I get the more self conscious I become about not being too bossy. I like being in control! And to be honest, I'm good at it. I love this thought.

rachel delle said...

I can relate to this completely! The older I get the more self conscious I become about not being too bossy. I like being in control! And to be honest, I'm good at it. I love this thought.

The Reeds said...

"Boss it up". I love it. :) And I realize people say that about our daughter and even we have. :( Time to stop that and boss it up.
Get to it!

jleestone said...

It's disappointing there are so many women defending girls being called bossy here! It is a joke to pretend that boys get called bossy equally, I don't think I have ever heard someone refer to a boy as being bossy. You can teach good behavior without using that label for it, because we have clearly done this for boys for decades.

I read Lean In and found it very empowering. Sandberg addresses the issue regarding attitudes towards women who lead, and how people tend to describe leadership traits in women as negative but for men they are considered positive, and are often listed as reasons for his success.

Tina Fey addresses this in Bossypants:
“…ever since I became an executive producer of 30 Rock, people have asked me, ‘Is it hard for you, being the boss?’ and ‘Is it uncomfortable for you to be the person in charge?’ You know, in the same way they say, ‘Gosh, Mr. Trump, is it awkward for you to be the boss of all these people?’”

Kaitlin Jenkins said...

Yeah! Love this!!

Beth E. said...

That is COMPLETE and total crap. I understand that you don't work in a corporate field and judging from the blog you don't seem to spend a lot of time with people who do but women are leaders now. Bossy is how you get to be the boss. Leading is when you're bossy and have followers. If you're being bossy and have no followers you can't be a leader but there isn't anything wrong with trying to get stuff done even when people aren't cooperating or following. When I was growing up we called boys bossy too. I wish people would stop over thinking stuff like this. When you draw attention to the word you take attention away from the more important part of this which is to make young women leaders. Stop worrying about what they're called and praise them for kicking butt and taking names. Sheesh!

Nancy said...

love love, I love that this campaign is taking off the way it is, thanks for contributing to this movement!

Emma said...

I do agree that little girls can be criticised for not being nice enough and that annoys me but ...

Bossy kids can grow up to be control freaks, not necessarily leaders. People in general don't respect or react well to being told what to do in an overbearing way.

I don't know, I appreciate the sentiment but feel we're overanalysing a lot of issues now, pick your battles I reckon.

Bek said...

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say I really disagree! There is a vast difference between being a leader and being bossy - and I think most people, and even most children, know this! Leadership isn't (just) about telling people what to do, leadership is also listening, and empowering others, and serving.... THESE are the qualities we should be instilling into our future leaders...

Bossiness is just getting your own way - we don't want this trait defining our leaders!

Just my thoughts on the matter! :)

Bek said...

On a side note, however - I do think that a lot of girls WERE shut down for showing assertiveness, but that was perhaps last generation?? In my generation (and in Australia - perhaps it's different in America??) this isn't so much the case.... Girls are treated very equally...

Danielle E. Alvarez said...

Yes! I was called bossy as well. Looking forward to raising my children with a more accurate understanding of their agency.

Marie Adamo said...

JovanaM and NotesFromAbroad - words are not just words. What do you think makes up culture and society? You must know that we socially construct gender and that WORDS = communication which is the only thing that teaches our children and creates meaning in future cultures.

Elizabeth said...

I totally think girls need to be encouraged and taught more to stand up for themselves and not be afraid to lead...I wish I had been growing up. But I do think it's important to differentiate between being unafraid and speaking up, and actually being bossy and arrogant. Those are not characteristics of strong leaders.

*** KITSCH *** said...

I will tell you a few years later, i have a son of 4 years and a girl of 4 months... by now i do not know but maybe it is true...

LeeLee said...

Yes! So true.

Jaquelyn Marin said...

My mom would always say to everyone, boy or girl, whether they were being unjustly "bossy".
I distinctly remember her stomp-chasing children around saying in a faux bossy-commanding voice, "Who's got those bossy boots on?"

Tarika Singh said...

I'd read about this in 'Lean In' and am so happy to see 'Ban Bossy' take shape like this. Growing up as an independent - minded girl in India, I've been called this several times. I'd never really thought of how it had affected me until I read 'Lean In'. I've held several positions of leadership, but the one thing I was constantly conscious of & overcompensating for was what I thought was "being bossy".
What I find alarming about such terms that are used for young girls, is how quickly their peers imbibe this and start throwing it back at them too. So if a girl is told this by adults and her peers repeat this to her, it can stick for life.

In India, and I speak with experience only in my field, that is entertainment, the same set of instructions from a male actor will be labeled as being a "perfectionist", while female actors are labeled as being "bossy". When I represented female clients, I had to be doubly careful so as not come across as bossy - for them and for me.

Elise Dujardin said...

Love this!

Schenck catherine said...

Agreed! ban "bossy"!

In French, we have an expression that somehow is only for girls: "faire sa commandante",
and the male equivalent just doesn't exist.We have virtually no female leaders over here, I think I live in one of the most sexits countries in the Western world.
Let's do the same over here and ban that pejorative expression!

Emma James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emma James said...

I was called bossy and it certainly hasn't stopped me from wanting to lead or speak up! But then that might be thanks to my parents who raised me in a way so I never considered gender to make any difference to what I can do with my life.

LONDON LAPIN // Dancing Under the Papermoon said...

I read about this a couple of days ago and it interested me. At 31, people have called me bossy my entire life but it never got me down, I just could never fathom why so many people thought that of me. I'm highly organised, I get things done and I speak my mind as opposed to wasting time beating about the bush - I don't see how those things make me bossy? I've never heard a boy called bossy before either so that was interesting to hear from one of the other comments.

Love the blog, I'm a new blogger so it's inspiring to see great existing blogs like yours! Francesca

Rosie said...

I'm not sure how I feel about this campaign. I just don't think 'bossiness' is a quality to be celebrated, regardless of gender. Leadership, determination, steadfastness, self belief- yes, all the way! Bossiness, no. To me, bossiness is the sort of trait that trips a person up, and turns others off. It feels kind of archaic, the idea that for a girl or woman to be successful she must behave bullishly.

Could we not teach all young people (girls AND boys) that to lead by example is a powerful thing? That self belief and hard work are the keys to success and to being a leader, not pushing other people into an orderly line behind you?

Lindsey Young said...

I was always called bossy too. As a 34-year-old adult I find it's shifted to "controlling" but this post is so right! Actually I'm an excellent manager, good at being in charge and taking the lead. THANK YOU, Joanna! Awesome post. :) I'm on my way over to read more about it. xo

anniefargo said...

I think it's so important to have this conversation. I was never called "bossy" as a child, so I was surprised when a colleague recently said that I was "very aggressive" in my work! I'll take that as a compliment, I guess!

kay9311 said...

this campaign is amazing!

Kayla said...

I JUST read this article and posted the video on my blog!

kayaway.tumblr.com

Thanks for sharing. :)

fuller said...

My daughter's pre-school teacher told me my daughter is too bossy at times, and doesn't want to play a game if she's not the leader. Her advice was to let my daughter be the boss SOMETIMES, but teach her to let other people be the boss sometimes. It's a tricky balance. Nobody wants to raise an arrogant child, and nobody wants to stifle their child's confidence either.

Steph Xiang said...

I love this campaign so much. I was always called "bossy" since I was little. I still fear being called "bossy" now as a young professional woman.

I've heard boys being chided for being rude or mean or a bully, but never bossy. I think the word "bossy" implies that there's no malicious intentions involved, but that s/he is overly assertive.

Maelles said...

Love this post! It is an interesting concept really. I was called 'bossy' at a very young age and i was indeed a very bossy little girl. I wish that instead of telling me to stop it all together, my mum had helped me to better channel this aspect of my personality to use it more adequately - to assert myself properly and with respect, to lead while listening to others' opinions and step back when necessary... I believe it would have been more constructive and i definitely plan to do that with my own kids in the future if they inherit my bossy personality.
Hope that makes sense, i'm French and my English is not perfect i'm afraid... :)

Back Row Girl said...

I honestly don't know how I feel about this, because I feel like it's an attempt to treat the effect rather than the cause.
If we work towards eradicating the mentality that is causing people to call girls "bossy", then the word will go away on its own. I mean, how many times do you hear the word "hussy" said non-ironically these days? Or "spinster"? Language is important, but it's the expression of mentality, not the cause of it.

Having said that, I grew up in Russia, and I was the embodiment of the word "bossy" - sometimes good, with creating and orchestrating weeks-long complex game stories with gangsters and police and tea parties all worked into scenarios, and a couple of times bad - with telling people not to play with a kid I did not like. I was never "called out". "Bossy" is not part of our vocabulary, because the national mentality is different, and women (though discriminated against in some areas) are never thought of as someone unable to lead.

alyssa said...

Oh yes, thank you for sharing this! I was definitely "bossy" child — when I was a little girl, it was adorable how my pre-school teacher called me "Little Chief." But as I got older I think my confidence and ability to assert myself {and lead the crowd whenever necessary or possible!} got less and less cute to some, especially the boys in my family by whom I am far outnumbered! Luckily, being that I'm an Aries, they were never able to stamp out my "bossy" streak like they wanted and I'm still comfortable calling the shots and being a leader. If I don't do it, who will!? ;)

Unfortunately, not all little girls grow up to hold onto that "bossy" streak, that leadership quality! Confidence in their leadership skills is something I hope to encourage in all the little girls in my life, from my nieces to my own daughters, if I have them someday! Thanks for sharing this post :)

Nicola said...

Oh I loved this post, took me a long time to unpack it which ended in a rambly 1am blogpost (the best kind)

http://mindfulgrateful.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/miss-bossy.html

But ultimately it was about calling undesirable behaviour by name, not attributing it to someone's personality.

There's a spark at the start of bossy, a dogged pursiut of a goal which is pretty special. We've gotta train that sparkly diamond, and polish off the rough edges by helping people listen more or communicate their ideas more clearly, but never squash it down by saying 'bossy'

www.mindfulgrateful.blogspot.com

Jeannie Lorenz said...

It's possible that the dynamics of play are different between boys and girls. Boys don't tend to order their peers to do something a certain way, wheras girls can indeed take on a tone that sounds more bossy than leader-like.

Ling said...

I definitely call out my son for being bossy and use that word (along with "tyrant"). It's not about girls and boys, or assertiveness. Bossy does not equal "leader," it's more like "dictator." Kids need to learn they can't control every single person around them and make them do exactly what they want.

KCD said...

As the mom of 2 boys, one in middle school, I see a very different side of the situation. There are so many organizations devoted to girl empowerment, in some ways it feels like the boys are being left behind. If boys don't enter the fraternity of high intensity sports, they don't always have a network of confidence building. To be honest, these sorts of generalizations drive me crazy. It suggests that all girls will be shut down for being "bossy" and boys will always be embraced for being assertive. I think the world we live in now celebrates leadership skills from boys and girls. I see girls doing Lego robotics, girls in organizations like NCL and girls generally doing better on college placement tests. Its time to stop getting so fixated on the bossy thing....I just don't see any of the scenarios described playing out in the tween world!

mary said...

Hmmmm.....I think that both boys and girls need to learn how to be assertive and leaders without being rude,arrogant, and thoughtless. Some children do act bossy in every sense of the word. So really, encourage this? I think not. Being a leader is so much more than telling people what to do and how to do it. A leader inspires people. Yes, there is a difference between telling people what to do and inspiring them.

sumslay said...

I do applaud girls being told to be leaders, but i agree that sometimes kids are just bossy.

I was the timid kid that really did not like the bossy kids - they were just mean! I hope that this doesn't mean kids won't be disciplined when they get out of hand though. As the timid kid, I do wonder what it would have made me think to hear the bossy kids praised for being leaders, when i thought they were being jerks. Would it have made me start telling people what to do? Or would it have made me feel bad about how I am naturally (like i'm destined to be a sheep following the herd). I don't know...

Jillian said...

This is so true! I've always been called bossy, and I realized I just started accepting it, even when men weren't branded the same way.

To other commenters who are mentioning children - I think it's a very different thing when a 3-year old is attempting to assert "leadership" over adults than when an adult female is attempting to "lead" other adults in appropriate settings. I totally admit that I'm bossy with my boyfriend when we cook dinner together, but I'm a leader in the workplace and community.

Catherine Masi said...

Right on, Joanna. I remember your post about how to talk with little girls (it always drove me NUTS when I overheard people complimenting girls on their clothes or hair or how pretty they look; completely dissing any conversation beyond that- so your suggestions to talk about the books and ideas they are interested in really made me feel not so alone in this!). Thank you for always having such a balanced perspective on things.

Kara said...

I'm perceived this way sometimes, but I just like to get stuff done! I will remember this for my daughter.

www.wellpicked.blogspot.com

keyi said...

it boggles my mind that some women who are commenting here seem offended that joanna is highlighting this as an issue. yes boys can BE bossy but when have you ever heard of a boy being CALLED bossy? never. i've never heard that. it's an adjective that is almost always assigned to describing a girl/woman. and i completely agree with people who are pointing out that being a leader is not the same as being "bossy"...but do you even see how in drawing that distinction it's bc the word "leadership" has positive connotations and "bossy" is negative? yes, girls can be bossy in a negative way..or they could just be assertive and speaking up in a positive way. i think the issue at hand here is that a lot of times girls speaking up or being assertive (whether in a positive or negative way) is wholesale swept into the catchall category of "oh she's just being BOSSY." and the overall outcome of this is that it discourages girls to speak up. it teaches girls that if they want to speak up they have to be careful bc ppl will perceive them in a negative light. in almost every kitchen i've ever worked in (i'm a professional line cook), i've encountered this double standard. when i put my head down and work i'm too quiet...perceived as being obedient/weak. when i speak up i get chastised for not knowing my place, trying to act like a sous chef, being aggressive...a bitch. it's almost impossible to find that perfect sweet spot where you're being heard, being strong, speaking up...but not offending the guys around you or rubbing them the wrong way. and try pointing out this discrepancy and everyone will insist they treat you exactly the same as the next guy. kitchens at the end of the day are still merit-based. at the end of the day it's my performance that really matters, but let's not try to pretend women in male dominated professions don't have to work twice as hard to earn the same amount of respect and have to be more careful and vigilant over their behavior/demeanor while doign so. i think this lies at the heart of the issue that the "ban bossy" campaign is trying to address.

keyi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
What's Delicious? said...

I am super passionate about this topic. My father in law (who is wonderful) referred to my niece as "bossy". Without missing a beat, I replied, "Good. Because she is probably going to be boss someday." He really "got it" after that.

Nicki Clark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicki Clark said...

My husband and I were chatting about this yesterday. We both agreed that while the media may be preaching this "boys are seen as leaders, girls are seen as bossy" thought, we don't think it's necessarily true. Or as widespread as supposed. I know I would treat both the same. And while I love Tina Fey's "Bitches get things done," and I think it's hilarious and has its place, I overwhelmingly feel that kindness, confidence and consideration go a whole lot further in this world than being bossy ever could. For boys and girls alike.

l&h said...

I agree with Marcy. I don't agree with the premise that "when a little boy asserts himself, he's called a leader." I might call that little boy a jerk. Or a know it all. Or dare I say a bully. Maybe it's a symantics issue. Maybe it's circumstantial.

I DO agree that "it's good to be a leader, to be ambitious, to give direction, to have strong opinions and to speak up; and we should encourage girls to do so." I pride myself on being someone who fits this and as a mom of a daughter, you better believe I'll encourage my daughter to speak up for herself. But campaign to eliminate the word "bossy" seems misguided.

But I've never been called bossy (just opinionated), so there's no emotion attached.

Liz

BTribe Ayers said...

I think the this campaign is a little late on the times... maybe in 1975-1980 it may have been relevant, but women have earned the leadership roles they deserve and want. Amongst the children I know, there are leaders, followers, and those who do neither and just do their own thang- certain girls are bossy, and certain boys are "bossy"- the word gets used for both sexes as far as I know in my children's world. Boys in my immediate community get called out for being obnoxiously controlling as much as girls; I see equality happening with the children around me all the time. I know young girls who not only lead the pack, but can beat the boys up and manipulate them into submissively crying; and the adults do not attempt to suppress these traits, unless they get disrespectful or rude, because it's who they are. It's not a "bossy" thing, it's just some have really assertive personalities from the start; and in our world this is a reality and it is celebrated. I have never been considered "bossy," I've been laid back and have never followed the crowd at all, all my life... and I am a mother to 2 boys, so I can't relate on a personal level, but the little girls in my life who are leaders are not suppressed for their talents, even if they can be "bossy," just like the boys who share the same outwardly strong personalities.

Ronda said...

We are a society of talkers. We need to evolve to a society of doers. We spend so much time worrying about the connotations of a word that it takes our thoughts and actions away from what the Real issues are. Right now children in your communities are hungry, neglected and abused...what are you Doing? Are you calling the little girl who is fond of telling others what to do "bossy" ... Or are you leading the way and showing your community how to care for those who need you to Do for them? Yeah, Beyoncé...I see you...you're such a feminist and not just a pretty face. Get Bossy women...and strong and smart men can join in too!

malaika said...

YESSSSS!

I remember being called Bossy as a child, and never thought it might have been a gender stereotype. Now that I'm in my 20s, I'm called a "leader" and wonder if it's because I'm too old to be expected to put up with being called 'bossy.'

Bela said...

See, I don't know if it's because English is a second language for me, but I'd call a boy or a girl bossy, and I have to agree that it is a negative adjective.

BUT for me, the words bossy and leader have different meanings. In my opinion, a child who is called by their peers to be bossy, s/he is trying to lead, but she doesn't quite get it. S/he is trying to control and make everything the way s/he wants. S/he is telling everybody what to do in a way that is annoying and they don't want to listen to her or him. A child that is a leader, s/he is the one being followed and listened to by others, and it is okay - somehow, and often unconsciously s/he is always heard, followed by and her ideas and instructions are taken into account without problems.

That's how I see it. There are many bossy people out there, they think they can tell everybody what to do. But leaders, as it says, they lead, people follow because they want to, not because they were told or forced to.

Bela said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah M said...

This is such an interesting discussion, but I have to say I disagree. Like others have said, bossy is a negative trait, in either sex (I personally have found it to be applied to both sexes, but obviously many others haven't), and one which absolutely should not be celebrated or encouraged. I am baffled by the commenters here being proud of being called bossy! Be proud of being strong, assertive, a good leader, which I have no doubt you wonderful women are. But do not be proud of being described as someone who bulldozes others, does not listen and thinks their opinions are more important than others. We should encourage leadership in our daughters, of course, but I will have no qualms about discouraging any bossy behaviour in any child I come across.

I was also a quiet, quite shy child and had girls or boys who had spoken over me and told me what to do without listening to my opinion been praised, it would have left me very confused. Also, why is it assumed children with these low social skills would be good leaders?! Thankfully the adults in my life praised assertiveness and kindness, not bossiness.

bohemesunday said...

I have always associated myself as being bossy and have often felt the need to apologize for it in group settings. When I was younger I didn't really see myself as bossy until after playing with a friend her mom phoned my mom complaining about my being bossy. My mom never told me but I seem to remember overhearing the conversation and my mom sticking up for me. It's strange how this one incident that happened over 12 years ago has stuck with me.

daddy longlegs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lael said...

ts super misguided to blindly say anyone using the therm "Bossy" is misogynistic and sexist. That's really annoying. I can just see it know...someone calls a girl or boy bossy, then a stream of annoying sheep will start, "Haven't you heard of the petition to ban such a word??" I am a feminist and usually on board with similar stuff...but this is so silly. Its really too much. Yes, boys are called bossy all the time as well.

We should all question ourselves when we use words to call out other people, especially children, and see if the word is really appropriate or has any other connotations....such as calling a girl bossy and a boy a leader. If anyone does stupid shit like that, then yes, they should reflect, but to ban a word is so so stupid.

Ana Simões said...

Well, I was labelled as bossy ever since I can remember and I turned into a copywriter working at advertising agencies branded as "difficult".
All my male co-workers are assertive.

It sucks.

Mekhala said...

Same with lots of other words too. Growing up, I was always called "defiant", read a booko recently by Dr. Karp that said that can be re-worded as "independent" or "spirited" which has a much more positive connotation.

Tara Bear said...

It is never okay to ban words. This sort of campaign, while feminist and super on the outside, is part of a troubling trend. Can we quit banning things?

Tara Bear said...

It is never okay to ban words. This sort of campaign, while feminist and super on the outside, is part of a troubling trend. Can we quit banning things?

S said...

Love this! I was always accused of being bossy while growing up, as well.

"I want every little girl who's told she's bossy, to be told instead she has leadership skils."- Sheryl Sandberg

erica dunsford said...

As a mother of a three year old and one year old, this article just reinforced my need to be more mindful of any negative labeling with anybody....child or adult, it's a bad habit I'm trying to break...instead of calling my daughter "bossy" in a certain situation, there is a bigger lesson if we try being kind and fair!

erica dunsford said...

As a mother of a three year old and one year old, this article just reinforced my need to be more mindful of any negative labeling with anybody....child or adult, it's a bad habit I'm trying to break...instead of calling my daughter "bossy" in a certain situation, there is a bigger lesson if we try being kind and fair!

erica dunsford said...

As a mother of a three year old and one year old, this article just reinforced my need to be more mindful of any negative labeling with anybody....child or adult, it's a bad habit I'm trying to break...instead of calling my daughter "bossy" in a certain situation, there is a bigger lesson if we try being kind and fair!

loveashley.net said...

Their intentions seem great. Girls and women definitely need to be more encouraged to seek out leadership roles, but I just don't think trying to put a ban on the word is going to be the most effective approach.

Amy P said...

I don't think the word 'bossy' has to be abandoned completely. It sometimes really does apply. I will probably avoid the word simply because labels like that can be self-fulfilling (they have been for me).

But I think we should be more careful to notice when a girl is using good leadership qualities and praise those, just like we are apt to do with boys. All kids should be told when they're being pushy and demanding - maybe they'll correlate times when kids don't want to hang out with them with when they're showing poor behaviour.

For kids, I think leadership is encouraging others, both to perform better and to join in, it's standing up for themselves and not being afraid to suggest new ideas.

Bossiness is being pushy and controlling and demanding. And YES, sometimes our children are those things. ALL kids are. Please don't just assume they're being a leader, or standing up for themselves. They might simply be standing ON someone else instead.

Naomi said...

Thanks Amy P, my thoughts exactly! Though I do hate the thought of boys being treated differently than girls, for exactly the same behavior.

I love the way Beyoncé articulates her calm authority. To me, that's the antithesis of 'bossy'.

Sarah D said...

Yep, I agree with Amy. There is a difference between showing potential leadership skills and being "bossy". I agree with the sentiment behind the "ban bossy" campaign, but I disagree with their word choice. Boys can be bossy and so can girls, and it's not necessarily a good thing. Being a leader, being assertive, and communicating clearly are great. Being pushy, inflexible, and failing to see others' perspectives are not- no matter what the gender or age.

Sarah D said...

I think it's so interesting to read comments about people never hearing little boys called bossy. I wonder if it's a regional thing or maybe just a lack of exposure to a wide variety of kids? I work in education (in a range of settings- I'm an independent consultant-- work with kids pre-k through high school in inner city and suburbs) and I have elementary aged children myself and I hear boys called bossy all the time! I call my son out for being bossy probably more often than my daughter, simply because he IS bossy and it's not a good thing. To lead is fabulous, to tell someone what to do and try to control the situation without regard for others is NOT!

Mama Duck said...

As a lifelong bossypants, I also wrote about #banbossy yesterday and how I prefer #embracebossy. Semantics aside, I think it's great that we are all talking about girls, leadership and power. Go us. We rule.

http://www.ducklingsinarow.com/2014/03/im-not-bossy-im-boss.html

Mary said...

It's interesting to me that you consider this term an only female one and an overtly negative one too. Growing up I don't remember thinking it was good to be bossy, after all we all wanted to be the leader of the game we were playing for a time. It's good to teach children to lead appropriately. We don't want a whole generation of diktats, female or otherwise. I never thought growing up I wouldn't or shouldn't lead (thirty odd years ago) but how you lead is all important. There's a reason my mother doesn't have friends and not bending to anyone else's needs is one of them. Interesting campaign even if I'm not quite convinced of the problem existing in the first place, at least in my world. I also have heard boys being called bossy too!

Megan Harper said...

What really baffles me is that anyone who agrees with the Ban Bossy campaign is now being labeled a "radical feminist". Since when is encouraging equality for women a RADICAL idea?? You can see more about this here..
https://tried-and-true.squarespace.com/blog/2014/3/11/are-you-a-b-word

Megan Harper said...

What really baffles me is that anyone who agrees with the Ban Bossy campaign is now being labeled a "radical feminist". Since when is encouraging equality for women a RADICAL idea?? You can see more about this here..
https://tried-and-true.squarespace.com/blog/2014/3/11/are-you-a-b-word

Brenna said...

I don't agree with banning. But I like this as a reflective time to think about how and when we are using particular words and phrases. Just banning a words doesn't teach people the reasons why this can be damaging to our ideas of leadership.

brooklynash said...

as a total Type A personality in a corporate job, I LOVE THIS. thanks for sharing!

paleyellow.net said...

I've been called bossy my whole life, it comes in handy as a teacher, but I don't view it as bad thing. I can be relied upon to get things done. I try to tell my middle school students (especially the girls) it's okay to be a little bossy and long as you're being kind and productive.

Nyrockian said...

I've been called bossy too and am sensitive to it, and trying to get over it really. The thing is, when boys are trying to lead they don't often nitpick the details, which is what girls tend to do. If a girl leads but doesn't over-manage everyone's details, I don't think "bossy" applies. And hey, those detail-seeing girls make the world go round, so it's not a bad thing!

Anna Taylor said...

Brilliant article in Guardian by (American born) journalist Hadley Freeman yesterday, about what we can do to help girls realise their potential and gain self esteem, built on that idea of banning bossy. Read it !

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/11/bossy-banned-boost-girls-self-esteem-facebook-sheryl-sandberg-beyonce

Anna Taylor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elle said...

God, YES. We need this, I was certainly scarred by this label - and others more subtle ones, equally limiting. For these reasons, I excuse teenage girls for a LOT of their drama.

romaine said...

I totally think girls AND boys can be bossy. Bossy to me is inserting yourself where you don't belong. I totally advocate continuing the word bossy - it accurately describes some people including young children.

http://www.sheknows.com/health-and-wellness/articles/1032481/the-message-the-ban-bossy-campaign-is-missing

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Meg Beckum said...

I was so inspired by bell hooks counter movement #bossyandproud. That I've started a blog that celebrates the word "bossy." Please share why you are proud and bossy at

http://bossyandproud.tumblr.com

Brendon Wayne said...

I agree. The word "bossy" should not be thrown around carelessly. Kids should be thought that everyone can be a leader.
http://www.21stcenturynews.com.au/female-leaders-bossy-boss/

Posy Quarterman said...

Yep, I've been labeled "bossy" for as long as I can remember. My daughter is "bossy" too, but we call her a natural born leader. Thanks for sharing this.

Canadian MGTOW said...

Feminazis Trying To Ban The Word "Bossy"
http://mgtow1.blogspot.ca/2014/04/feminazis-trying-to-ban-word-bossy.html

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