Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Should You Ban Bossy?

Your answer to the pictured question is the answer to "Should You Ban Bossy?" If you answered no then no you should not, if you answered yes then yes you very well should.

Maybe you've seen the hashtag #BossyBan thrown out on twitter a couple of times or you've seen the clip/quote about Beyoncé being The Boss... Or maybe not. If you haven't, the Ban Bossy campaign encourages everyone to remove the word "bossy " from his or her vocabulary to allow school-age girls to be ambitious in the classroom and later on in adulthood. The media has been up in arms over this campaign poking hole after hole in its execution, message, and feminism legitimacy. Many of those sounding off against Ban Bossy make valid points: the banning of a simple word will hardly make a difference, young girls can be bossy and need to be told so, strong feminist women shouldn't be bothered by the term bossy especially when there are worse words out there, etc. But is that what Ban Bossy is really about?

When I read all of those things I can't help but think "You're missing the point!" I believe the Ban Bossy campaign is meant to create behavioral equality. Its key message is that the behavior that warrants a young girl to be labeled bossy is the same behavior that earns a young boy the label of leader. This isn't to say that young girls get a free pass to be unkind and controlling, it just means we shouldn't use bossy to describe the characteristics of a good leader. However, their approach seems a bit extreme and under-explained. We shouldn't ban the word bossy, we should ban bossy being used synonymously with decisive, assertive, strong willed, or intelligent. Bossy is only as derogatory of a term as you make it. (Notice the women who now use the word slut as a form of endearment and to show kinship rather than to demean a woman of promiscuous behavior.)

The Ban Bossy team made the mistake of depending heavily on the power and popularity of big names such as BeyoncĂ© and Condoleezza Rice to garner support and interest (which in many cases backfired) instead of educating the public on the direct effects of being called bossy and the use of bossy among peers. To effectively encourage ambition in young girls through the appropriate use of the term bossy, we must look superficially at Ban Bossy rather than dig deeper. The influence of Ban Bossy lies solely in its opening statement: "When a little boy asserts himself, he's called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy.”"