That’s the mindset of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who is making headlines this week for starting the Ban Bossy campaign. Basically Sandberg feels little boys who assert themselves are told they’re displaying leadership skills by teachers and parents, while girls are called “bossy.” The result, according to Sandberg, is girls become hesitant to speak up and reluctant to take on leadership roles as they get older. So the author of the renowned Lean In book says the answer is simple — ban the word bossy.
Except, in my opinion, the only thing that should be banned is this contrived Ban Bossy marketing ploy.
Look, I’m not saying this double standard doesn’t exist or that some girls aren’t wrongly called bossy compared to their male classmates. I’m sure that happens and when it does, it’s wrong. Women are just as capable as men when it comes to taking on leadership roles, and that message needs to be sent to kids early and often in classrooms across the country. And I think these days it is.
But I have two main problems with Sandberg’s misguided campaign.
First of all, the news and research I’ve read recently involving education has girls leaving boys in the dust academically. There are more women enrolled in colleges and universities than men, women are more likely to stay in school compared to men, and a 2013 Pew Research Study showed 40% of all sole or primary earners in families with kids under 18 are women. Also, more women than ever before are entering the workplace as the recent economic depression hit men especially hard.
So while I understand there is still a gender pay gap and the number of female executives is nothing compared to men, it still seems like women are surging forward right now. This is a fact that is completely and curiously ignored by Sandberg in her quest to reenter the news cycle.
But the biggest reason why this is an ill conceived notion is because the idea of banning words is a terrible thing.
Why is it everyone wants to ban everything they disagree with these days? Don’t like a book? Try to get Amazon to ban it. That stupid and ridiculous kids’ shirt bothers you? Get the store to ban it. Don’t like a magazine putting a controversial figure on the cover? Get the stores to ban it. When did we lose the ability to disagree with something — to passionately make our cases and speak out against it — without resorting to the “I don’t like it so have it stricken from existence” mentality?
Not to mention the irony of someone complaining about the term bossy and then using her influence and power to restrict vocabulary for the masses. Dare I say that, in and of itself, is pretty…bossy.
And lastly, some kids — boys and girls — ARE bossy.
My son is almost 6 and he’s bossy as all hell sometimes. I told him as much yesterday, before I had even heard of Sandberg’s nonsense. Bossiness knows no gender. And at the risk of irritating the Sandbergs of the world, it seems to be an epidemic among girls his age.
Many young girls who hang around with my son are the epitome of bossy. They boss Will around to the point we’ve had to tell him to stand up for himself and that he doesn’t have to do everything they say. We’ve even had to talk to a few of the girls and their parents directly and let them know they need to back off and stop being so bossy.
It’s utterly ridiculous that Sandberg wants to ignore and condone this behavior simply because they’re girls. If a girl (or a boy) is being overly bossy and obnoxious, it needs to be rectified. They should absolutely be told they’re being bossy and that they need to stop it. Trying to strike the word bossy from society doesn’t make bossiness disappear, or become any more palatable.
I get what Sandberg was trying to do, but this marketing ploy misses the mark. Big time.
I hope I’m not being too bossy in saying so.