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random musings of a crazy cat lady

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bossy Bitchy Biddy

If you've spent any time on Facebook or the internet recently, you may have heard about Sheryl Sandberg's "Ban Bossy" campaign.  If you haven't, the basic premise is that 'bossy' is a gendered criticism that is mainly directed towards girls, making them hesitant to express their opinions or take on leadership goals. I don't always agree with Sheryl Sandberg, but as a current and former bossy person I think this is a wonderful idea. 
What I like about it most is that, unlike virtually all empowerment suggestions for girls and women (including a lot of Sandberg's book, "Lean In") the onus to change is not put on girls, but on their parents, relatives, teachers, and society as a whole.  This is definitely preferable to the "U R doin it wrong" advice that is typically geared to women.  It's not that hard.  Stop calling little girls bossy, and don't use "bossy" to discourage the same behavior in girls that is encouraged in boys. It's a small thing, but an important one.
As you might expect, there has been a lot of objections.  Some people suggest that rather than "banning bossy", we should embrace it.  I'm fine with this in theory, and I'm fine with people choosing to describe themselves that way.  But it is difficult to fully reclaim words that have been previously used as an insult, and it would still have a gendered connotation.  I can proudly describe myself as a bossy bitchy biddy (incidentally, all those words have a negative gendered connotation) but I've had a lifetime of socialization telling me that I don't want to have other people describe me as bossy or bitchy. 
I have more to say about bossy, about microagressions and tone arguments, and the double standard I encountered when working in one group at my former job, but I will leave that for another time.

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