Most women don’t know how to feel about anything until Beyoncé and Mrs. Obama weigh in on the discussion. Certainly no one speaks my thoughts more mind-reading-ly than Sheryl Sandberg, a business genius billionaire and everyone’s best gal pal next door. For me, not a day goes by without WWSSD musings. Add luscious Jennifer Garner and Condoleezza Rice to the conversation, and we’ve reached a quorum of superior X chromosomes to decide what words are suitable to describe little Susie’s insistence that a $500 bill goes under Free Parking or she’s NOT playing. If these ladies are backing a ban on the word “bossy” to advance the betterment of our gender-bashing language, then this word must be a scourge on feminism! Most women–women like you and me–we just don’t get it. Maybe we never suffered the indignity… nay, abuse!.. of being called “bossy.” We don’t see that Susie’s classroom dictatorship is her burgeoning quest for success. Should that be squelched to honor trifling social graces? No! Since they can’t summon a single issue more useful to young girls than to criminalize an innocuous word, nor we.
But, let’s run a crazy little thought experiment here and daydream about what this group of powerful and/or booty-shaking ladies, coupled with the zeal of a Girl Scout army, might be able to accomplish toward a lesser goal. What if they were passionate about something slightly less important than printing tags with snappy, “I’m the Boss!” slogans for social media—something like hunger or expanded science programs or affordable housing or subsidized internships for at-risk youth? Obviously it’s super important that little Susie isn’t marginalized for speaking her mind… but I wonder if maybe her bossiness could be even more effectively encouraged from inside a warmer coat. Or not. Whatever. Like this picture of Beyoncé on Facebook!
Obviously, I’m not a celebrity who overcame tween-age adversity to become a mogul. I’ve never been tagged “bossy,” so I was able to obtain multiple degrees in a male-dominated field with all the effortlessness of an agreeable girl. Easy peasy. Meanwhile, those girls who were incessantly called “bossy” (and often stronger adjectives) had to struggle against all prejudice to land jobs where that quality keeps getting them promoted. If I had been bossier, I might still wear a beeper; and if my strong-willed sisters had played nice, they might own fewer pantsuits. Is this how it works? I have no idea. What I do know is that when we tell our kids to stop being bossy, it’s because they’re being assholes. What’s the politically correct word for Susie’s acting like an asshole? Sheryl Sandberg hasn’t told us yet.
Writing as Cranky Britt is super fun. But then, in an email exchange with one of my favorite people on the planet… this.
Remember all the “don’t say Gay when you really mean something is Retarded – I mean don’t say Retarded when you mean something is Lame – I mean don’t say Lame when you mean something is not fashionable!”? It can be comical– but it makes a difference. (Same with the whole, ahem, “don’t call Asian people Oriental,” Mrs. LEE!) People were all: GIMME A F’ING BREAK WHO CARES? LANGUAGE POLICE!! Truth is, it matters.
Language is powerful. It infuriates me that women—today, like in 2014– say they are not feminists. Not just girls… but grown ass women. That’s how afraid people are of being labeled a lesbian: a.k.a. ugly, man-hating, un-marriage-worthy. But a word can define and limit someone, and that instills fear. Language– especially labels– tells people what they are worth. Some people don’t know they get to decide that for themselves.
So, yeah… that. Some people don’t know they get to decide that for themselves.
Though I haven’t gone 180 degrees on my stance on banning words, I see how the Bossy Label, or any sort of label (blonde, old, fat, hipster, Republican) can affect those who don’t know how to own their own brand. And until all parents are making sure Susie is raising her hand in class, maybe having Beyoncé and Mrs. Obama fill in to encourage her isn’t a terrible thing. However, if we allow a Ban on Bossy instead of encouraging thoughtful language usage, I fear we’re in for an entire roster of Words That Traumatized Celebrities but Prevented Nary a Goal.
Yes! Thoughtful language and conscientious actions with honest accountability goes so much further than a catchy campaign.
As soon as it was launched I imagined thousands of backpacks filled with notices of unapproved words… which is, of course, easier than thinking about WHY Susie seems “bossy.”
I just love this, Britt. I’m the pantsuit wearing big sister to a blonde pager carrying little sister whose med school t-shirt read, “No, I AM the doctor.” I don’t know what word we own, but an etymologist would definitely find bossy in its history. Cheers.
Thanks, Jennifer! I’d love that t-shirt. I also need one that says, “these are MY children.” Labels, assumptions, prejudices can harm. But these instances can also be approached with edifying humor.
Big sisters are best at being bossy!
No problems a glass won’t cure. Half full.
I read this: “What I do know is that when we tell our kids to stop being bossy, it’s because they’re being assholes.” and went AMEN!. lol…and then I read this: “But a word can define and limit someone, and that instills fear.” and went…”yeah, I’m an asshole.”
I, like you, do feel this is somewhere on the line of necessary and oversensitive. I’m so glad you decided to write about this. Definitely made me think 🙂
ps…shared with my fb peeps 🙂
Thank you so much! I talk about your explaining God to kids piece often… and love seeing a new post from you. Xoxo
I watched a lecture by Cambridge Professor Mary Beard last night about the silencing of women’s voices throughout history (‘Oh Do Shut Up Dear!’). It occurs to me that ‘bossy’ is another word that has long been used as an adjective to silence female voices. But ‘ban bossy’ is just insipid and trite and doesn’t change anything.
I saw the whole ban campaign and it didn’t sit all that well, but I wasn’t sure why. Then I read this and agree – when we tell our boys to stop being bossy it IS because they are being little assholes. Thank you. Great post.
Thanks, bananas! I love your cereal milk post. Grandma used to force me to drink it. Still gag at the memory.
Thanks for stopping by. I eat my cereal dry. For real.
I’m with you, Britt.
But Beyoncé ticks me off. I don’t know why, but I can’t stand that woman.
I have an unkind opinion that (musical/film) celebrities shouldn’t be encouraged to float their opinions. We like them so much more when they stick to crooning and booty shaking. Beyonce never bothered me because she is fiercely, apologetically, uncontested-ly, smokin’ hot and sings like an angel. But opinions and edicts and manifestos? I really only want to hear from the Dorothy Parkers… and Louis CK.
Another reason I wish I knew you in person; you’re so cool!
Pingback: Is There A War on Christmas? | East Meets Breast