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.