As you probably are aware, Facebook COO and all-around successfulperson/self-appointed voice of womankind Sheryl Sandberg has launched a campaign to ban the word “bossy.” Let’s go over the positives of #BanBossy first:
- It’s good to encourage girls.
- “Bossy” does tend to be used on women and girls more so than on men and boys
- Popular people such as Brigitte Bardot, Bob Benson, Bobby Brown, and Benjamin Button have the initials BB.
As you may have guessed, I have some quibbles with the Ban Bossy campaign. And not because in America you can’t ban words, and any attempt to do so is going to invite resistance. And not because if you’re going to tell people they can’t say a thing anymore, “bossy” is the most ironic choice possible. And not for semi-racism reasons. And not because this really only affects the little Sheryl Sandbergs out there, with the implicit message that non-leader (?) little girls can go die their worthless deaths. And not because campaigns against more vicious slurs like Ban Bitchy and Ban Cunty (I was uncomfortable even typing that!) would be more universal.
The problem with Ban Bossy is…do we really want to live in a world in which little girls are as awful and bossy as little boys?
Have you ever met a particularly “assertive” little boy? They’re the worst human beings possible. They assume you want to hear their boring, self-obsessed stories. They Lord of the Flies each other. Are these really the behaviors we want to be enabling in sweet, kind girls?
The answer is not, as Sheryl Sandberg would have it, to encourage girls to develop their leadership skills–it’s to discourage bossy behavior in boys and girls alike lest it fester into something more sinister and they end up becoming “leaders.”
For example, let’s let Sheryl Sandberg (and again I refer to her as “Sheryl Sandberg” because it’s just one of those names that is meant to be said in its entirety) explain what leaders are like as children:
When my brother and sister describe our childhood, they will say that I never actually played as a child but instead just organized other kids’ play. At my wedding, they stood up and introduced themselves by explaining, “Hi, we’re Sheryl’s younger brother and sister … but we’re not really her younger brother and sister. We’re her first employees—employee No. 1 and employee No. 2.” From a very young age, I liked to organize—the toys in my room, neighborhood play sessions, clubs at school.
In short: horrible monsters. Is that what’s wrong with society? Not enough children ruthlessly instilling order and discipline in their play time and trampling anyone who gets in their way?