Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Instead of #BanBossy, Let's #BeBold

Unlike many bloggers, I don't get a lot of press releases. So I was pretty excited when last Monday, just before 9 am, I was included in the press release for Lean In's movement to ban the word bossy. The excitement quickly wore off though, as I just couldn't get riled up over the whole thing.

I get that Sheryl Sandberg was called bossy as a young girl, and she must have been affected by it on a deep level to still struggle with it all these years later and despite her mountains of success. I'm sure many others were called bossy growing up, but it wasn't until Sandberg brought it up that I've ever heard it as such an impactful word. Personally, I don't remember ever being called bossy, even when I made my younger brother play what I wanted for hours. So banning bossy didn't translate on a personal level, but I still felt it was something more that repelled me.

I've thought about it all week, and the conclusion I've come to is this: why focus on the negative? Why, if we're going to acknowledge the tremendous power that words have, should we just talk about the words you don't want us to say? Why not instead launch a huge, celebrity-filled campaign that actually encourages young girls to be leaders, instead of reminding them of what they're not supposed to be?

The videos the campaign has produced are very short, and the first half reminds us of all of the limitations that are out there, that girls can be socialized in ways that discourage them from raising their hand in class, from being confident in their abilities, to being stifled by labels. It's only in the second half of the videos that they say girls should be empowered to lead, and how many people actually bothered to get to that point in the message? I'm sure many more people heard that they should ban the word bossy and not much else.

If you're going to reduce life down to bite-size, hash-tagged nuggets, why not focus on the positive instead? How differently would the message be received if instead BeyoncĂ©, Jennifer Garner and Jane Lynch encouraged our girls to be bold? To embrace challenge and uncertainty with the sense that they innately possess the skills to handle it? Because sometimes, being authoritative, aggressive and yes, even bossy, is what it takes to get things done. Someone has to be in charge, so why not tell girls to be bold, and let them see themselves in those positions of power? 

Beyoncé broke the album release model with a surprise, complete album and music videos. Jennifer Garner portrayed a kick-ass CIA agent in "Alias," and Jane Lynch brought (okay, not the best example here) fearing your gym teacher to a new level on "Glee." I'm sure they all signed on to this campaign because of its ultimate message of female empowerment. I just think it's a shame that the good it's meant to do is overshadowed by a distracting focus on one word.

1 comment:

  1. Jane Lynch is also active in PowerUp which is an org that attempts to bring more queer women into Hollywood.