I’m Bossy, So Sue Me Sheryl Sandberg: Problems I Have With #BanBossy

I mean, you don’t run a blog titled, “You Can Kiss My Sass” without being bossy.

In 2006 when I was entering high school I would pump up Kelis’, Bossy, with no regrets, shamelessly singing every word like my life depended on it. When the song came on at high school dances or formals, my friends and I (my ladies – because I went to an all girls Catholic high school), would jam out and get our Kelis milkshake on whilst declaring that “you don’t have to love me, you don’t even have to like me. But you will respect me. You know why? Because I’m a boss”. It felt good. It felt right. Now I no longer listen to Kelis (but am seriously considering tuning into her cooking show), and the hit song Bossy has now been replaced by Beyonce’s **Flawless, in which she instructs people to “bow down bitches“. Oh Bey.

Bossy was an aspiration. Being a boss was a goal.

When I would meet my Mom’s employees/peers and they would refer to her as their “boss”, I couldn’t help but to feel extremely proud, lucky that my mom was such a powerful, respectable woman. Growing up I was never insulted, nor did I think twice, when peers would call me bossy. I never believed it had negative connotations. In fact, in the five years I used to teach swim lessons to kids I saw firsthand what bossy girls were like. In a group lesson there sometimes was one girl that asserted herself, made herself known, even went as far to point out what her peers were doing wrong. Had they called her “bossy”, I probably would have been a very proud swim instructor.

Yeah Bey, you #FLAWLESS, but #banbossy is not.

Perhaps it’s my upbringing and my environment but I have never ever perceived bossy to be a bad thing. Never.

Don’t get me wrong, as a feminist I support Sheryl Sandberg and the efforts of LeanIn, but I don’ t think this campaign to #banbossy is neither effective, necessary nor useful to feminists. Truthfully, I don’t care that the Queen B, The Boss, herself has supported the campaign – I mean, just because Beyonce’s behind is behind it, doesn’t mean it truly is a good feminist movement.

I’m not writing off the campaign completely. I get that supposedly boys are referred to as “leaders” while girls are referred to as “bossy”.. and that apparently is detrimental. I understand words can be limiting. This is the very reason why I think that this campaign just doesn’t work. The argument that using the word bossy limits and deters young girls from leadership doesn’t seem to match up with the fact that by banning bossy you’re in effect limiting the spectrum females can see themselves and identify.

I’m bossy. I wouldn’t have it any other way. In my opinion, nothing is wrong with being bossy. I will proudly let my bossy flag fly, any day. I think what the campaign aims to get at, yet fails to actually reach, is the fact that bossy needs to be redefined and have more of a sense of respect to it… which I completely agree with. Women need to have equal respect as their male counterparts, yet banning words like bossy just doesn’t seem the solution to me. New York Magazine writer Ann Friedman sums it up perfectly, “It’s so frustrating to watch Lean In try to expand girls’ options by restricting the way we talk about them. It’s counterintuitive, and it makes feminists look like thought police rather than the expansive forward-thinkers we really are.”

What also is a challenge here is to see this LeanIn-type of feminism in a very first world, ethnocentric view. Honestly, what would Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie say about this #banbossy campaign? What about feminists working and studying in India, Africa, Asia? It’s almost embarrassing. Feminism has a lot of facets, campaigns, solutions and problems. The issues in the global south display this discrepancy perfectly (that also are applicable to all over the world and all socioeconomic statuses) : the conversations revolving around female genital mutilation, being responsible for your own rape, honor murders, arranged marriages, domestic abuse, violence – the list continues. These are all issues I have studied, read up about frequently and have researched in depth about and believe they are equally – if not, even more important in the prioritization of the feminist agenda. In the scheme of things it comes down to this: the New York, middle aged, middle class, feminist is putting her energy in to #banbossy, while some women around the world are fighting for their lives simply because they are female and in danger. Essentially we’re talking lexicon versus human rights. Looking at the bigger picture – why are we getting our panties in a bunch if a girl is called bossy? 

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