In mid-March, LeanIn.Org and Girl Scouts of USA launched a campaign known as #BanBossy. I’m going to begin this entry with a disclaimer: yes, these are problems that are prevalent in developed and first world countries. Yes, these are problems that may not nearly seem as important and dire as other serious issues of female oppression in developing countries. Here is the point: words matter, and we have to begin somewhere, even with someone as simple as recognizing how wrong it is to constantly throw around the word “bossy” to describe an ambitious, leadership-driven female.
We have to think carefully about our words. Misogyny in first world countries, such as the USA, may not be as obvious and conspicuous as many people realize. In fact, misogyny on an everyday basis is more subliminal, put into media messages which the masses accept since these ideas have been branded into little girls’ and little boys’ brains since day one.
To all the girls and all the women out there, perhaps we cannot realistically ban saying the word “bossy” such as we cannot stop people from saying words like “gay” in place of “stupid”. We have to continue to push forward. Before we go on and call another woman “bossy”, we need to ask ourselves what we think being bossy connotes. Being bossy can be a good thing, but the point which LeanIn brings to the table is that while men are perceived as leaders, women are perceived as bossy.
We cannot fully control other people’s speech, but we can control ourselves and mold our own thoughts. Support yourselves and support other women in your community. Before you lash out at a peer or your own boss by immediately jumping to the conclusion that they are unfair and bossy, go out of your way to understand them and where they are coming from as a human being. We must support each other. We are each other’s community. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has said—she was featured in Beyonce’s song ‘***Flawless’—:
We teach girls to shrink themselves
To make themselves smaller
We say to girls
“You can have ambition
But not too much
You should aim to be successful
But not too successful
Otherwise you will threaten the man”
Because I am female
I am expected to aspire to marriage
I am expected to make my life choices
Always keeping in mind that
Marriage is the most important
Now marriage can be a source of
Joy and love and mutual support
But why do we teach to aspire to marriage
And we don’t teach boys the same?
We raise girls to each other as competitors
Not for jobs or for accomplishments
Which I think can be a good thing
But for the attention of men
We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings
In the way that boys are
Feminist: the person who believes in the social
Political, and economic equality of the sexes