Op-ed pick: Should “bossy” be banned? Or embraced?

Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chávez wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal about the word “bossy.” This is Sandberg:

When I was in junior high and running for class vice president, one of my teachers pulled my best friend aside to warn her not to follow my example: “Nobody likes a bossy girl,” the teacher warned. “You should find a new friend who will be a better influence on you.”

Sandberg and Chávez go on to argue that the word “bossy” undercuts leadership potential in girls.

Social scientists have long studied how language affects society, and they find that even subtle messages can have a big impact on girls’ goals and aspirations. Calling a girl “bossy” not only undermines her ability to see herself as a leader, but it also influences how others treat her. According to data collected by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, parents of seventh-graders place more importance on leadership for their sons than for their daughters. Other studies have determined that teachers interact with and call on boys more frequently and allow them to shout out answers more than girls.

Peggy Drexler penned an answer for CNN. She thinks if the point is to encourage leadership in girls, why not embrace “bossy?”

The focus should be on how to reclaim the positive and indispensable nature of “bossiness,” turning it from a word used to describe the domineering and unlikable to one used to describe those very necessary qualities for those who lead.

Sheryl Sandberg is bossy, and it’s a quality that likely played a pretty key role in helping her become one of the technology industry’s most successful women. So, how about an initiative to reclaim bossiness as a point of pride?

  • Rachel

    I think once a word has a negative definition, it’s almost impossible to change the way someone else perceives that word. Sheryl appears to be trying to set the bar of true equality between men and women, the way to do that is to open the discussion so that our minds can see how we judge without knowing it.

    I’m not bossy; I’m determined, strong, focused, assertive, direct and I’m a leader!

  • Joy

    Find a productive replacement word and just start using it, as “active girl” can substitute for “tom boy” which is another negative for girls that like sports or the outdoors or just didn’t get into the hobby of dolls when they were young.