March is National Women’s month and several famous women such as Sheryl Sandberg, Condeleeza Rice, Diane von Furstenberg, Jennifer Garner, Jane Lynch, and Beyonce have joined forces to ban the word bossy. This movement can be followed on twitter with the hashtag #BanBossy and all over the internet.
There are many words that have a negative female connotation such as the word “diva.” However, as women we choose to use words like diva to evoke power and self-assurance. We have changed how we have changed how we perceive the word and made it positive. What is different about the word bossy that it should be banned? Why have such powerful women chose to ban this one word, which is neither female nor male, and has not been thought of as an exclusively female term until their video?
Unfortunately, as much as I respect these women, I cannot join forces and agree to ban the word bossy. On the contrary, I believe children should have opportunities for them to obtain resilience and our efforts should not be focused on a word, but focused on a movement to develop leadership skills in young females.
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary Resilience is:
It is also the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc. The fact is, our children will experience adversity, dislike, name-calling, disrespect, hate, pain, etc. They will be pulled, pushed, and hurt in their life. But we should want our young ladies to return to their original shape after these negative experiences occur. As a result, I am not in favor of the ban, our young women need to learn how to cope and use words like bossy for motivation and forward-thinking. Of course, I understand the concept of “ban bossy,” but I would not focus on the word itself but instead I would join the movement to, CULTIVATE LEADERSHIP and #banbossy has nothing to do with it.
It’s not the words that are the problem, it’s our approach to young girls when we see leadership capabilities and don’t foster their natural skills. Rachel Farrell compiles “23 Traits of Good Leaders.” from 5 different sources in article her Career Builder article shared on CNN’s website. Our focus in this new “ban bossy” campaign should be to teach young women how to best develop each one of these traits below.
- Excellent persuasion abilities
- Shared vision and actions
- Leverage team strengths
- Leadership transitions
Let us Own It, and do away with #BanBossy
Instead of all of our energy being focused on a word, let us own the word “bossy,” and become “bosses.” As a parent of daughters who are leaders, it is my job to teach them to identify their strengths so they can use them to better their own lives and the lives of others. Take the word bossy and change it into positive motivation. We will never be able to control what others say to our children or to us, but we can control how we teach our children to respond and process what others say to them. We can build their confidence and self-awareness. We can teach them to value their natural talents and develop them into life skills that will help them become successful.
For clarification, bossy is defined by Cambridge’s online dictionary as “someone who is always telling people what to do.” A boss is “the person who is in charge of an organization and who tells others what to do” (source). Why join the ban-wagon and ban the word bossy, the way we see the word is a choice, it can be negative or positive? The only thing that we have full control over in our lives is our attitude.
I learned an important lesson from Sheryl Lee Ralph’s Life After Memoir on TV One. She shared an experience that I will never forget. After Dream Girls, she visited a big casting director who said to her “What do we do with a beautiful talented black girl? Do we cast you in a movie? Do we cast you with Tom Cruise? Does he kiss you? Who goes to see that movie? (starting at 7:34)” His words probably were not meant to empower, yet that’s exactly how she received them.
Sheryl Lee Ralph recounts that she heard the director say that she was a “beautiful, talented, black girl who deserves to be cast in movies with the likes of Tom Cruise and he should kiss me.” Then she told herself to “just keep moving forward, just because he doesn’t see it today, doesn’t mean that somebody won’t see it tomorrow.” It is the resiliency that she expressed from this experience that exemplifies the leadership abilities that I want my children to also learn. Regardless of what someone says to you, you know what you are capable of, you determine how you receive their words and you can turn any situation into positive reinforcement. So instead of supporting #banbossy, I support cultivating women into leaders.