Photos courtesy of www.banbossy.com
Think of a girl who is giving directions or telling someone what to do. What word do you think of? Now, think of the same situation but replace the girl with a boy. Has your opinion changed?
The Girl Scouts of America supported Ban Bossy campaign aims to ban the word “bossy.” Backers such as Jennifer Garner, Condoleezza Rice and Beyonce are calling for people to pledge to ban the word “bossy” from their vocabulary.
The basis for the Ban Bossy campaign, according to the official website, is: “When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a ‘leader.’ Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded ‘bossy.’ Words like bossy send a message: don’t raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys — a trend that continues into adulthood. Together we can encourage girls to lead.”
The website also offers leadership tips for parents, girls, managers, Girl Scout troop leaders and teachers. Additionally on the website, messages by some of the world’s most influential women and men help support the campaign and provide inspiration for girls and women.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who launched the campaign with the goal to encourage leadership in girls, also authored the book, “Lean In,” which encourages women to pursue their ambitions and focus on what they can do. Girl Scouts has partnered with Ban Bossy and leanin.org to further their efforts to develop leadership in girls.
Sandberg and other supporters believe that “bossy” staunches leadership potential in women starting from childhood when they are called “bossy.” They hope to eradicate this trend so that there will be more equal distribution of leadership positions among the sexes.
The campaign has been received with mixed reactions, ranging from complete support to downright rejection.
Dr. Raye Mitchell is one of those who sits in the middle of the issue. Mitchell is a celebrated author, humanitarian, philanthropist and social entrepreneur. She has also practiced law.
“…Anything that undermines the ability of a woman, and therefore a girl, from being successful needs to be halted — as a thought process before anything else — and that’s what Ban Bossy is sort of trying to do. It’s a part of something though that’s a bigger and systemic issue and that’s the issue of gender stereotyping,” Mitchell said.
According to the downloadable “Leadership Tips for Girls” booklet available on banbossy.com, women make up 19 percent of the United States Congress, five percent of Fortune 1000 CEOs and 17 percent of corporate boards.
Despite the fact that more women are Bachelor’s degree holders than men, men still dominate the top executive and political leadership positions, while women hold only a fraction of these positions. This is a fact that “Lean In” pays particular attention to.
Mitchell also believes these numbers are unacceptable, and for women of color, who face even more stereotypes when they are assertive, these statistics are especially problematic.
“I work with women and girls across the board, but I also pay particular attention to the lack of focus on how women of color — and in particular African-American women — have a double, triple and quadruple duty in any of these issues,” she said. “Bossy labeled against me as an African-American woman is different than bossy against my Asian-American sister because the standards are different.”
Mitchell, however, recognizes that there are different connotations to the word bossy.
“There’s the connotation talked about in the campaign, but then there’s the issue about poor management, poor interpersonal relationship skills and poor leadership skills that could also go with being bossy. So, just to say ‘ban bossy’ doesn’t get at the root of the whole problem,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell believes that banning the word bossy is not an effective solution to the lack of women in leadership positions, although she recognizes it can be detrimental to the self-esteem of girls in particular.
“Whether we ban the word or not, if we don’t deal with the underlying societal issue and attitudes, it’s just more cosmetic,” she said. “If we merely ban the word and don’t teach girls how to do what we need to have done, we’re doing girls a disservice, and, in fact, putting ourselves further behind instead of forward because we’re creating a crutch on the word instead of a leverage point behind our skills.”
Mitchell feels that the focus of the debate should not be on the word bossy itself, but on “eliminating the attitudes that would allow the word to permeate our society,” and teaching girls and women how to be effective global leaders.
While others share Mitchell’s perspective of the Ban Bossy campaign, there are many others who feel that the campaign should take yet another direction.
Some believe girls and women should own the word rather than ban its use, not unlike the way “queer” has been reclaimed among many people who identify as LGBT.
They believe bossy should be redefined for the positive associations with assertiveness, similar to the way the other b-word has been.
Overall, Ban Bossy is a valuable campaign for the struggle toward gender equality in the U.S. and abroad.
You can pledge to ban bossy on the campaigns official website.
Click here for the campaign video featuring Beyonce and other celebrities.
Follow Breanna Grigsby on Twitter @Bre_Louise