Guest Blog by Maggie Rooney
Recently Sheryl Sandberg introduced a new campaign designed to put an end to the discouragement girls and women face from name-callling. She uses the label “bossy” as her prime example. Sandberg’s Ban Bossy video features celebrities and famous leaders speaking out against the label used to bully girls and women into silence.
The campaign interested me and so I read an article in Forbes titled “Sheryl Sandberg, Beyonce, We Need To Embrace Bossy, Not Ban Bossy.” The author, Margie Warrell, deconstructs the messages sent out in the Ban Bossy campaign and argues that banning the “bossy” label can actually have a negative effect. She uses Prohibition as an analogy, “Just as trying to ban alcohol during the prohibition sent it underground; by trying to ban a word we actually give it more power to wound.”
Further, Warrell says that by embracing the label “bossy,” these leaders can embrace the positive aspects of the word, not the negative. The word “bossy” comes with traits like being a leader, role model, and an agent for positive change. “Bossy” females are necessary to our world and should be praised rather than silenced.
Other writers have pushed back on the campaign with similar views. Margaret Talbot writes in The New Yorker that she felt the campaign itself had a bossy tone and that the message should be reconstructed. She mentions that in the past society has taken negative names like “nerd” and rebranded them in a way that’s now positive. “Bossy” is perfect for such rebranding.
Joshunda Sanders, in her article in The Week, also advocates rebranding negative words and says that famous women such as Tina Fey, R&B singer Kelis, and 1972 presidential candidate, Shirley Chisholm already reclaimed the word “bossy” in the titles of their famous works.
What all these Ban Bossy campaign critics have in common is their belief in the importance of sending a message to girls that labels shouldn’t define them, that they can define themselves. As Sanders writes “it doesn’t matter what anyone calls you – it’s how you answer them.” In other words, don’t give the power to name-callers, understand the duality of labels, claim the positive for yourself. Fight for your version of bossy, no matter the verbal adversaries.