Why You Shouldn’t Ban ‘Bossy’
It’s been picked up ABC News, The Huffington Post, TIME and CNN. Celebrities like Beyoncé, Jane Lynch, Condoleezza Rice and Jennifer Garner are behind it, and top brands like Pantene Pro V and AARP are advocates too. Even the Girl Scouts of the USA are involved. So what is it? It’s the Ban Bossy campaign, initiated by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. The campaign seeks to eliminate the negative connotations that surround assertive young girls by eradicating the word “bossy”, but I think that’s a mistake.
Of course, like everyone else, I want to encourage young girls to pursue leadership positions while removing the barriers that keep them from doing so. That definitely includes any double standards or stereotypes that may stand in the way. However, I don’t think that removing the word “bossy” from conversation is the best way to bring about the needed change – especially from a Biblical perspective. Basically, I’m asking you not to ban bossy, and here are three reasons why.
1. Being bossy isn’t a problem just for girls.
The argument here is that authoritative boys are deemed “assertive” while authoritative girls are branded “bossy”. But the heart of this problem is not rooted in gender discrimination, as the campaign seems to suggest. Biblically, no one is called to be bossy – girl or boy. Philippians 4:5 encourages Christians to pursue a gentle spirit while Mathew 20:26 emphasizes the importance of a servant’s heart. Both of these traits, which are found in Biblical leaders, are uncharacteristic of the bossy persona. So instead, the answer should be about changing mentality and behavior, not just vocabulary.
2. We need words like “bossy” to gauge leadership.
The word “bossy” comes with a few negative connotations, even outside of this scenario. In fact, Word’s suggested synonyms are “overbearing”, “domineering” and “dictatorial”. Bossy is often depicted as tyrannical, self-serving and insensitive. That type of leader does not fit the mold of a biblical leader, according to verses like 1 Peter 5:2 and Philippians 2:3. Ultimately, it is important that this word not be removed from conversation as it allows us to evaluate the leaders in our lives and even ourselves.
3. The words “bossy” and “leader” are not synonymous.
According to Sandberg, “This is word that is symbolic of systemic discouragement of girls to lead.” On this point, I have to disagree. Biblical heroines like Ruth, Esther and even Mary, Jesus’s own mother, did not use aggression or selfishness to lead – yet each left a distinct and invaluable mark on history and the kingdom of God. All Christians are called to lead others towards Christ, and it is imperative that young girls learn the difference between a boss and a leader. How can this happen if we remove “bossy” from the conversation?
Although I certainly support the intention behind the Ban Bossy campaign, I don’t think that erasing this word from public discourse is the way to go. As I’ve hopefully pointed out, being bossy and being driven are not the same thing, and it is important that both girls and boys learn how to be Godly leaders and not worldly bosses. Now that you’ve heard my take, there’s just one last thing I’d like to know.
Will you be banning bossy?