As I’m sure you have noticed, I’m using the word “bossy” in this blog quite prominently. Hi, my name is Jen and I’m bossy!
I didn’t start off that way – but I’ve grown into it and now I own it. It has a little (ok maybe a lot) to do with being impatient, but I also think it means asking for what you want and not putting up with less. The word “bossy” has come under recent attack by Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, with her campaign to "Ban Bossy." She's teamed up with the likes of Beyoncé, Condoleezza Rice and Girl Scouts of the USA, among others, to educate society that the use of words like "bossy" discourages girls to be leaders and from being assertive – in school, in the workplace, in relationships and in the bigger conversation about gender roles.
I loved Sheryl’s book and I gobbled it up in two days. I even highlighted the good bits. Women should be actively advocating for themselves whether they are at home, at work or on the chain gang. We make up more than 50% of the population for cripe’s sake! How are we going to take over the world (Hilary 2016!) if we don’t start stepping up and saying “Hey, we’re here! Get used to it!” (I think that’s another demographic's chant, but you get my drift). And being a “leader” doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be uber-assertive, it just means you have to be smart, present and part of the conversation. Throw your two cents on in there!
I agree that words like “bossy,” when used to criticize girls and women for their assertiveness or used by men and boys to steal their power are derogatory and sexist. A girl with spunk and signs of being a leader should be encouraged, not criticized.
But Margaret Wente of The Globe and Mail writes: "So let’s not ban bossy. Let’s reclaim it, like Tina Fey, who wrote her book Bossypants as a badge of honour. And let’s stop treating girls as fragile flowers who will wilt and fade under the least amount of stress. Real leaders of both genders need thick skins. And 'bossy' is by no means the worst name they can call you."
I haven’t always been bossy. I was a wimp growing up. I wasn’t assertive. I pretended to have stomach aches to get out of anything uncomfortable. OK wait, I still do that. But anyway, I am no longer shy about asking for what I want and ensuring that I get it. Sometimes it doesn’t work; sometimes it does. But it’s not just getting what you want. It’s standing up for yourself and your interests and your opinions, or the interests and opinions of what/who you care about. It’s taking control and moving things along when they get stuck in place. At work, it can mean standing up and leading when no one else is willing to speak up; taking the reins and creating solutions – whether it’s a problem, a project, an event - whatever. I got several promotions doing this. Being assertive, expressing your opinion and making things happen for yourself and your team? You should try it.
As a 40-something year old woman who has come from being submissive and shy to being more confident and assertive, I'll take the label "bossy" any day. My boss calls me bossy and she's proud of me for it. Like Tina Fey, I wear it as a badge of honor. Sure, sometimes it's used and meant to be negative, but I think that's why I like it. To me, it means that I have overcome meek; I ask for what I want and do what I need to do to get it.
Bossy and proud.