Ban Bossy. These two words designate a campaign designed to encourage girls to lead without being labeled as bossy. (Or, more commonly, the other B word. But that’s a campaign for another time.)
You’ve probably seen the Lifetime PSA by now, as part of the #BanBossy campaign spearheaded by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. The video features Sandberg, Beyonce, Jennifer Garner, Condoleezza Rice, Jane Lynch, and more public figures speaking out against the double standard where boys are called leaders and girls are called bossy.
Nice, right? It has an important message and approachable tone, and it’s inspiring to see so many awesome, celebrated people speaking up in support of empowering girls and women. First Katy Perry declares that she might be a feminist after all and now this? Critics aside, I think it’s refreshing to see mainstream celebs publicly embrace the idea that equality for women just might not, in fact, be a totally evil plot to destroy mankind.
However, I’ve noticed that the #BanBossy campaign has generated backlash and outrage around the Internet that surprises even me. I consider this campaign pretty straightforward and uncontroversial, even on the tamer side.
Tell girls it’s ok to be ambitious, encourage them to lead, and encourage everyone else to think twice before labeling ambitious girls with words that wouldn’t equally be applied to boys.
Nonetheless, the most common responses I’ve seen are “How dare they try to ban a word? That goes against my constitutional rights! This is censorship!” as if Beyonce will personally see to it that they’re arrested on the spot if the word ‘bossy’ ever crosses their lips.
I mean, she’s Beyonce, so she probably could (her power knows no bounds), but I’m sure she has a few other ways to occupy her time.
Other responses include: “They want to ban the word bossy? Isn’t that … bossy? LOLZ”; and sentiments along the line of my personal favorite comment under the PSA video, “Another imaginary problem that women face, and demand men to solve.”The username for that comment was HardforJesus, by the way. So the day wasn’t totally without laughs.
One-off YouTube comments aside, these themes show that many people are willfully misunderstanding the point or seem to find it threatening for increasingly ridiculous reasons.
And it’s obviously not that girls and women aren’t “tough enough” to be leaders if being labeled “bossy” is discouraging to them.
It’s about thinking before we speak, about becoming aware of double standards so we’re not so harshly judgmental of girls who lead and speak out and take action – behaviors usually considered “the norm” for boys. On a grander scale, it’s about ensuring the increased participation and leadership of roughly half the population of the world. So yeah, it’s kinda important.
In the meantime, here are some facts you might not know about Ban Bossy:
Lean In (Sheryl Sandberg’s non-profit organization) and Girl Scouts of the USA partnered together to bring about Ban Bossy and encourage all girls to lead. Other partner organizations include Getty Images, Pantene, and Teach for America.
The Ban Bossy web site features feminist leadership tips for girls, parents, teachers, managers, and troop leaders.
The Things We Love section on the Ban Bossy web site is a collection of awesome resources and stories of girls leading: from Black Girls Code: Breaking Color Barriers in STEM, to Meet the Skater Girls of Afghanistan, to Common Sense Media’s Top Books and Movies with Strong Girls and Women.
What do you think of the Ban Bossy campaign? Were you ever called bossy (or similar names) when you tried to lead, and how did it affect your feelings about leadership? And if you don’t think this is an effective campaign, how can the Ban Bossy movement be improved?
Allie Semperger studied English at Kalamazoo College and screenwriting at UCLA. After studying abroad in London and traveling around Europe, she became a travel lover for life, and is always making plans for her next adventure. She recommends Marina and the Diamonds. She created the feminist Tumblr blog, Women’s Issues Are Society’s Issues, and aspires to make the world a better place for women and girls.