I remember the first time someone told me that I was being bossy. I think I was about five or six years old and was playing with friends at a park or someplace. Anyway, I remember blinking and then shrugging my shoulders as I said, “So?” with all the sass a five — almost six — year old could muster.
You see, I was never told that being bossy was a bad thing.
The newest campaign making waves is the Ban Bossy campaign; founded by LeanIn.org and partnered with the Girl Scouts, it claims to be demanding the removal of the word bossy when referring to assertive little girls. It claims to be asking for parents, teachers, and other adults to teach little girls how to be a leader and not to be ashamed of their leadership skills.
The problem I have with this campaign? Not every little girl in the United States has the same experience; I certainly didn’t. I like the word “bossy”, and I’m not willing to give it up.
Perhaps this is a cultural thing; as a Latina, I have been surrounded by loud, demanding, assertive, sometimes heading towards obnoxious, and yes, bossy women.
From my grandmothers to my aunts to my cousins to my mother and my friends, my life was — and is — surrounded by women who are unafraid of speaking up and leading when they need to. Even though I was a shy child growing up, I was also willing to stand up for what I thought was wrong and unjust.
I was willing to put myself into the position of leader if I had to because I knew that my ideas were, at times, better than other peoples’ ideas and I wasn’t going to let myself be silenced in one more way.
There are so many ways that women of color like me have been silenced. We constantly have to prove ourselves and show we are just as smart or capable as our white counterparts.
We are told that we speak excellent English, even if we were born in the U.S. We are seen as our skin color first; gender second, and then possibly, our intelligence and leadership capabilities last.
We live our lives aware that the only media representation we will see is going to be of varied extremes — and we will be exploited in ways that most people will see as a real representation of a woman of color.
I find that while the Ban Bossy campaign has its heart in the right place, it is also ignoring the reality regarding little girls’ lives and experiences. I am a Latina, but my experience is my own, and I can’t speak for every other Latina in the world.
I can’t speak for my best friend’s experience or for the experiences of other women of color. I can speak only for myself and quite honestly, I’m bossy.
What about your experience with the word “bossy”? Did you ever get told you were bossy?
Brenda Molina is a blogger, poet/spoken word performer, and feminist. She is also an advocate on education regarding female relational aggression (FRA) and the correlation between FRA, social media, and reality television; check her work out at theblackcatpoet.wordpress.com!
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