So Sheryl Sanberg’s latest campaign to ban the word bossy in order to promote leadership among young girls has gotten quite a bit of attention as of late. Twitter been flooded with #banbossy comments, and even mainstream media has lit up, giving Sandberg, and her partnership with The Girl Scouts, ample TV time on national networks. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that big names like Beyonce, Jennifer Garner and Condoleezza Rice have lent their faces to the campaign, but it’s also the controversy that these two little words have brought on that has gotten the press (and everyone) going.
As a media expert, I can say kudos to them for playing the controversy game and putting out a clever hook out to grab attention. It’s brought on attention to an issue that clearly needs to be talked about. As a mom though, I can’t believe that they’ve chosen to make the idea of banning a word the centerpiece of a campaign that deals with a serious issue, to which it is not at all a worthwhile solution.
The idea that banning a word (especially one as pedestrian as “bossy”) as the solution to girls not stepping up into leadership roles, is irresponsible (at best) and dangerous (at worst). Are we really going to start banning words to protect our little girl’s feelings? This is the solution that someone as brilliant as Sandberg has come up with? This is how we will prepare our future leaders to go out into a country where the freedom of speech is a founding principle? This is how we’re going to build them into better leaders and prepare them for the unforgiving place that the world can often be? By banning a word to protect their feelings? C’mon.
Yes, I’ve listened to the interviews and I’ve perused the Ban Bossy website. I’ve read the stats about girls being less likely to volunteer because they want to be liked (and not perceived as bossy), and all the other nonsense about how this one word is limiting our girls. However, the problem with our girls being called bossy and shutting down does not come from the calling of the word. When are we going to stop focusing on the surface problems and start focusing on the root causes? It’s not the external component (i.e. the word “bossy”) that we need to be concerned about at all. It’s the internal that needs to be addressed.
You see, we will never get anywhere if we keep worrying about all the miscellaneous stuff happening that we can’t control (like other people’s actions). We’ll never be able to ban enough words, or restrict enough behaviors to ensure all our kids have a clear path to success. The key to making our girls (and boys) better leaders, better citizens, and, most of all, better human beings, comes from focusing on the stuff on the inside. We need to stop reacting and start to refocus on investing our efforts in that which is truly worthwhile– those things that build confidence, integrity and help them develop a real sense of self– so that none of the rocks in life that are thrown their way (whether being called “bossy” or “fat” or “ugly” or the countless other criticisms and rejections they all inevitably will face) can penetrate them, muchness trip them up.
So instead of offering up limitation and restriction as a solution, why not focus on edification and inclusion? How about we give our kids great opportunities, teach them how to be their best and encourage them to become better through adversity? How about we instill in them the tools needed to deal with the hardships of life–packing them up with self esteem and confidence to the level that allows them to excel and leave behind the inevitable nay sayers? How about we bring on more positive opportunities like mentoring programs, yoga in school, and perhaps even think about teaching them emotional intelligence? How about we start addressing the real issues affecting our kids and stop focusing on silly short sighted solutions?
No, Ban Bossy is not the answer. We will never see any significant resolution by only looking at things at face value. Let’s go a little deeper for once. Let’s invest in our girls in a meaningful way, one that truly builds character in them and sets them up for real success in life. The Girl Scouts is a wonderful organization, already doing amazing things. I just wish they didn’t get caught up in the ridiculous notion that Ban Bossy should be the centerpiece of their latest push. It’s a clever media strategy, but not a real solution, and certainly not the message we should be sending to our little girls.