Why I Will Not #BanBossy


by guest blogger Maya Rodale, author of smart and sassy romance novels

With all due respect to my idols, Sheryl, Beyoncé, and the other women of the #BanBossy campaign, I most certainly will not ban bossy. In fact, you can call me bossy flossy, the boss lady, or whatever variation of the B-word you want. In fact, I insist on it. Does that make me bossy? I hope so.

According to the Ban Bossy website and star-studded video, words like pushy, stubborn, and bossy are the reason girls become less interested in leadership by the time they reach middle school. There are probably a variety of reasons for this. But the proposed solution is to simply ban the word bossy. And then what—ban the words pushy, stubborn, bitch, and any other words deemed offensive? The effect of that is silencing the ability to communicate—while the angsty feelings at the root of the problem remain.

Fact: No matter what’s in your pants or up your skirt, something will hurt your feelings—and that’s good! It’s one of the ways we learn how to treat others. You will be called names or be described with words you don’t like—and it’s an opportunity to engage with that person to find out why or a chance to reclaim the word and its meaning. You will encounter stereotypes, both in your favor and against you. You’ll be judged, get a bad grade, have your heart broken, and scrape your knee. It’s called life. Deal with it.

Learning to navigate all those tricky situations and using them as a way to fortify yourself rather than as an excuse to drop out is how you grow up to be a boss. Being a boss is hard. People will call you worse things than bossy—they will do so publicly—and you can’t do anything about it. You will have to deal with everyone’s feelings about everything. You will have to make so many decisions your head will hurt at the end of the day. To get the job done, you will need to be stubborn (or tenacious), pushy (or assertive), or even bossy. If you can’t handle being called bossy, then you have some work to do before you’re ready to be a boss.

Instead of banning the word, let’s teach leadership skills to kids and reward instances of leadership when we see it. Let’s also acknowledge that not everyone can be or even wants to be the alpha dog, and that’s okay.

Sheryl and her crew are right about one thing: Words do matter. The attitudes we attached to them are real and powerful. But the meanings and connotations of words also evolve over time. Banning one is a temporary solution at best. If you really want to change the perceptions attached to the words, you have to use them in a new way, loud and proud. So #CallMeBossy.

What do you think of the word bossy?

MayaRodalephotoMaya Rodale is the author of multiple historical romance novels, as well as the nonfiction book Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels, Explained. She has a master’s degree from New York University and lives in Manhattan with her darling dog and a rogue of her own. Her latest book is The Wicked Wallflower. Visit her online at mayarodale.com, or say hello to @mayarodale on Twitter.



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13 Responses to Why I Will Not #BanBossy

  1. Jamie April 4, 2014 at 7:06 am #

    I will not ban bossy either, but for the reason that it’s often a well-deserved label that points to some people getting away with behavior that needs correcting. Being a boss doesn’t mean being a “bossy” person, whether male or female; it means being an effective manager, a leader. You don’t need to hurt people’s feelings to get things done, and can do an much better job without stepping on people or crushing their spirit with your bossy attitude. If you’re being called bossy, it’s time to take a look inward, not outward.

  2. Alice Green April 4, 2014 at 2:10 pm #

    If women being called ‘bossy’ is meant to insult and shut them up, to make them take a back seat to men, or to make them afraid to be themselves, then it sounds like yet another method to make us afraid to open our mouths! Remember ‘sticks and stones’, well, yes sometimes names can hurt us. But hurting our feelings in not the same as shuting us out of life, making us hide our brains, our talents and our leadership. You can call me any name that comes to mind, but it won’t keep me from being whoever I am, and if the name you pick is ‘bossy,’ well, tough luck for you, and good for me. Because it won’t change me!

  3. Maria Luci April 4, 2014 at 3:04 pm #

    Yeah, Alice! You’re so right.

    Personally, I wish they’d come up with a positive campaign, instead of such a negative one. Why not focus on empowering girls, on making them believe that they can be leaders, instead of reminding them that some don’t want them to. This campaign gives more power to those against equality, bringing them to the forefront of the conversation. Like Maria Rodale said in a recent blog, they’re focusing on what they’re AGAINST instead of what they’re FOR.

  4. Debbie McHugh April 4, 2014 at 3:53 pm #

    I was called bossy my whole life (and still am!): 3rd grade, 7th grade, on the ski team, at the school newspaper (I was also called dumb, fat, smart, ugly, pretty, argumentative and the list goes on). But my parents always taught me, “people are jealous” “people are just mean” that it was really about that other persons lack of self confidence and I shouldn’t let a little name calling change who I am. Trust me, I cried and went “on strike” many times because the name calling hurt. But I’m lucky, I have amazing unperfect parents who told me to stop crying, made me get on the damn bus and hugged me as I belly ached the entire way. And those people who called me bossy? Those same people voted me the captain of my ski team and the managing editor of my school newspaper. So please, I beg of you #callmebossy.

  5. maria (farm country kitchen) April 4, 2014 at 6:35 pm #

    She’s her mother’s daughter! #callmebossy too!

  6. Elizabeth April 4, 2014 at 7:10 pm #

    I’m bossy, always have been! I’m the oldest of four; someone had to be in charge when Mom and Dad were not there. That was me. In school, if the group can’t get organized, well poop, the teacher just TOLD us what to do, sooo, I’m organized…I took charge. Eventually I learned that not everyone is willing to lead, and I am…so I do. Bossy???? Damn right!!! Over time I have learned how to assume leadership and make it palatable to non leaders, But don’t call me names. I save the wimpy, indecisive, unorganized and confused from themselves in school, work, and life in general! No problem with bossy. But bossy is sympathetic and kind. If you are not kind….well, there is another word for that…….

  7. Beth Adair April 4, 2014 at 8:47 pm #

    It’s my opinion that if you don’t have a “touch” of bossy, you’d never make it in NYC. :))

  8. Maya Rodale April 4, 2014 at 10:48 pm #

    Omg YES to everything everyone said here. Y’all are so right! Because I said so! #CallMeBossy

  9. Mary R April 5, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

    Wonderfully said. Thanks for posting it. My mother’s favorite saying was “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” That lesson should be taught loudly and often.

  10. Julius April 9, 2014 at 11:38 am #

    Glad to see this. I was at first confused by the whole concept and surprised that so many women signed on to the idea. It just seemed to reinforce, especially at first glance (which is about as far as most people would get), the submissive, don’t rock the boat, be a good little girl behavior they were intending to discourage. Like telling someone what not to do instead of what to do and then being surprised when they don’t do it. #speakyourmind or #imsassydealwithit would have been a more positive message. Look at the photo of the girl with her arms folded and head tilted. Isn’t that the look of confidence and strength you want to see in every young girl? If other people take that as bossy, too bad for them.

  11. Ella April 30, 2014 at 8:15 am #

    This seems to be a misunderstanding of the campaign. No one is saying you’re going to be in trouble if you use the word bossy or trying to take away your free speech. The people who are doing this are SELF-censoring, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Lots of people decided to stop using the word “retarded” in the same way, albeit for different reasons. If you want to keep using the word, go ahead, but understand that words have power and these women are trying to change the conversation.

    The spirit of the campaign is that we should describe good “bossy” behavior as what it really is: assertive leadership. The people doing this campaign are trying to make this a world in which women don’t HAVE to have their self-esteem battered by being called names that are frequently used in a sexist manner. They actually agree with you that leadership skills are important. That’s one of the main purposes for Girl Scouts even existing.

    I’m pretty sure the fantastic women who are spearheading this campaign know what it’s like to be the boss. They are wildly successful, amazing leaders just like the author of this piece. Where you guys differ is on how to get more leaders like you all in the next generation of young women. Your idea seems to be to let girls be verbally abused and teach them to toughen up and take it. The Ban Bossy idea seems to be to work toward creating a society where girls don’t have to be verbally abused just for being assertive. I personally feel that the Ban Bossy approach deserves a chance, because I want my daughters (when I have children) to live in a world where they are less at risk statistically for having their egos crushed by abusive and harmful language.

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