There's been a lot of talk about Sheryl Sandberg's latest campaign (which conveniently comes in a made-for-media sound byte much like her "Lean In" crusade), Ban Bossy. Certainly you've seen the hashtag and Beyonce's video.
But one little girl's dad is not convinced.
Dave Lesser, father of young Penny, wrote a piece in Time Magazine detailing why he's going to continue to call it like he sees it, but doesn't think that his honesty and use of the word "bossy" will deter his daughter from becoming a leader.
"...Is 'bossy' used that often to criticize girls and women? Is the word ever used to describe anyone over the age of 11? It’s just so G-Rated! If an adult is bossy, there are much better words to call them. (I don’t think they should be banned, either.) If a girl can’t be called bossy, should she be called pushy instead? Of course not, because the message is the same. So how many words are we going to need to ban before this campaign comes to an end?"
Lesser argues that both male and females can exude bossy behavior, which parents and educators shouldn't be afraid to call out and put a stop to.
Lesser believes that being "bossy" and being an effective leader are two separate things, and that "bossy" has to be a part of our vocabulary so that we can teach kids the difference.
"Being a leader means caring for and empathizing with those you are leading. Being bossy, being a bully, is easier because you only have yourself to think about. In fact, you don’t really have to think at all. You just act for your own immediate self-gratification. As a child, this behavior is understandable, but it is not something that deserves encouragement."
As much as you might want to be all gung-ho about any Sandberg-sponsored, anti-sexism campaign, Lesser has a point.
While the word "bossy" might be unfairly used more often to diminish ambitious women, the distinction between strong, guiding influence and brash exercises of superiority and control is important for any future leader to understand (even if the one in question here is only like five years old).
And if the word "bossy" is the digestible way to sum that up for learning children, maybe it's okay to use when appropriate.
It's not alright (and I think the author would agree) to throw out the term to attack women who are assertive.
But, as both male and female leaders know, the ability to delegate and get others to do what you want does have its limits. Going beyond that line isn't good for anyone.
Maybe Sandberg herself was being a little too... bossy when she told us to take this word to the trash, immediately.
Maybe, instead of banishing terms from language, our efforts to ensure that women have the same encouragement as men would be better spent repositioning the negative connotations of words into positives.