Wednesday, March 12, 2014

It's time to #banbossy. A great campaign.


This campaign is long overdue. We really need to look at the words we use to describe leadership qualities, assertiveness, and confident behaviour in girls and think about their long-term impact.

If a boy is telling other boys what to do, we see strength - we see him leading them - and we reward him with praise. If a girl is doing that, we caution her against appearing "bossy". What's that about?

I'll tell you what it's about: it's about grooming girls to find a mate. Historically speaking, most men have not been attracted to strong, assertive women, and many have felt threatened by that behaviour. Times are changing, absolutely, but we still need to acknowledge where we've come from.  Let's call a spade a spade and admit that the term "bossy" has been used to discourage women from exhibiting behaviours that would hurt their chances of marrying. 

Ok, so we know where we've come from, and how we got here, and now we can change it.

Regardless of gender, there are two types of leaders: those whose style and choice of language inspires others, and those who choose words and behaviours that are just plain domineering. We can help girls see the difference without using the term "bossy" - a term that absolutely does get disproportionately used with girls over boys. I've never told my son he's being bossy, but I've definitely said that to my daughter. Shame on me.

Rather than caution against bossiness, let's share the ways girls can lead that are inspiring, constructive and positive. Let's help them find the words, body language and communication styles that respect the feelings and desires of those they are leading and help everyone achieve a common goal.

And let's leave "bossy" in the past where it belongs.

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