Does the ‘Ban Bossy’ Campaign Do More Harm Than Good For Feminism?

Culture / March 27, 2014
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Ban Bossy

Feminism has become this abstract concept that brings images of burning bras and suffragettes yielding picket signs to mind.

Whether or not you choose to call yourself a feminist, if you’re someone who pays any attention to social media, you have probably heard of  Facebook COO’s Sheryl Sandberg’s “Ban Bossy” campaign.

The idea of banning this somewhat common word has gone viral, garnering the support of big names like Beyoncé, Victoria Beckham, Diane Von Furstenburg, renowned journalist Christiane Amanpou, and even former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. Why, you might ask? Because the word has been used to attack little girls, robbing them of their individuality and, essentially, their ability to become vocal leaders.

In some ways, I can understand Sandberg’s motivation. Feminism has taken a backseat; it is not a topic that really grabs headlines in the States unless it’s another article about the wage gap or some fresh faced twenty-something waxing poetic about rape culture.

Sandburg has started a social conversation, and for this she should be applauded.  But, the issue is not with the campaign’s latent purpose, it is the gimmick she is using to get #banbossy on our Twitter feeds and Facebook home screens.

If you venture to banbossy.com, you will immediately read, “When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy.”

But why choose to stigmatize a single word making it the face of a campaign that seems to have completely veered from its original purpose?  Is the campaign, instead,  a glamorized device that is using shallow celebrity support in order to popularize its one-dimensional execution?

Should we take “Bow Down Bitches” singer Beyoncé seriously when she tells us not to use the word bossy because it’s degrading to women and little girls? Is the word bitch not degrading? Do we not hear it repeatedly when women of all ages assert their feelings? Is Beyoncé ending her tweets with #banbitch? Nope.

Jay-Z even dedicated a song to his little “feminist” called, “That’s My Bitch.”

Women’s media platform, SheKnows,recently released a video asking young girls the difference between being a leader and bossy.

In the video, one girl cleverly states, “Leaders are the people in charge and you have to listen to them, but bossy people aren’t necessarily in charge.” Elaborating even further on the gender/word issue, one girl says,”Being a boy or girl has nothing to do with being bossy.”   

Should we be bothered by the word bossy?  Certainly being called overly authoritative or domineering is a lot better than other words that could be used to degrade women.

One might argue that the word bossy may be used more often to describe girls, but the word jerk is often used for boys.  Why not ban that word, too?

If Sandberg’s issue is with the negative connotation the word has in relation to girls, then why doesn’t she just say that? Perhaps Sandberg has a better word in mind that would describe a kid displaying bad behavior by ordering other kids around and generally just being mean. Why not promote that word?

The answer is, simply, because it’s not catchy. Blanket statements like “the word bossy is bad” are not only ludicrous but makes a mockery of what this campaign is supposed to represent.

I am a woman and I understand that we have been trivialized for centuries; we have been called weak, shallow, and simple, so the need fight against these stereotypes is justified and necessary.

I understand that words are important and the pen is mightier than the sword and all that– but, please do not use a campaign that is so trivial in nature and try and pawn it off as representative of the feminist struggle.

This is not empowering, This is insulting.


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Saron Olkaba
Saron Olkaba
Saron is a writer and student born in Ethiopia and raised in Washington, DC. She is incapable of keeping a phone for longer than a few months, exclusively wears Miss. Dior Cherie, and her guilty pleasures include any novel written by V.C. Andrews (don’t judge), Essie’s “Little Brown Dress", and Stoli. She is currently obsessed with the poetry of Edmund Wilson and The Arctic Monkey’s latest album “AM”.




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March 27, 2014

Does the 'Ban Bossy' Campaign Do More Harm Than Good For Feminism?