Grown, professional women including one billionaire are teaming up to ban the word "bossy."
Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg (she's the rich one) along with other women like Beyonce and former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice say the schoolyard taunt stifles little girls' desires to become leaders.
"We call girls bossy on the playground," Sandberg said in a recent interview. "We call them too aggressive or other B-words in the workplace. They're bossy as little girls, and then they're aggressive, political, shrill, too ambitious as women."
Now, Sandberg's organization, Lean In, has joined forces with other powerful women to launch a public service campaign, "Ban Bossy," which gives tips to parents and educators on ways to encourage girls to foster their desire to lead.
But can banning words really work?
The short answer, of course, is no. Our country doesn't generally fine or throw people in jail for using unpleasant words. N'yet.
So when I first heard about the campaign, my eyeballs rolled to the back of my head and I thought what a huge waste of time all the hoopla seemed to be.
But the more interviews I watched, it occurred to me that perhaps Sandberg was on to something.
I harkened back to my days on the playground, when, as I tried to keep people from cutting into the tetherball line, I was labeled as bossy. Like many women, as I got older and took on greater leadership roles in college and the workforce, that bossy distinction morphed into more unflattering characterizations like aggressive, ambitious, hard to deal with. You get the picture. Words, that when describing men in leadership positions, are respected, even emulated.
Like little girls on the playground who shy away from expressing their bossy-ness so to be accepted, there have been times in my career when I have stifled my reactions to certain situations which required assertiveness.
Sandberg says little girls are doing the same thing - and it's because they don't want to be labeled as bossy - a term that no doubt carries a stigma.
“We expect boys to be assertive and confident, while we expect girls to be kind and nurturing. We encourage boys to lead and reward them when they do. When girls lead, however, we disapprove—and our language communicates that disapproval clearly,” she said.
The campaign is urging people to stop using the term. They want our pig-tailed babes to raise their hands in the classroom with confidence, to speak their mind without hesitation and to take the lead in the lunch line if they wish.
They want them to do these things so they grow up to be strong, confident leaders.
So the next time you think about telling your daughter, niece, student or granddaughter they're bossy when they show tendencies to lead, don't.
Instead, offer them praise and encouragement.
It's the least we can do for our little girls.
Sara Vanden Berge is the managing editor of the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at 254-968-2379 ext. 240. Follow her on Twitter @ETEditor.