A Response: Sheryl Sandberg’s #BanBossy Campaign

Corinne & A Response2Words by Elizabeth Pollard

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook tells the Wall Street Journal that in junior high, a teacher told her friend: “Nobody likes a bossy girl. You should find a new friend who will be a better influence on you.” In response, 30 years later, Sandberg launched a #BanBossy campaign with the support of Beyonce to encourage girls to be leaders and not let the negative stigma of being an ambitious woman hold you back.

In what Sandberg is trying to say, ‘bossy’ is perhaps not the right word. By definition ‘bossy’ means to be ‘ordering people about; overly authoritative; domineering’; not qualities you want to encourage in a child, but when you look at the message surrounding the ban, it’s clear the word is more of a marketing tool to invite people to think about change.

Sandberg definitely has her critics, so launching a campaign to ban a word just added fuel to the fire. But it’s important to understand, as with most seemingly trivial protests, the campaign is less about a word and actually about instigating a social change. Reconceptualising the woman’s role and the idea of feminism has a lot of steam behind it at the moment but the image of a successful, independent woman, feminist or homemaker is often still seen (especially in the press) as whingey. And yet even the testicular cancer campaign has realised the bond women create, with Bill Bailey pleading men to stand together like women do for breast cancer.

The strength of women is proving to be quite a remarkable force; not for being better or worse than men, but for finally acknowledging that there is a mental and physical difference between the sexes which we should celebrate rather than imitate.

To my mind ‘bossy’ is used to describe a sour faced young girl or a corporate business dragon; both of which have a negative connotation you’d do everything to bat away. As a result, and as with the ‘iposterism’ theory, girls feel that it is therefore important to readjust their ambitions so as not to be associated with an independent or ‘bossy’ woman that other women hate and men don’t want to fuck.

By asking the world to acknowledge how we introduce the characteristics of a man or woman to a child, we are addressing unproductive, old fashioned stigmas. In order for this campaign to succeed, people need to break down the image that Sandberg herself is ‘bossy’ and embrace the change for a world that is united through difference not divided because we are all trying to be the same.

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