This week, LeanIn.org and the Girl Scouts started the #BanBossy campaign, advocating that we should ban the word "bossy", as it is usually used to describe young girls who aren't…pleasant.
I've been called bossy on more than one occasion, and have also had another bossy girl "put me in my place" since I was being a "show-off". While I think it is better to encourage young girls to better interact with others (Lord knows girls can be terrible to each other), I and my coxswain alter ego, do believe in the spirit of this campaign.
Growing up, my mother and step-mothers never really spoke to me unless it was to yell at me or criticize me. I found comfort in my peers and school teachers instead. At one point, I thought my third grade teacher was my best friend. I also let two girls in Kindergarten argue over who was going to be "my mother"(both girls were on the "bossy" side). Talk about submissive. Definitely not normal behavior, but that's what happens when you grow up with a non-nurturing female figure.
Fast forward to my time at St. Margaret's. I had previously been jumping around to different schools every other year, due to my parents. Constantly having to start over again can take it's toll on a person's identity, how they interact with others, and how they value themselves. I had zero self-esteem. As soon as I would build some up and make new friends, I'd have to move and start from the beginning. I would fall into being extremely introverted. When I did assert myself, it felt extremely uncomfortable. I'd turn red and hot and cry, every. single. time.
Ban Bossy: Leadership Tips for Girls
SMS gave me the opportunity to not only focus on myself and my identity, but it also was a community where people weren't "on their guard". I believe high school can be very defensive. You're always wondering how you look, how you're perceived, what the social structure is, etc. Without those constraints, I felt more comfortable in my environment. It was a small, all-girls school where I met girls from every country and background. When I did build confidence and discovered that I could be a leader, "bossy" was never used. Instead, it was "delegate", "execute", "manage", "cox". See the difference?
Bossy has such a negative connotation, but I believe it has more to do with the environment that the individual. Is this environment of insecurity created based on gender bias, or do we just not encourage enough girls to lead in the right way? Is it a popularity thing, or do girls (and boys) need a strong female to emulate?
I tell myself that if I every had a daughter, I would teach her how to be a strong person; someone that can be confident but not overaggressive, likable as well as capable. And if she ever got the opportunity to lead, I would hope that she be a good leader, and not bossy. There's a difference.