I’ve always felt that I led a fairly charmed childhood/adolesence. I grew up without much of the usual gender bias placed on kids. I can recall thinking that anything, anything was possible if I worked hard enough. I didn’t think “anything was possible even though I was a girl”. The girl part was never part of the thought process.
I can credit that largely to my parents who instilled enough confidence in me and almost never said I couldn’t achieve/try/accomplish something for really any reason, much less gender.
(There was that one time my Dad told me I couldn’t play the trumpet because it wasn’t for girls. I’m positive if I had pushed for it, he would have come around. But, I couldn’t buzz my lips, so it was a mute point really.)
I do remember being called Bossy.
Friends, teachers, other adults – they all used the word to describe me at some point. Being in charge came naturally to me, and that obviously seemed odd for a girl or threatened some people.
I remember my mom having gentle heart-to-heart conversations with me about how I needed to be careful about being labeled bossy. It’s important to note that she didn’t want me to stop leading, to stop taking charge or to stop being assertive. She just wanted to be sure I was aware of others’ perceptions so that the label wouldn’t hold me back.
So, instead of shrinking (as some have implied the word does), I embraced my inner bossy. Taking charge, finding ways to lead, organize and be assertive lead me to many accomplishments, not the least of which is running and owning my own company.
It’s why, when I see my two year old daughter telling us to move this here, or that there, and organizing her whole play room into a hospital in a teepee, and then very assertively giving me a direction to check the toy monkey’s heartbeat with her play stethoscope; it didn’t occur to me to call her bossy. I did call her organized, surprisingly perceptive, and confident.
What she’s doing, what I did, what every successful woman who has been held up as an example by the “Ban Bossy” campaign has done – it’s not bossy. It’s motivation, determination, having an opinion, leadership, strength, assertiveness.
Banning the word, as Sheryl Sandberg has campaigned, isn’t the answer. It’s just a word. Instead, let’s just stop trying to put girls down when they show these admirable qualities. Because, let’s be honest – there are a lot of other words people could use to put a girl down that are a whole lot worse than Bossy.
So go ahead and call me bossy. I won’t mind. It’s a compliment. Because you know what? I’m the good kind of Bossy, and because of that, I’m actually a Boss.