A new initiative, based largely on social media, is looking to change gender perceptions about assertive girls being labeled as bossy. The campaign, called “Ban Bossy,” has employed First Lady Michelle Obama and a number of celebrities to promote the cause, including Beyonce, the self-proclaimed “fierce” singer who herself has a reputation for outrageous demands while on tour.
In a series of videos and graphics meant for social media use, celebrities insist we stop using the word “bossy” to describe assertive girls. In one video (featured below), “Glee” actress Jane Lynch, “Alias” actress Jennifer Garner, and Beyonce tell us that “words matter” and blame the use of the word for a lack of interest in leadership among young girls. Among the other notables participating in the campaign video are fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chavez, and Lean In founder Sheryl Sandberg. Even a few men joined the video: NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
In the video, Jane Lynch uses a bullhorn to scream at the camera “Ban Bossy!” and says the word is a “squasher.” Jennifer Garner states “being labeled something matters,” and Beyonce insists “I’m not bossy. I’m the boss.”
The “Ban Bossy” campaign argues that when boys are assertive, it is seen as positive, but when girls are assertive, they are negatively criticized as “bossy.” They hope to change attitudes and boost the self-esteem of young girls who may feel pressure not to take charge. While encouraging self esteem and leadership in girls is commendable, whether or not banning a single word to accomplish that is debatable. Most would argue that the “bossy” label is hardly limited to women, and when it is used, it is often tied to how someone treats others while taking charge. One could argue how effective one could be as a leader if they are never subjected to, or learn how to deal with, negative words. Being subjected to criticism often reveals true leadership and fortitude in some.
Of greater concern is the idea that the wave of political correctness in our culture is waging a war on words and limiting free thought and opinion. Many may ask if being labeled bossy is even a bad thing. Regardless, Hollywood celebrities seem willing to boss you around into not using the word, without even a hint of irony. Even YouTube is getting in on things, sending out emails promoting the anti-bossy video on their site.
Interestingly, Beyonce herself has a reputation for being demanding, to an extent that using the word “bossy” might actually be a compliment. According to reports, Beyonce made outrageous demands of venues hosting her concerts, which included having hand-carved ice balls ready after her concert to cool her throat, red toilet paper in every bathroom stall, alkaline water chilled to 21 degrees and served with $900 titanium straws, and 100% cotton outfits for all crew members. For her concert at the O2 arena in London, she not only required use of the stadium’s luxury dressing rooms, she required the use of changing rooms used by entire sports teams as well.
The “Ban Bossy” campaign is a collaboration of Lean In, an advocacy group for girls, The Girl Scouts, and Lifetime Television.