Many might consider me to be bossy. I prefer to consider myself The Boss.
I tend to domineer in group projects, place myself in positions where I can be authoritative, and instruct others on how to do things.
I also tend to organize group projects, provide myself with opportunities to lead, and guide others in doing things.
I can already feel you pause. “Aren’t those the same things?” Well, yes and no. In the first sentence I used words such as domineer, authoritative, and instruct. In the second, I used organize, lead, and guide. The words are synonyms, but have far different connotations. The words in the first sentence have much more negative connotations. You might picture and angry CEO towering over an employee when you hear domineer. An image of a cheerful leader of a volunteer group putting together an event might pop into your head when you hear organize. In this instance, I was discussing the fact that I take the lead in group based activities. The words were used to verbalize the same example, but make you think of very different instances. This is an important thing to notice.
The words with which you choose to describe things are very influential. Picture a little boy delegating jobs to a group of classmates putting together a presentation. What words would you use to describe him? Leader, impressive, strong. Now picture a young girl doing the same. Do you use the same terms? Or do you use terms such as bossy, domineering, or overbearing? After having discussed the importance of word choices, you might have selected the former. Unfortunately, the latter occurs all too often in everyday situations .
Little boys are compared to presidents, generals, and super heroes when they take a lead. Girls are struck down and labeled bossy. There is nothing wrong with being a boss. Bossy, on the other hand, has a horribly negative connotation. The word itself has no semblance of positivity. It’s an insult. I have never heard a boy called bossy and while I’m sure it has happened, I have yet to witness it. I have heard little girls and even not-so-little girls called bossy or pushy far too many times to count. Why should someone be shamed for acting as a leader? Why are girls more targeted for this action than boys?
Women with authority have been hated for thousands of years. From queens to politicians, ladies are attacked when they take charge. Men seem to fear what might happen when they finally allow females to take charge. Are they worried that we will treat them in the same we they treated us for ages? Don’t worry, gentlemen. We’ll work on forgiving you for that injustice. You haven’t exactly made it easy, though.
You might think I’m over-exaggerating (another word often associated with women), but just look at the statistics. Nic Subtirelu, a third year Ph.D. student in applied linguistics at Georgia State University, found that bossy refers to women about three times more frequently than men¹. Men and boys are even referenced more in corpora, so one would expect a greater number of instances where bossy applied to men and boys. Since the reverse is found, this is even further evidence that bossy is most definitely gendered. You can’t argue with facts.
Yes, some children are far too overbearing. They refuse to share, don’t allow others to do things, or are flat-out rude. But, when a child is merely taking a stand and displaying leadership skills, they shouldn’t be put down. And that’s what bossy does. The word discourages ladies from showing their leadership potential and ruins their confidence. It’s not just a word, it’s something that changes the lives of young women. Girls are twice as likely as boys to fear that leadership roles will make them appear bossy². There is a stigma around women who take charge. It’s time to end that stigma. It’s time to allow women power without hatred.
Train yourself to use words that build up girls. Trade out overbearing for ambitious and vain for confident. Sticks and stones break bones, but words break self-esteem. Ensure that we have women running for political positions and heading companies by showing our girls that taking command is a good thing. Because it is.
All children should be encouraged to be leaders and change the world. Don’t kill dreams by using harmful words or enforcing stigmas. Remind little girls that when they organize projects or are put in charge of things that they are remarkable trailblazers and excellent leaders. Instill the idea that women can have positions of authority without being hated into the minds of children. Women are still hated for possessing positions of power, but if we raise the next generations with the idea that it would be ridiculous to do so, we can change that.
I’m fighting for all the little girls I know who fear that accepting opportunities to lead others will make them hated. I’m fighting for the grown women who are harassed for daring to be a lady in a position of authority. I’m fighting for myself, a girl who loves to lead and is called bossy because of that. I’m not domineering. I’m a leader. I’m not pushy. I’m persistent. I’m not bossy. I’m The Boss. I’m a Girl Boss. And isn’t that the best kind?