Friday, March 14, 2014

A quiet girl's response to Sheryl Sandberg's Ban Bossy initiative

Just in case you've been feeling antsy and impatient to know my opinion on Sheryl Sandberg's most recent initiative, I thought I'd do the world a favor by finally sharing my two cents on this whole idea of banning the word bossy and thereby encouraging more girls with "leadership skills" to become, well, leaders.

And here, in a nutshell, is what I think: Why worry about the bossy girls? 

When I think back at the girls I went to school and high school with, or have worked with professionally for that matter, there were definitely a few of them that fit the category bossy. Some of them were quite smart too, and these girls and women, I'm sure have gone on to do great things in life, where their leadership skills come in handy.

But believe me, there were also bossy girls who were not particularly smart. Or particularly nice. Whose bossy-ness should never be confused with desirable leadership skills. Mean girls, I'm tempted to label them, because I'm pretty sure they're an institution. And honestly, the mere idea of giving girls like this free reign to dominate their peers - and under the auspices of feminism, at that - is just triple-o stooopid. I mean, these girls are the ones that so dominate the strange micro-cosmos that constitutes a school or workplace that they don't leave much social space for a segment, which I believe has far more potential than we give them credit for: The smart, quieter girls. And while we're at it, let's add the smart, quieter boys to that group too.

I honestly don't believe that we'll be doing these girls (or boys) a favor by banning the word bossy. Because they're not at all at risk of being labelled bossy. Don't even come close. In fact, this whole ban-bossy-hoolaballoo is more likely to do them a dis-favor, insofar that it confirms a, let's face it, very gender-biased and largely tautological idea of what constitutes a good leader. I mean, doesn't it strike you ass odd, that there is such a near-perfect fit between stereotypically "strong" male qualities and the qualities we have "agreed" make a good leader? Personally, I cry foul, and I bet if we adopted a more nuanced and analytical perspective on male and female successful leaders in different sectors, we'd find that their qualities can be articulated and accentuated in a whole bunch of novel and non-gendered ways.

I believe there are a lot of smart women and men out there whose leadership skills go unnoticed, because we're so set on the idea of what makes a good leader. Because their humbleness is somehow misconstrued as submissiveness. Because quiet reflection is decoded as a lack of stance and determination. Because their sensitivity is interpreted as an unproductive weakness. Because their disinclination to tell other people what to do is dismissed as an inability to lead. And that's just plain moronic.

I'm not saying banning bossy doesn't matter, because of course discourse matters and it matters that girls who feel inclined to speak up and stand their ground etc. etc. are encouraged to do so through positive, verbal recognition. I'm just saying that if we wanna start a real revolution, we should start valuing the smart, un-bossy, quiet girls.

Then we'd run the world. Only in a super nice and friendly way :)

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