Ban Bossy

The Trouble With 'Ban Bossy'

Call me a crazy anarchist, but social pressure against bossing people around strikes me as a good thing.

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Ban bossy! Wait—that wasn't what you meant?

As a footnote to my colleague Emily Ekins' post about the "Ban Bossy" movement, I'll link to Mollie Hemingway's article on the subject in The Federalist. The whole thing is worth reading, but this is the passage I want to highlight:

even if there were a sex differentiation…it's not the one described by the campaign here: "When a little boy asserts himself, he's called a 'leader.' Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded 'bossy.'"

For crying out loud. Has anyone been near a public school classroom recently? I have never in my life ever heard anyone call an assertive little boy a "leader."

You might be able to convince me that the term "bossy" gets applied to girls more than boys. But it'll be hard to make me believe that people across the country are telling bossy boys they're budding leaders. Teachers and other school staff tend to find that sort of behavior disruptive, and as for the kids—well, they're certainly capable of following the lead of other children, both male and female, but in my experience they're not prone to throwing around the l-word. In any event, bossiness and leadership are not the same thing.

Beyond that: Of all the things kids call each other, is bossy really one we want to discourage? Call me a crazy anarchist, but social pressure against bossing people around strikes me as a good thing. Of course there are ways to do this that are constructive and ways to do this that are mean; and it isn't always obvious to a kid, or even a grown-up, which is which. I say this as the father of an eight-year-old girl who's been complaining recently that a friend is too bossy but who doesn't want to offend her by telling her so. Learning how to navigate that kind of social dilemma is an important part of growing up. Telling children to strike the word "bossy" from their vocabularies adds absolutely nothing of value to that learning process.