On Banning ‘Bossy’

Sheryl Sandberg along with Anna Maria Chávez, writes in the Wall Street Journal about her new campaign to “Ban Bossy.”

When my brother and sister describe our childhood, they will say that I never actually played as a child but instead just organized other kids’ play. At my wedding, they stood up and introduced themselves by explaining, “Hi, we’re Sheryl’s younger brother and sister … but we’re not really her younger brother and sister. We’re her first employees — employee No. 1 and employee No. 2.”

I am torn because while I object to the sexist way “bossy” is usually only lobbed at girl children, I do think it’s important for shitty kids to be called out on how annoying they are. And I do think baby Sheryl Sandberg sounds TERRIBLE.

Perhaps the campaign should be changed to, “Boys sure can be bossy, too! Ever noticed that? Man, they are just as bad, if not worse.”

Much like their adult counterparts with “executive leadership skills”, if you are an effective child leader, no one will think you’re bossy. They’ll just be like, “Wow, Elizabeth always has the best ideas about what games to play during recess. Why is her grip over me so powerful? Oh well! Let’s play Red Rover for the 500th time and she gets to go first, since it was her idea.”

After all, shouldn’t these nascent boardroom executives learn to lead their school-aged peons in a way that is both incredibly persuasive and barely detectable? Kids need a way to shape and react to each others’ selfishness and control issues.

This level of self-awareness may prove be very useful to them later in life, when they grow up to to write op-eds about it in the Wall Street Journal.

Now, I don’t think I have ever called an adult woman “bossy” but apparently people actually do that, which is a problem, especially if we’re moved to call a woman bossy just by the very nature of her being OUR BOSS and we don’t like that. So #1, if someone is your boss, and you are an adult, don’t call them “bossy.” That’s just dumb. If you are moved to call an adult boss “bossy,” please examine your motivations. Are you a person who has inherent, kneejerk problems with female authority? In this case, you do need to ban the word bossy. Sorry, but you’re an adult now, and a sexist one at that. If you examine you conscience and find that you are moved to call your boss “bossy,” because he or she is in fact an ineffective leader and/or makes poor decisions without listening to the people below them, try “tyrant,” or, if applicable, “micro-manager.”

If the person is not actually your boss, or a boss at all, you might just be threatened by their ambition. Consider that first. How have you failed in ways this person hasn’t? What fears do you have that they don’t? If it turns out that you want to criticize them for legitimate reasons, try the less petty and childish “controlling” or even “delusional.” If this person is a woman, think twice about it. Are you a misogynist, even subconsciously? You probably are. To counteract such a possibility, make it a point to complain loudly about a controlling male counterpart, preferably within earshot of many coworkers.

And if you are a child and not an executive at all, STOP TELLING US WHAT TO DO ON THE PLAYGROUND. No one likes you. We don’t want to be your “employee.”

Photo: jurvetson