Ban Bossy Beyonce


Surely you’ve heard about the new #BanBossy campaign that Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, author of the bestselling book, Lean In, kicked off recently. Sandberg’s mission: ban the word “bossy,” because the negative put-down stops girls from pursuing leadership roles. “We know that by middle school, more boys than girls want to lead,” Sandberg said, “and if you ask girls why they don’t want to lead, whether it’s the school project all the way on to running for office, they don’t want to be called bossy, and they don’t want to be disliked.”

Um, let me just go on and put this out there: I’m calling bullsh*t on Sandberg’s #BanBossy. As a mom of four girls, I say it’s okay to be bossy. In fact, I downright encourage it. Being bossy has allowed me to avoid a lot of pitfalls that come when women refuse to assert themselves. My mom is bossy and she taught me to be a bossy girl and because of it, I’ve led a strong life and wasn’t afraid to call the shots and go after what I wanted.

Now, I don’t know what neighborhood Sheryl grew up in but when I was growing up, the word “bossy” wasn’t what was hurtful on the playground. The word “bossy” is not what hindered my achievement or my dream to be a leader. Getting bullied and beat-up and having uncaring educators in the classroom is what hurts kids. Not having books to take home and study or computers like high-achieving white schools is what hinders many students and creates an achievement gap because perhaps those kids don’t know they can be leaders, especially when there’s no one around to encourage them and show them and teach them. Perhaps she could start a #banunequalschoolsforblackkids. Or #equalopportunitiesforALLkids.

You know what Sheryl could also consider getting behind? How about #bancallingblackgirlsangry. While she’s out encouraging girls to be leaders, maybe she could arrange it so that when Black girls assert themselves, the rest of the room refrains from getting offended and accusing them of being “angry” and combative. In a world where it’s harder for minorities to secure jobs, and where black kids have to be 10 times better than their white counterparts, if they don’t assert themselves and make a case for what they want—whether they’re bossy about it or not—the world will just kick their non-ASSertive selves in the ass and then accuse them of being angry. None of us can afford being meek in the workplace, but we sure can’t continue to be dismissed for speaking our minds. Our collective issue as women of color, then, isn’t about protecting our girls from playing themselves short to make others comfortable; our challenge is to stop others from stereotyping our daughters simply for being who they are.

Please understand, I love some Beyonce. No shade whatsoever. But I’m annoyed that somebody propped her up and told her to grab-on to the coattail of this #BanBossy mess. We just can’t create cute little campaigns that we think will solve a deep-seated problem and brush over it with one color, completely ignoring the fact that the issue is much more intricate in our communities. Like, okay. Ban “bossy.” No one ever say it again. But there’s still going to be a bully waiting to beat the living daylights out of a little girl after school, and there’s still going to be a teacher who’s tired of those kids and won’t even lift a finger to dial a number and call for help so that that child won’t get pummeled on the playground. How do I know? I was that kid. And times haven’t changed that much. Bullying still goes on and it doesn’t have a thing to do with being bossy.

I’m saying here that there are some major problems in our communities that extend far beyond this type of campaign. And I feel like Sheryl could have used her super-powers to do so much more than create hashtags that will, in the end, mean very little in our very real world, where schools don’t have books, girls have no idea about the backstory of, say, Michelle Obama or Gabby Douglas, or any clue about how to get out of the ‘hood. It won’t help the girl who has nothing to believe in when she sees crackheads everyday on the corner or  nothing to believe in when crappy teachers tell her she’ll never amount to nothing more than a babymaker. If she doesn’t have anything to believe in, then why would she think she could even have the balls to be a leader?

Sandberg says that the goal of the #BanBossy campaign is to help girls and women feel more confident and comfortable as leaders. I think kids would feel more comfortable as leaders if they could just feel more comfortable at school first! School shootings are becoming increasingly more common, drugs and alcohol are hustled more than penny candy on the playground and just the other day I read a story where pre-school kids were having sex in the corner of a classroom while teachers were not paying them any mind. (I sure wish the little girl who was penetrated by the little boy had been bossy enough to slap and push him off of her!) Just sayin. We got problems while people with the power to bring about serious change sing Kumbaya about a shallow campaign. #BanBossy is a cute catchphrase but nothing will come from this.

It’s sad so many people with SO much power can’t do anything more than use social media to send out a massive flare for an empty campaign and recruit folks with big names and lots of bucks to do much about nothing. I’m just a little disappointed.

Kia Morgan Smith blogs about her parenting adventures at and, writes and edits articles at, and is a featured parenting expert at The married mom of five lives with her family in Atlanta.

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  1. I agree with the sentiment that there are tons of things that need improvement with our school systems, but I don’t agree that the idea of banning calling our girls bossy is a trite endeavor. It sounds like your familial experience is completely different from mine. In my family, my mom wasn’t bossy, and the fact that I was (I’m much more like my father), whoa boy. In my Southern family, there was a man in the house and the women should serve a more subservient role, and it was not a woman’s place to boss a man. It was frowned upon and I was called out often because I was so outspoken and assertive. So to me, getting the message out to families with daughters that calling them bossy definitely isn’t helping and is probably hindering them isn’t a worthless message. Is it the most important message of the day? Definitely not. All the issues you raise are things that are wrong with our schools and our society, and things that need to change.

  2. Being called bossy has never stopped me from doing what I needed to do. Nor will it stop my daughters or my son. People can call you whatever they want. You can not stop that. You stop giving power to stupid words, people stop using them or at least realize it is not stopping you.

    I am not a fan of Sheryl S. and I have major concerns with some of the things she has put out there about women. She could have found something better to get behind.

  3. I believe you are saying the same thing as the bossy campaign. I can say the same thing a man says and it falls on deaf ears. A man can say it and it’s the gospel. Women are silenced or made to feel bad for having a voice while men are celebrated. That’s my take on BANbossy

    • I agree. The idea behind it is identical to what Kia is saying. But as a black mother, you’ll automatically have a different perspective than Sandberg. You’ll experience and witness circumstances and situations that she probably never will. Intention is everything; I personally believe Sandberg’s intent was a positive one. At least she’s speaking up at all.

  4. Great write up Kia. I have a daughter and son so I will raise them the same when it comes to leadership. They both will learn to do their best and speak their truth. You can’t worry about what others think or call you when you are doing the right thing.

  5. I totally agree. First I didn’t even realize only girls could be called bossy. I’ve referred to boys as bossy before. Secondly banning bossy isn’t going to solve anything because I personally feel the problem runs deeper than a word. I was the student speaker at my college graduation and when the president of the college introduced me he read my bio and said some stuff about me and he finished by saying “And she’s bossy!” I wore that comment like a badge of honor and when I got up my first line was “Yes, I am bossy.” I was student body president and it was my job to make sure the students were first. He needed to be reminded a few times and I was more than happy to provide that reminder.

    Plus your section about black women being referred to as angry is spot on because in the end that’s what we end up being called “Angry Black Woman” I will say she was smart to pull some celebrities along for the ride because they are getting people to go along with it.

    What she should be encouraging women to mentor girls to encourage them to break glass sealing instead of this crap. What I plan to teach my daughter and sons is to not allow people’s words to discourage them and make them feel they can’t achieve anything they want in life. Bossy hasn’t stopped me and it won’t stop them either.

  6. I don’t think you are really saying anything different from the Ban Bossy campaign. Her point is not about abandoning the word, per se, but to embrace girls assertiveness as a positive rather than a negative. And one campaign can’t do all things; I think all Sheryl Sanberg does is geared toward middle and upper middle class women and girls, for whom schools are safe places, for the most part. Each segment of society has different goals, and I think she’s just playing that up. This is the reason why Beyoncé is part of the campaign — her experience of being the most popular pop artist out there who is handling her own business means she doesn’t have much to say about failing schools or girls safety. She too is emblematic of middle class success.

  7. Well said, Kia! I am raising two daughters, and one of them (much like me) gets the bossy label all the time; including admittedly, from me at times. The context is out of place here, and I think Sheryl an ‘nem have taken the time to see through the lens of the ones whose voices get anything but space in this culture/society. It seems Bossy is being used as a catchall phrase, and implies elements that aren’t about confidence, but about bullying. I’m calling bullshit on it too. Thank you for adding a fresh perspective to the mix; I hope this post gets much play. It needs to.

  8. KiaMorganSmith

    Thank you ladies for all your comments and feedback!

  9. But it can really be banned. ‘Ban’ just starts with the letter b. And it also has one syllable. It’s in front of ‘bossy’ which has two syllables -so it sounds okay. But I don’t think anyone be able to do that to ‘bossy’- ban it.
    Maybe the movement just needs another name.

  10. Thank you for writing this because I thought the campaign is silly!

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