By KIA MORGAN SMITH
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 Cincomom.com and Disneydoodah.com, writes and edits articles at HealthyMommyHappyBaby.com, and is a featured parenting expert at SheKnows.com. The married mom of five lives with her family in Atlanta.