Of course Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg is right to point out that “bossy,” the other B-word, is often used to discourage girls — and later women — from becoming leaders. “Words like bossy send a message: don’t raise your hand or speak up,” says the website of her “Ban Bossy” campaign. “By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys — a trend that continues into adulthood. Together we can encourage girls to lead.”
Still, I wish “Ban Bossy” would just go away — or at least go the way of Myspace.
It’s downright irritating when a bossy billionaire blubbers about the subtle messages embedded in language that impeded her success.
In The Wall Street Journal, Sandberg lamented that a teacher once told her best friend not to emulate the young and bossy Sandberg. Nobody knows the trouble she’s seen.
Instead of telling the world which word not to say, Sandberg ought to be telling girls — and boys — a lesson that doesn’t tell them to feel good for just being who they are. Like: Don’t be victims.
Or: Don’t be babies.
Sandberg is dating herself. The only people who use the B-word are children and my 96-year-old mother-in-law.
Moreover, today women are likelier than men to go to college. The ratio at private universities is about 40 percent male to 60 percent female. Given the challenges facing adolescent males, especially if they lack skills or a college degree, the new B-word might just be “boy.”
I’ll date myself, as well. To me, the “Ban Bossy” campaign is one of those unnecessary feel-good, pat-yourself-on-the-back schemes, putting lipstick on social media’s most dubious achievement, the sanctification of rampant self-promotion disguised as content. You could say it’s the Facebook-ization of feminism.
There’s even product placement. You can go to the “Ban Bossy” website’s store and buy a “Ban Bossy” T-shirt, mug or tote bag. There’s even a “Ban Bossy” case for your iPhone 5. (Insert your own snarky Apple joke here.)
Big names — Beyonce, Jennifer Garner, Melinda Gates — share inspirational quotations, to which no reasonable person could object because all of the edges have been blunted.
If ever there is a sign of the feminization of America, it could be that one “Ban Bossy” celebrity spokesman is former Gen. Stanley McChrystal. That’s right; the former head of NATO command in Afghanistan — whose swagger and irreverent attitude toward the Obama White House was so pronounced that he had to resign — has been reduced to piggybacking onto a campaign that exhorts little girls not to let themselves be stereotyped and suggests that teachers conduct “no interruptions” conversations so that every child has a chance to speak.
A wartime general wants to ban bossy? Why even have an army?
“Confidence and competence win the day no matter what uniform you wear,” McChrystal shares. Out of the service, he’s all earnestness, no bluster.
The situation is, after all, simple. When a man calls you bossy, tell him he’s right — and he should get you a cup of coffee.
Email Debra J. Saunders at firstname.lastname@example.org.