RadioBDC Logo
| Listen Live
< Back to front page Text size +

Banning Bossy: Is Sandberg leaning in too far?

Posted by Alex Pearlman  March 17, 2014 11:54 AM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Sure, Sheryl Sandberg and Anna Maria Chavez -- who head Facebook and the Girl Scouts of America, respectively -- are powerful female leaders and role models. But is their new campaign to ban the word "bossy" going too far?

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Sandberg and Chavez said their new "Ban Bossy" campaign is partly a crusade against a playground insult, but largely a way to raise awareness about stereotypes. By middle school, girls are "opting out" of being leaders, Chavez said, because they're being penalized for their assertiveness.

Condoleezza Rice, Beyonce, Jane Lynch, and a handful of other notable women have joined the cause. But even some women who loved "Lean In" think "Ban Bossy" misses the mark. Is this a good idea, or empowerment overload? We've collected some opinions. Now, add yours.

All about Sheryl?

Thumbnail image for vennochi3.gifThis campaign has little to do with the feminist movement. It’s about Sandberg moving herself to the forefront. She started her self-branding effort with “Lean In,” a quick read of mostly repackaged conventional wisdom about what it takes to succeed in corporate America if you are well-educated and able to list Larry Summers as a mentor. is the next step in Sandberg’s quest to make her mark as "New Age" feminist. It's a gimmick that does little to erase real gender stereotyping. Besides, I have a soft spot for “bossy.” When I hear it, I think of my daughter, at 2 or 3, spouting that classic toddler declaration of independence “You’re not the boss of me.” She’s 20 now, and I can easily envision her taking on the world in all her bossy glory, to get where she wants to go.
Joan Vennochi, @joan_vennochi
Boston Globe columnist

Is assertiveness always good?

I think that Sandberg and Chávez are basically correct on the way the term is used for girls. The question they don't address, though, is whether boys deserve that praise. When is it good to be assertive, confident and opinionated? Are there some situations in which this behavior is just plain awful? Maybe the problem isn't just that we call women "bossy" too much; maybe the problem is that we let men get away with behavior which we should call "bossy," or something worse...Sandberg and Chávez are right that women's power should be respected as men's is—but their enthusiastic take on empowerment doesn't leave a lot of room to question instances in which power, or bossiness, can be bad.
Noah Berlatsky, @hoodedu
The Atlantic

Sign me up

CallieCrossley_2t.jpgBy the time these "bossy" girls become women, they are regularly assaulted by an arsenal of jagged verbal stones, which include stubborn, difficult, angry, pushy, aggressive, and the all-encompassing bad attitude. Verbal assailants also use profanity as a weapon; they attack using the other b word former first lady Barbara Bush famously described as rhyming with witch. Being called bossy could have shaken my sense of self, but I was lucky to come from a long line of women who were not easily cowed, and taught me to stand up and speak up. My mother, grandmother, aunts, and cousins celebrated women’s leadership, as did my Dad. He married the outspoken woman he wanted his two daughters to be.
Callie Crossley, @CallieCrossley

How to really help girls

Worrying about a word is a luxury that only kids who are already growing up with a host of advantages can afford. If Sandberg wants to make a real difference, she should put her money where her mouth is and come up with solutions that will insure more equality for girls who have more pressing concerns beyond banning bossy. Like whether or not the school they attend is preparing them adequately to compete for Sandberg’s job someday.
Keli Goff
The Daily Beast

Good effort for a good cause

It’s important to remember that this campaign, in partnership with the Girl Scouts, is targeted toward young girls. While bossy may very well be the lesser of all evils for your average 20-, 30-, 40-something working to shatter glass ceilings and earn seats at board room tables, it can be a crushing force to a six or seven year old girl...Thanks to a combination of efforts in schools and at home, girls are increasingly interested in science and engineering. Girls are no longer limited to the traditional roles in work and at home that shaped their grandmothers generation. But despite all of the progress we’ve made, we still have much to do...When it comes to efforts centered on empowering young girls and nurturing tomorrow’s leaders I say, the more the merrier.
Juli Greenwood
Blogger at Hello Ladies

Be bossy, be you.

Screen-Shot-2014-03-15-at-8.58.04-PM.pngOh, buck up. The key to female empowerment doesn’t lie with wheedling word police. It lies with girls and women finding the courage to speak and act on their beliefs and principles without regard to their detractors’ opinions. My message to girls, including my own 13-year-old daughter, is not: “Ban Bossy.” My message is: Be Bossy. And that means first being the boss of you…
Michelle Malkin, @michellemalkin
Syndicated columnist

I'm bossy. So what?

IMG_2360.JPGAs a graduate of a small, liberal arts all-women’s college, I completely understand the premise behind “Ban Bossy,” and I should support it full-tilt, right? Well, I don’t. There, I said it. Why? Because I’m bossy. Some of my friends tell me I’m honest, or blunt, or couch it as “strong-willed.” These words are all the same in my head, because it comes down to being who I am. I rub some people the wrong way, and you know what? I don’t have time to worry much about it. I am who I am. I say go ahead and embrace bossy if that’s how people describe you: Own it. I found my voice, so please, don’t tell me what words I should or shouldn’t use. Isn’t that the real point?
Elizabeth Comeau, @EJComeau
Boston Globe Social Media Marketing Manager

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article


About Boston.comment

weiss.jpegBoston.comment is an exchange for ideas about Boston and beyond, brought to you by the Boston Globe editorial page and edited by Globe columnist Joanna Weiss. We're the sponsor of's #LabDebates and the creator of the Choose Your Own Adventure mayoral game.

Our producer is Alex Pearlman, with contributions (and sea monsters) from Noah Guiney. To join the conversation, post a comment, tweet with our daily hashtag, or follow us on Twitter @BostonComment.

A note on comments: Be honest, be open, be polite. And be warned: Personal attacks will be removed.

Top comment

The US has become so PC that's I'm afraid it;s time to say goodbye to yet another tradition! This used to be a fun parade, filled with good intentions and laughter.
just for luck


Browse this blog

by category