AOTW: Do We Need To Ban The Word ‘Bossy’?

Each week in Look Magazine there is a debate of some form that normally focuses on a female-orientated issue. It’s part of the reason why I love this particular women’s weekly, as it doesn’t focus purely on the sometimes superficial world of fashion and gossip. But it never hurts for a celebrity to be involved, as this week’s debate focus has several.
The Ban Bossy campaign, begun by Sheryl Sandberg, is supported by several famous women (and the odd man) including Michelle Obama and Beyonce. Even our homegrown Victoria Beckham is behind the campaign, quoted saying “When it’s a man in charge, he’s inspiring. When it’s a woman, she’s bossy.” With such figures involved, it’s not surprising that the campaign has split womankind down the middle. And, as always, Look is there to give both sides of the argument and allowing their readers to come to their own conclusions.
With this particular argument, there is some commonality between the two points of view. Both of the women, each representing a side of the argument, are supportive of a campaign aimed at empowering young women to take the lead. Yet at the same time, each argument is extremely different. Sarah Ditum, a writer in favour of Ban Bossy, clearly believes in the power of words. She writes

“…a woman taking the lead makes people uncomfortable. So we call her ‘bossy’ to put her in her place, and to let her know she isn’t actually supposed to act that way… when little girls begin to show they know their own minds, they get put down for being pushy…”

 Her argument is persuasive as she explains how ‘Ban Bossy’ is shorthand for thinking twice about how we treat assertive women. It really does make you rethink what words you use and who you use them to describe.

On the other hand, Caroline Corcoran argues that words are not the problem. In fact, she is incredibly supportive of any “campaign that tells young women they can lead in whatever field they choose.” But she does not believe that the word ‘bossy’ is the source of the problem. With the dozens of words available that could replace bossy, there would be a replacement found soon enough. And with words such as ‘bitchy’, ‘dominating’ and nagging’ out there, it’s likely the replacement would be worse. But I think the line that won me over was “The thoughts will still be there- it’s those we really need to change.” She has a real point here. Banning a word doesn’t change the thoughts in a person’s head. 

So to conclude, (haven’t used that word in a while) while Ban Bossy is a much needed campaign, I’m not convinced that changing a word will change attitudes. Then again, Ban Bossy definitely makes for a memorable campaign title in a society of hashtags.

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