Posted by: jackiemains20 | January 18, 2015

Banning the Word Bossy

I came across this campaign some time ago but it instantly popped into my mind when thinking of something to write about. It is a campaign by Girl Scouts of America that has been supported by several celebrities to end the use of the word bossy when it comes to women. The article about the campaign talks about a study done that shows sixth to seventh grade girls prefer to be well liked and popular over being seen or described as independent and competent. However boys of the same age would rate being competent and independent as more important. The goal of this campaign is to ban the word bossy due to its poor connotations. When thinking of the word bossy, the assumption is that the person is aggressive, pushy, or even overly ambitious. Instead of saying a girl is bossy the goal is to get girls to want to be the boss. Although it is just one word it is interesting to think that instead of saying “She is bossy” we could say “she is driven and ambitious” and change those sixth and seventh grade girls perspective. I also think it is interesting how when women are in leadership roles and are CEOs and they take charge they are quickly called assertive and bossy but men are considered to be “taking care of business” or being the boss. Is it that society believes that women who are in leadership positions are automatically bossy? Is it that society has pushed the idea that women have to be bossy and overly assertive in order to be in a leadership role? Society expects men to lead and be in control but when a woman does she is often criticized and disliked for taking charge. Maybe by changing the language associated with women and leadership, we can encourage women to want to be the boss.

Here is the buzzfeed article that summarizes the campaign

And here is the wall street journal article that includes studies, and interview, and greater detail on the issue (it is a great read!)


  1. Being a part of my sorority, our philanthropic focus is on building strong girls, which we’ve found a lot of inclination to the term bossy and the stigma that it entails. I remember watching the film “Miss Representation” in a course my freshman year and one part of that film has forever struck a cord. The film compared two political women who portray their leadership in different methods, and still skew negative perceptions. Hillary Clinton has attributes of assertiveness, wears more conservative clothing that’s not per say, feminine, and it considered ‘bossy’. However, Sarah Palin took a different approach to her candidacy, appealing to a more feminine demeanor and less intimidating approach, and yet, she was considered incompetent. I understand that we haven’t had a female president, but it these two women were the exact same people, but in the opposite sex, but they be talked about like they have? Bossy is just a mere word, but it holds so much weight. As a society, I hope that bossy transfers into bold, assertive, brave. How must women portray themselves in positions that are unfamiliar of women in way that gains respect?

  2. I think this is a super interesting idea and should be supported. Being the president of my sorority, I definitely see the negative connotations of being “bossy” almost every day. There is a fine line between being the boss and being “bossy”. It’s really important for young girls to feel confident in being a leader if we are to foster the idea of the importance of female leadership. We should ban the social construct of a woman being bossy for taking charge of a situation rather than being an effective leader.

  3. The campaign presents an interesting idea in that they are hinting at the fact that psychological and verbal decisions have a large effect on what happens in the rest of your life. This indicates that what you speak dictates perspectives not only for yourself, but also for other people around you. It is interesting to hear about this campaign after watching Emma Watson’s UN speech. The fact that people are beginning to realize that using certain words and connotations has detriment on female societal roles is an improvement from where we have been in the past. However, of note is that this is happening within the Girl Scout organization is good, but also it leaves the men and boys out of the campaign and the situation. We talked in class about how the issues with women in leadership are never going to be resolved if we only have half of the population feeling like they can participate in something like this. Does the campaign have any initiative to reach out to males or include Boy Scouts as a counterpart of this campaign? That would be interesting to look into, especially because they mentioned data about surveys with both genders, indicating that at some point the idea of both groups has passed through their minds, at least to some extent.

  4. I agree with the point made in this post. I don’t believe that society desires to name women in leadership positions as bossy, however, I think that it is the assumption that women who are able to attain these positions must have certain qualities to have gotten there. I believe that this has to do with the fundamental idea of women and men “doing gender”. If a women is in that position, she must not being doing the idea of “woman” that people think of. It is interesting because one would think that people in our generation would think differently of a woman in leadership, however, when we were asked in class about our conception of a leader, I still thought of a powerhouse man. I think that it will be interesting to think about how to change the conception of a woman in leadership in future generations and I think that it has to start at the lowest level, meaning with children.

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