Ban Bossy is a campaign started by Sheryl Sandberg and Rachel Thomas. The campaign, which has been backed by celebrities like Beyoncé and Beckham, aims to, quite literally, ban the word “bossy” as a way of describing a young girl.

Sandberg and Thomas write on LinkedIn that, “We expect boys to be assertive and confident, while we expect girls to be kind and nurturing. We encourage boys to lead and reward them when they do. When girls lead, however, we disapprove – and our language communicates that disapproval clearly.” They add that the word “bossy” sends the message, “Keep your voices down. Don’t raise your hand. Don’t take the lead. If you do, people won’t like you.”

As someone who’s been called bossy a few times, I fully support this campaign.

I don’t think that everyone who’s ever called me, or other girls, bossy did so thinking, “Okay, now I’m going to call you bossy, and by doing so I’m going to reinforce gender stereotypes. So there.” They used the word bossy because that’s how little girls who like to be in charge are described. That’s the thing about gender stereotyping (or any stereotyping, for that matter): sometimes, it’s so subtle that we don’t recognise it.

I’ve never really cared much for gender stereotypes. When I was a child, I asked my parents to buy me army toys. My dad, who was into woodwork, helped me make “boats” out of pieces of wood and his old t-shirts and I vigorously reenacted PearlHarbour in the fish pond. Not once did I think that this was weird and maybe I should have been watching My Little Pony instead. I did what I wanted to, without worrying whether it was a boy thing or a girl thing.

I’m still like this now, but it’s become a bit harder, because now I not only have to act like a girl, I also have to act like a lady. I went to quite a formal function a few months ago and made a life-long enemy because I drank a beer (“so unladylike”) and I drank it from the bottle (“if you have to drink beer, have the decency to pretend it’s a cider”), and then I even snuck outside to check the football score. I probably won’t be invited there again.

Also, apparently you can’t tweet about who the best football team is (Chelsea) and who wore the best dress to the Oscars (Amy Adams). Um, wrong.

Let’s not just ban bossy. Let’s ban all forms of gender stereotyping (including asking me if I can explain the offside rule as soon as you hear that I watch football. By the way, I can.).

Max

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