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Kunmi Omisore: #BanBossy?

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Anyone who follows me on Twitter and is an active timeline-scroller will notice that – amongst several things – for the past few weeks, I have been ranting about the 2014 Ban Bossy campaign, an initiative designed to encourage young girls and women to be bold enough to speak up and take up positions of leadership without fear of being called “bossy”.

The main issue the campaign aims to highlight is this: A man who is driven and vocal about his opinions is seen as ambitious, however a woman in the same position is seen as being “bossy”. Further, this campaign has been endorsed by Michelle Obama, Condoleezza Rice, Beyonce and several other arguably influential females. On looking at this for the first time, it may appear to be a campaign which should be embraced by all, especially women and young girls. I would even argue that many will wholly support the campaign without questioning it because that’s what true anti-sexists are supposed to do.

However, there are numerous issues with this particular campaign:

The Word “Bossy”:
In the 21st Century, this has apparently become a sexist word. As a very intelligent lady on Twitter pointed out, chances are that if you cannot handle being called seemingly ‘unkind’ words, you’re perhaps not fit to be in a position of leadership in the first place. Being a leader comes with many challenges, some of which are likely to include unpleasant attitudes, actions and words, and anyone in such a position should be ready to take the heat. My argument is not whether or not the word ‘Bossy’ is offensive, as that is entirely relative; my point is that we cannot expect endless happy days, sunshine and rainbows in any position. Another tweeter highlighted that words like ‘Bossy’ don’t marginalise women, rather women marginalise themselves by choosing to feel victimised.

Grow A Pair:
This Ban Bossy campaign makes women look like whiny wimps, in my opinion. I believe that this is a step too far in the Girl Power movement. Women don’t need to be encouraged to act like victims; rather we need to get over ourselves and – forgive me for using this phrase – “man up”. It’s a man’s world, and unfortunately, no one is going to stroke your hair because certain words make you uncomfortable. Further, I would argue that women tend to spend a significant amount of time fussing about issues which a man in the same position would not. If we truly are pushing for equality, grow a pair.

Generation C (Coddled):
Please read the next sentence very carefully. The world does not exist to please you. What sort of generation of women are being brought up? The solution is not coddling young girls and policing words. Guess what? When they go out into the big bad world, no one is going to give a rabbit’s foot whether or not they find certain words unpleasant. What women need is to be encouraged to feel confident and secure enough in themselves not to allow words, either from their male or female counterparts, to shape their lives. If ‘banning’ words is the way to teach young girls to compete in the real world, then that right there is the real problem.

Good Idea, Flawed Logic?:
Overall, I would argue that the idea behind the Ban Bossy campaign is good one. Not too appear too cynical, I acknowledge that it was created to help young girls build up self esteem, be courageous enough to air their opinions freely without fear of judgement, and be unapologetic about achieving great things. However, I believe that the reasoning is flawed. Banning a word is not, and cannot be, the answer; if anything, other words will rise up to take its place. What will it be next?

So what do I think? #BanBanBossy.

Photo Credit: veooz.com

Kunmi Omisore is a non-award-winning opinionist, currently living the life of a nomad. She believes in the power of words and the importance of people being able to express themselves. She is presently trying to make sure she doesn't end up penniless. Follow her on Twitter @Kunmi_O for more stimulating conversation and high levels of weistfulness.

17 Comments

  1. NYLegalDiva

    May 7, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    I’m in the middle of reading “Lean In” and Sheryl Sandberg referenced this issue in the book. I love this initiative. It is necessary. If over 50% of college graduates are women it should also be reflected in leadership!

    • Leggy

      May 7, 2014 at 3:53 pm

      Yup!!! Agree completely with you!!

  2. madman

    May 7, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    Whoever started this can have several seats…. there are more important women issues.

    • Anna

      May 13, 2014 at 7:03 am

      I agree there there are ‘more important women issues’ than just banning certain words and encouraging women self confidence such as; physical and sexual abuse, financial and social exclusion of women, discrimination against women in the workplace and politics, mortality rates during pregnancies but one has to admit there is a clear link between some of these more important issues and how a woman is perceived and perceives herself in the society.

      While I in no way undermine extreme situations in war, crises and really sad cases where women are victims to these problems and have no way to help themselves, a lot of it stems from women being scared to speak up against these issues for fear of being shut down, being called loud mouthed, a ‘feminist’ or ‘bossy’. Women are scared to ask for more at work, in politics, in business, in the society which definitely have a negative chain reaction leading to social and financial exclusion. Women are even scared to speak up in the homes (even respectfully) for fear of physical and verbal abuse by their family members.

      That fear needs to be dealt with…and while one might claim women are being whiny and they should grow a pair, I would applaud campaigns like these. Growing a ‘man pair’ is not as easy as it sounds after centuries of conditioning to the contrary. Even the most modern homes with the best intentions still instil the values ‘being gentle’, ‘virtuous’ and ‘soft spoken’ to the detriment of being bold and confident as a woman and asking for what you deserve. It mustn’t be one or the other. There needs to be a balance…well, a ‘woman pair’.

      And that I believe that will definitely help both men and women stand up and support ‘more important women issues’…Boldly!

  3. Noni

    May 7, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    I think your reasoning is very flawed too.

    1. While the word “bossy” in itself isn’t necessarily sexist in itself, like the campaign says, it is always attributed to women never men and that is sexist. Why should one person displaying the same attributes as another be called a word that has a very negative slant? The fact that the only variable between the two is their sex means it is sexist regardless of what the word itself means.

    2. Your “grow a pair” statement is ridiculous. Yes, people shouldn’t let what others say determine their behaviour and decisions but do you really think that excuses the people saying the things? Whenever a girl shows the slightest bit of ambition and ruthlessness that many men show often, she’s called a bossy, aggressive, a b*tch and many other things. Why should a woman suck it up when a man in her situation wouldn’t have to? That’s complete bull.

    3. your “Generation c(oddled)” is, again, ridiculous. The world doesn’t exist to please you doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t fight against the blatant unfairness. Sexism should not be a thing and even though I doubt that we would ever get to the point that it isn’t, it won’t stop me from fighting against it instead of just meekly taking it because “the world doesn’t exist to please [me]”. Yes we should teach young girls to have enough confidence to be sure of themselves and weather the storm of “life” but you don’t do that by undermining their confidence by calling them bossy at the age of 10.

    • squared

      May 7, 2014 at 5:08 pm

      Well said! Well said!!! End of tory!
      *Claps Hands* Please tell her! Mscheew….

    • anonymous

      May 10, 2014 at 9:57 am

      The word Bossy is used on everyone Male or female. That said, I was called domineering my entire teen years cos i was confident with an intact esteem and at a point it just went away. Women do not go as far as men for a lot of reasons which are usually slef inflicted. e.g if you have a child who has an illness and needs to be taken care of, most mothers will be more comfortable taking care of their kids rather than leaving them with their husbands. That said I believe no one can liberate women cos no one put us in any bondage in the first place. We are to stand free in the liberty which God has set for us ( I just had to quote the scriptures). When women demand that men give them opportunities, we acknowledge that we are beneath them which is not God’s plan at all and we loose out on the opportunities open to us as women, have you noticed beautiful women get their requests met faster? and yet you see some people preaching that women dress like men. My point in a nutshell, liberation is not anyone’s place to give you cos no one put you in bondage. Go out there and take the world by the horns, learn the rules of the game and play it to the fullest. True liberation is the choice to be you and do the things that you really love to do whilst ensuring the general peace and goodwill.

  4. Noni

    May 7, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    I’m not saying I believe the campaign will have much effect on the banning of the word “bossy” but I’m definitely one of those people who used it wihout thinking about the effect so I appreciate being made to think about my word choice and why I never call boys bossy.

  5. Gorgeous

    May 7, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    A good friend of mine once referred to me as bossy. At the time, i was confused cause i dont boss people around. Now this definition makes sense. I wanted to tell her off cause i was quite shocked by the description. I just kept my cool. if this is what she meant, i embrace it jare. In my eyes, it is a positive thing. So many women these days feel the need to pretend to be what they are not to preserve the image of something “womanly”. Life is too short jare. I have manners, however, this woman will turn you out if you step out of line with her. So yes, i am bossy, and working on being THE boss. *tongue out*

  6. Nanya

    May 7, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    I agree with Kunmi, Sometimes it feels like in trying to empower women, we take away their (for lack of a better word) Strength. There ARE discrepancies with the way woman and men are treated in the workplace, but targetting and vilifying certain words give them more power that they require, being called “bossy” to me anyway shouldn’t have such power on emotions, rather than completely wiping it out why not own it, I mean “F&%k Yeah I’m Bossy” Deal with it

  7. AfroFab

    May 7, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    I think the campaign will be effective to certain people. As an African in diaspora whose father emphasized “you can do anything you set your mind to, don’t let anyone tell you different” some random person calling me bossy won’t phase me. Maybe if I had a low self-esteem, it would be different.

  8. NYLegalDiva

    May 7, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    @AfroFab – It does not matter whether you would actually take offense to being called bossy, it is the fact that it should never be said at all. The fact that people do not refer to boys as being bossy suggests that only men are to be leaders and women are behaving in an inappropriate manner when they use their voice to achieve an agenda or take the lead in a group setting. Although you are not discouraged when being labeled negatively does make the statement okay. It has nothing to do with self esteem but everything to do with ambition to lead in the first place. Women should not be labeled nor should they be discouraged from becoming the assertive, vocal, and natural born leaders God made them to be.

    • AfroFab

      May 7, 2014 at 9:42 pm

      That’s just silly. I have a 5 year old boy who has a play group and that is the one time I heard that word used. One boy kept demanding that everyone follow him because he was the leader and a little told him he was being bossy and she didnt want to play with him. There is nothing wrong with the word and I am very sure the campaign is not about THE WORD. Its just a damn word and people should stop giving it so much power. So stop implying the word is used on females only because, its not. The last time I checked, Webster did not define Bossy as “a woman” and just because a bunch of small-minded people think that way does not make it true. Its not a label unless you make it one and that is the same thing the writer was trying to say. If you want to empower women, stop tacking on labels so as to fight them.

  9. PurpleiciousBabe

    May 7, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    I dont get the campaign or the article lol.Ok maybe I do but don’t care.
    Seems like bunch of agreement to disagreement.
    This generation is defo prowomen in comparison to the rest of generations.
    I think the upcoming ones will see things differently.

    My take as long as there is love, respect, equality and fairness.

  10. OgeAdiro

    May 8, 2014 at 1:31 am

    I agree with the writer. There’s a difference between being bossy and being a leader. Bossy woman == psycho man.

  11. peyton

    May 8, 2014 at 11:20 am

    thanks at afrofab you spoke my mind, i have always maintained that what you let define you what labels you attach yourself to limit you.raised by a mother who never let labels define her i learnt that.there was never a question of you are a woman you cant do this or that.as a person currently looking for a job my gender has never been the issue ,rather it is what i can do what can i contribute to society.so we need to get over ourselves and do our jobs.and stop crying over words.

  12. coco svelte

    May 31, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    i dont agree with kunmi, there is absolutley nothing wrong with the campaign, i support it fully.

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