What about “ban bossy”? I’m not sure it was a great idea to choose the word “ban” as part of a meme or hashtag or campaign. But the idea behind it? Well yes. I see more reason every day to think that the culture is just godawful for girls and women; that it’s just saturated in ragey misogyny, contempt, patronizing ideas about some kind of inborn need to be drowned in pink fluff for the first ten years, fear, loathing, disgust, hostility, and dismissal.
Sheryl Sandberg and Anna Maria Chávez talked about it in the WSJ a few days ago.
Behind the negative connotations lie deep-rooted stereotypes about gender. Boys are expected to be assertive, confident and opinionated, while girls should be kind, nurturing and compassionate. When a little boy takes charge in class or on the playground, nobody is surprised or offended. We expect him to lead. But when a little girl does the same, she is often criticized and disliked.
Because being assertive, confident and opinionated is more of a guy thing. Being talkative, argumentative, active, intellectually involved – more of a guy thing. So what does that mean? That all the opposites are more of a girl thing. Being passive, timid and empty-headed is more of a girl thing. Being silent, compliant, torpid, inert – more of a girl thing.
That is not a good way to raise girls to think they can do all the things.
Social scientists have long studied how language affects society, and they find that even subtle messages can have a big impact on girls’ goals and aspirations. Calling a girl “bossy” not only undermines her ability to see herself as a leader, but it also influences how others treat her. According to data collected by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, parents of seventh-graders place more importance on leadership for their sons than for their daughters. Other studies have determined that teachers interact with and call on boys more frequently and allow them to shout out answers more than girls.
It’s no surprise that by middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys are. Sixth- and seventh-grade girls rate being popular and well-liked as more important than being perceived as competent or independent, while boys are more likely to rate competence and independence as more important, according to a report by the American Association of University Women. A 2008 survey by the Girl Scouts of nearly 4,000 boys and girls found that girls between the ages of 8 and 17 avoid leadership roles for fear that they will be labeled “bossy” or disliked by their peers.
Because there are these rules, these expectations, these stereotypes. And they matter. How can we change them except by changing them? Why shouldn’t we try to change them?
I’m seeing people on Twitter saying things like “well if you tell me not to say it I’ll just say it more” and “some ridiculous people think words matter” and similarly insightful items. Their point? Just…don’t try to change that, because I’m fine with it. Just the usual pissy smart-ass ungenerous shit.