Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, wants to ban the use of the word “bossy” as it pertains to young girls. She feels that it affects their desires to want to lead in the future. According to Sandberg, by the time these young ladies reach puberty, they are less and less likely to assert themselves or to aspire to lead because they do not want to be labeled negatively as an overbearing female.
Sandberg is no stranger to success. In 2013, she was ranked #8 on The Jerusalem Post’s list of “The World’s 50 Most Influential Jews.” She has also been named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world, and is one half of a true power couple as her husband is David Goldberg, the current CEO of SurveyMonkey.
Sandburg clearly is no weak woman and overcame the label “bossy” which was applied to her during her ascent to the upper echelon of society.
Considering Sandberg’s impressive history, it is a curious notion that she selected this approach to empowering young women. It appears that addressing the root of the problem of young women’s lack of confidence in themselves would go much deeper than the use of such a petty adjective like “bossy”.
While the underlying premise of Sandberg’s campaign is both admirable and necessary, banning a common word is not the answer. In fact, it trivializes the larger issue with the negative psychology on our young women which can be loosely summed up by saying that even though women around the world are climbing the corporate ladder, becoming elected officials, and leading on the international stage in foreign affairs, there is still a strong undercurrent of pop culture which seemingly overpowers these advances by telling young women that their worth still boils down to a bottom line of how physically attractive they are.
It is sad but true that our young women are regularly inundated with the words “bitch,” “trick,” “hoe,” and “scandalous,” which are used as normal lexicon in music and movies. “Rape jokes” have an amazingly high popularity in their favorite comedies.
One wonders if Sandberg celebrated the Purim holiday as a child and if her family continues to celebrate it now. Queen Esther’s timeless story of standing in the gap for her people to prevent genocide at the hand of Haman will forever serve as an inspiration to Christians and Jews as it is a pivotal story in the Tanakh and the Christian Bible.
As was custom in those days, no one spoke to the king unless they were summoned or spoken to first—especially a woman, but Esther knew that she had to speak up to save her people. It is certain she did this with a level of finesse and grace that moved the king. Whether she was a man or a woman addressing the king at that point, it would have been important that the words said were succinct, strong, measured and controlled—not demanding, rattling, or “bossy”. There is a real difference in being bossy and being a leader.
Both bossy men and bossy women are off-putting. The exercise of leadership is not only being courageous enough to take a stand but attentive enough to surroundings and details of a situation to know how to approach a situation. This should be taught to our young boys and young girls alike with an effort to revert back to raising young gentlemen and young ladies as opposed to today’s popular brand of “I’m brash, bold, and in your face.” Nothing—nothing AT ALL—can take the place of the charm and grace of a well-mannered, even-spoken young man or young woman.
Katie Rogers and Ruth Spencer wrote an interesting piece for The Guardian in which they interviewed parents on the topic. Here are excerpts from the most interesting quotes:
“… In my experience, the people who I’ve admired were leaders, not bosses. They were empathetic and listened to the people they were leading. That’s what I want my daughter and son to do, and that’s why I’m still OK with telling them not to be bossy. I understand that there is a lot of nuance associated with the word, which is why when I use a word like “bossy” with my children, I take the time to discuss the positive attributes I want them to demonstrate.” — Naama Bloom, age 41 and CEO of Hello Flo
“…[My daughter] can choose what she wants to wear and eat even at her young age. I want her to have her own opinion and be her own person. But sometimes she is bossy. What do I mean by that? She demands and does not ask. She gives orders instead of participating in the conversation – and I have flat out-looked at my daughter and said ‘don’t be bossy’. I’m not trying to take away her opinions, or stifle her in any way, but like every other person on the planet (no matter their sex), she needs to learn to be polite. And teaching her how to be articulate – and express herself in an appropriate way – will only help her be a successful, independent woman when she grows up. People will respect her opinions and not deem her as ‘bossy’ since she will be able to communicate what she thinks while respecting others… I will continue to tell my daughter when she is being bossy in hopes that she learns how to be assertive while also being respectful to others.” –Natascha Hainsworth, age 30, Runs a theatre company.
“Banning a word like bossy isn’t the answer. For some reason, as society progresses, we are failing our kids by not teaching them how to deal with adversity. As parents, part of our job is to help prepare our children for when they embark on their journey without us. If we try to simply remove struggle from their lives, and shelter them from what this world – positive or negative – might have in store for them, it is a disservice to our children…This is not a perfect world – by far – and utopia is but a dream. I am not saying we should crush all things that are positive, but learning to deal with some of the negative is a necessary component somewhere.” — From Brandon-Regina Payne-Hilton, Parents responding on Twitter
March is Women’s History Month. At the heart of women’s history is one brave young Jewish woman named Esther whose great stand has been characterized as leadership—not bossiness.