I’ve leveled the accusation a few times now that the contemporary feminist movement is latching on to every passing cause célèbre in a desperate bid to maintain relevance. Unwilling to advocate for radical change, an increasingly large number of people are questioning whether or not feminism has run its course, and things like “Ban Bossy” aren’t helping.
Now this is a recent movement started with the leadership of businesswoman Sheryl Sandberg, and with the support of the Girl Scouts, Conoaleezza Rice, and Beyonce. Ban Bossy asserts:
“When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy.” Words like bossy send a message: don’t raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys—a trend that continues into adulthood. Together we can encourage girls to lead.”
Now we’re going to be hashing that out in a second, but before we can do even that, we do need to understand that the chief mind behind this campaign, Sheryl Sandberg, has already received no small part of criticism. With her being a Harvard-educated billionaire, plenty of other feminists out there have asserted that her positions tend to be out of touch with the needs and challenges faced by the vast majority of women, poor and working-class in particular. To her credit, Sandberg has openly stated that she is approaching these issues from a unique position of privilege, but nevertheless maintains that her overall goal of helping women into positions of leadership is an objective that can be applied and appreciated universally. Keep this in mind- we’re going to bring it up again in a second.
Now here’s something I truly am ignorant on- is there a longstanding and widespread trend of putting girls down for being “bossy”? This is a genuine question- I really have no idea. Likewise, I often hear feminists complaining about being told on the street to “smile”, but I’ve never seen this in person or ever heard anyone I know mention it. That’s just to be up front and admit that “Hey, if this is as big of a trend as ‘Ban Bossy’ would have us believe, yeah, we probably need to discuss some solutions to it…”
But I just don’t think that solution is going to happen through “banning” a word.
I mean, let’s assume that this is a massive issue, and that being called “bossy” does lead to girls being cowed into never pursuing positions of leadership (something I’m also very skeptical of). How exactly does the campaign propose to stop people from using this language? This nation’s been trying the same approach to the word “nigger” for far longer and with much more support, and we don’t seem to be any closer now than ten or twenty years ago. If that didn’t work, why is this one expected to?
And of course, if this all did somehow work, would we really be any closer to an equal society? An issue with Sandberg’s strain of feminism is that, at its core, it really just seems to be arguing that women should have just as much right to exploit people as men. Granted, this is coming from a rabid socialist, but bear with me here.
A great example of this would be Cosmopolitan magazine. I’ve covered this before, but Cosmo has been run by women for a lengthy period of time, and in spite of that hasn’t exactly been helpful to the position of women in the world. The advertising industry has seen a rise in women, both as employees and managers, but have we seen a decrease in objectification and sexism? Justice isn’t making the job of Capitalist task-master an equal opportunity position.
Now you might be thinking “Gordon, you resplendent flame of revolutionary zeal, is this really that big of an issue?”
It’s not at all- and that’s part of the issue. I can say with certainty that this isn’t the craziest trend in feminism right now, and without the support of Sandberg and the celebrity backers of “Ban Bossy”, the whole movement would probably have been able to fly under the radar. There lies the rub- my issue isn’t that this is an especially dumb movement, but that it’s especially high-profile.
While the movement is still in its infancy it’s already come under a tidal wave of criticism from pretty much everyone out there. Be it from the anti-political correctness crowd to rank-and-file feminists to satirists and cynics making the campaign out to be a poor excuse for action, there’s not really any group who haven’t ripped “Ban Bossy” to pieces. That said, part of the problem which I don’t think is getting considered here is that it’s giving anti-feminist groups plenty of cheap ammo (“A Voice For Men”, a particularly nasty group, offers a clear demonstration of this).
Simple fact of the matter is that campaigns like “Ban Bossy” might seem harmless, but wind up doing some severe damage in cheapening feminism. As was stated up at the top, groups like this don’t do much to combat the image of feminism as an outdated idea grasping at anything to remain relevant, and as a result, the whole movement is weakened and the elements which are combating clear and present issues (rape, objectification, wage inequality, legislative issues, etc.) are undermined as well.
Look, I don’t think that anyone involved in the “Ban Bossy” campaign went in with any sense of malice- I don’t believe that at all. But I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of disappointment that this- this– is someone’s idea of “helping”.
There’s gotta be a better way, people.