Never in my life have I possessed a quiet voice. For as long as I can remember–and I’m sure before that–my parents have consistently told me that I can do anything, be anyone, and stand for anything I believe in.
Especially my Dad. I have memories that have been around so long, the only thing left of them is his voice telling me “You could even be President of the United States.”
I have always carried this encouragement with me everywhere I go.
When I was a little kid, I definitely had my fair share of being called “bossy” by peers, other parents, and maybe even teachers. This was probably because I always knew what I wanted and how I was going to get it, and had no problem telling people what to do.
If you look up the phrase “little Miss bossy” on the internet, you are bound to get thousands of photos of t-shirts designed for toddlers to adults. But, here’s the thing: they are only made for girls.
If you don’t believe me, try Googling “little Mr. Bossy” and all you’ll get is more images of female-intended clothing and word pictures with tiaras that say “princess bossy.”
But, this is all normal, right? I was just a bossy little girl because I wasn’t afraid to lead. Can’t only girls be bossy? I mean, the writing on the shirt is PINK!
If you look around and ask society, the answer to those questions is a giant, pink-glittered “yes.”
Up until recently, I didn’t question this either. But, last weekend my dad called me downstairs to watch a TED Talk he thought I might be interested in and I now write this blog post with a completely different perspective.
This TED Talk, delivered by Sheryl Sandberg, posed a point that I hope everyone realizes:
When a young boy expresses his needs, leads his peers, and speaks out about his opinions–what do you call this? Think about it for a minute. I’m guessing you couldn’t think of a name for it. You couldn’t think of a name for a young boy leading his peers and speaking his mind because there isn’t a name for it. It’s normal. It’s expected.
When a young girl does the same (expressing needs, leading peers, and speaking her mind), there isn’t only a name for this…there is SPIRIT WEAR.
Young women who are confident in their abilities are at an extreme disadvantage in the culture they are raised in. Immediately, these leadership qualities are seen as “bossy” or even aggressive, even though boys doing the same are celebrated for their capabilities and potential.
As I previously mentioned, I was definitely called “bossy” as a young girl. I also heard my friends called “bossy” by other adults all the time. Something I never heard was a male classmate being called bossy for treating others the same way my friends and I did. His confidence was a sign of great success, but ours was intimidating.
The reason for this can be traced back all the way to basic gender roles. When men are in power, it’s perceived as normal and everyone is comfortable with it. But, when women are in power and not in a nurturing or caring role, studies show that she comes across as aggressive and selfish, even if she is doing the same as her male colleague.
Before I get too deep into the incredible amount of studies, statistics, and facts that support double-standards against women in leadership roles, let’s take a step back and evaluate.
Why do we discourage girls from leading and affirming their own opinions?
I don’t have an answer. But I have a solution.
Branding a girl with “bossy” suggests that she should stay silent, suppress her leadership capabilities, and go along with the flow. There are so many things wrong with that.
Any action carried out by a girl should be judged the same way you would judge the same action done by her male classmate. It is pretty clear that if this happened universally, there would be no such thing as “bossy.”
Girls are empowered, not bossy. Say that again in your head 5 times.
I was never just a “little-miss-bossy-pants.” I was just a 7-year-old girl with incredible executive potential.