A Rose By Any Other Name: Why I Won't Ban 'Bossy'

A Rose By Any Other Name: Why I Won't Ban 'Bossy'

It has trickled down to me through various news sources that as a mother of a girl, I need to add another 'To Do' to my already complicated parenting list.

I must now 'Ban Bossy.' Apparently to raise a strong woman I must first and foremost avoid the word 'Bossy.' 

Yet I turn to my old friend Shakespeare and wonder, would 'A rose by any other name smell as sweet?'

Is not bossy behavior what one objects to when using the label bossy, rather than the actual term 'bossy?' And, not to point out the obvious, but to change the term from 'bossy' to 'strong-minded' doesn't make the behavior better. Maybe it makes us feel better as parents. We mothers of bossy daughters are actually parents of the Future Strong Women of America, and that rolls off the tongue so much better than Mother of a Mean Girl.

Spend a minute on the playground and watch little girls. Some (I would maybe even argue most) girls are bossy. On the other side of the playground the boys are most likely being rough and rowdy. It's called childhood. No one is jumping up and insisting we stop calling boys "Rowdy" or "Disruptive."

Largely, I'm not concerned about whether or not my girl is called bossy. I think it's rude and impolite, but I think acting bossy is also rude and impolite. What actually worries me is this phenomenon in which parents are so worried about their daughter's future success or ability to hold her own, that an entire generation of women are being raised to be mean. That's right. Because a synonym for bossy is mean or bratty. And I, for one, do not want a bossy, snotty or bratty daughter.

The faulty logic here is that if you are bossy, then you are the boss, does not always pan out all that well. While Beyonce, Condelezza Rice and Jennifer Garner may all be the 'Boss,' very few people in the world enjoy the presence of a woman, or man for that matter, who has been indulged in her/his character flaws from an early age. As I don't personally know any of the above women I can't speak to their character, but I might argue that some women may succeed because they are the 'Boss.' Some men may succeed for the same reasons. But this campaign does not consider what comes after being the 'Boss.' Someday you might get fired, or replaced; you might retire. The professional world is not the end all be all. Once these things happen, you are left with a terrible personality without the title or ambition to justify it. 

I see in this campaign that once again society is failing our girls. I am certainly not advocating for our daughters to once again be wallflowers, powerless in a Man's World. But to indulge them in bad behavior under the false umbrella of strength is to cripple them twice. As a woman I resist the urge to take what I believe to be a failing in myself and my fellow women, and watch society try to reframe it into a quality for my daughter. 

It occurs to me as I write this that when I had my children, and began parenting them my goal was never to raise people successful in the eyes of the world. My goal has been to raise good people.

I believe success is more than a paycheck or title.

I believe strength is more than commanding those beneath you.

I want my children to be strong. I hope they are successful. I am trying through my parenting to encourage the traits like kindness, compassion, hard work, independent thought, ethics to empower them to be leaders; to be strong in whatever role they choose. Likewise, I am fighting agains their flaws; selfishness, rudeness, impulsiveness, carelessness and cruelty and bossiness, in both my boys and my girl. 

The task of parenting is larger than identifying words I don't care for and banning them, which is at best what the "Ban Bossy" campaign is. At its worst the 'Ban Bossy' campaign is all about indulging girls in mean and bad behavior under the guise of strength. And that is the antithesis of good and loving parenting.


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