What People Really Mean When They Call Women "Bossy"

What People Really Mean When They Call Women "Bossy"

Because I am not bossy, I am a leader!
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What could Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor, Yahoo! COO Sheryl Sandberg, and former secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice, and USA Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chávez all have in common?

They have all been personally victimized by the word "bossy."

Bossy is defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary as, "inclined to dominate, and likely to tell others what to do." Bossy has many synonyms, such as pushy, overbearing, imperious, officious, high-handed, authoritarian, dictatorial, and controlling.

Ah, we meet again, you pestering word. Bossy is a word that has followed me since my first leadership role: being a big sister. Being the oldest of five children in my family, I took a lot of personal responsibility to help my younger siblings along and lead them to do the right thing, stepping up in the place of my parents at times to help out and assist them, and pushing them to always be the best they can be. More than often, my siblings would call me "bossy." Being the bossy older sister gives the feeling of negativity, pestering, nagging authority. According to research, bossy is prominently stamped on the older sister more than the older brother. One time, a coach called me bossy. Classmates have called me bossy, coworkers, and even elders. Where does this come from, why is it prominent to females, and how can we change this state of mind and promote our women instead of degrade them?

Research tells that bossy starts in childhood. Children tend to begin early play with peers and friends of the same gender, and they learn how to play with and talk to each other differently. With young girls, language is used to tell secrets and become friends through closeness and likeness of each other. With young boys, language is used to determine who is the best at what, who is the winner, and who is going to be the leader. If a boy tells other boys what to do and they listen, he's the leader. Girls don't like a girl who tells others what to do, and when she does, she is the intimidator and immediately outcast from the group, and risks being branded with the term "bossy."

According to Sandberg, "We call girls bossy on the playground. We call them too aggressive or other B-words in the workplace. They're bossy as little girls, and then they're aggressive, political, shrill, too ambitious as women." It seems that like a certain other b-word classically stamped on women, "bossy" reveals an offensive term stamped on women that follows them throughout their lives, in their personalism and professionalism.

So why are so many women, such as myself, offended by the term "bossy," and being called the negative word? In normal interactions, women are expected to be more nurturing, collaborative, and kind, while men are expected to be assertive, commanding, and direct. Bossy women are often penalized for asserting themselves, whether it's young girls getting called "pushy," "know-it-all," and "smartypants" or professional women deemed as "aggressive," "ambitious," and "difficult."

When a woman becomes the leader, and begins to do her job to delegate work and tell people what to do, she is immediately degraded for using the exact same skills in the exact same position as the man. Is your female boss talking to you as you would expect a woman to talk, or does she talk in the way that you'd expect a person of authority to talk? Why does she have to have a soft touch and be high ranking? Why can't she just focus on being the boss like anyone of the other gender in the same role, leading the company to long-term success?

I take personal offense in being called bossy because most of the times that I have been slapped with the label, I have been acting in the position that I was assigned to be in, such as a big sister, the leader of a group project, coaching a team, leading younger people, and even giving my advice to those senior to me. Bossiness and female leadership are not equivalent, and definitely need to be separated and not pushed together.

I think this answers a lot of questions in the way a female leader speaks to her followers compared to a male leader. To avoid sounding bossy, women have to learn how to soften their speech with an extra dose of politeness. It is more common for a woman to start her sentences with specific phrases, such as "I just wanted to follow up..." "I just wanted to check in..." "I was just wondering..." The word "just" puts the woman in a state where she is having to ask for permission, like a shy knock on the door.

"Just" isn't about being polite: it's a subtle message of subordination. Immediately, taking "just" out of the conversation strengthens and clarifies the message being asked. The female leader should never have to ask for permission to speak, just as the male leader is allowed to speak, ask for, and demand tasks without ever being labeled with derogative terms such as "bossy."

Calling someone "bossy" is a way of expressing the negative reaction that women get if they talk in ways that are expected from someone in authority. Otherwise stated, bossy is another way to get a woman to sit down and shut up. Being called any sort of name, especially in the workplace and in leadership roles, can cause a women to pull her hand back and not reach as high, bite her tongue, and work to try to fit in.

The next time you think it might be a good idea to call a woman "bossy," hold your tongue and think about if you would say the same thing if she were a man in the same position. I can almost guarantee you that your word choice will change.

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A Letter To My Go-To Aunt

Happiness is having the best aunt in the world.
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I know I don't say it enough, so let me start off by saying thank you.

You'll never understand how incredibly blessed I am to have you in my life. You'll also never understand how special you are to me and how much I love you.

I can't thank you enough for countless days and nights at your house venting, and never being too busy when I need you. Thank you for the shopping days and always helping me find the best deals on the cutest clothes. For all the appointments I didn't want to go to by myself. Thank you for making two prom days and a graduation party days I could never forget. Thank you for being overprotective when it comes to the men in my life.

Most importantly, thank you for being my support system throughout the numerous highs and lows my life has brought me. Thank you for being honest even when it isn't what I want to hear. Thank you for always keeping my feet on the ground and keeping me sane when I feel like freaking out. Thank you for always supporting whatever dream I choose to chase that day. Thank you for being a second mom. Thank you for bringing me into your family and treating me like one of your own, for making me feel special because you do not have an obligation to spend time with me.

You've been my hero and role model from the time you came into my life. You don't know how to say no when family comes to you for help. You're understanding, kind, fun, full of life and you have the biggest heart. However, you're honest and strong and sometimes a little intimidating. No matter what will always have a special place in my heart.

There is no possible way to ever thank you for every thing you have done for me and will continue to do for me. Thank you for being you.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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Abortion Bans Are Only A Small Part Of The Republican War On Women

These bans expose the Republican Party for what it truly is.

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This week, several states passed laws that ban abortion after six to eight weeks of pregnancy, before most women even know that they're pregnant. The most egregious of these is Alabama — the state has banned abortion except for in cases of danger to the mother. Exceptions in the cases of rape and incest were actively voted against by the state legislature. Under the new law, any doctor who is caught giving an abortion would be sentenced to 99 years in prison, and the woman would be charged with murder.

Apart from the fact that this explicitly violates the decision of Roe v. Wade (which is the point), this is only a small part of the slow but steady degradation of women's rights by Republicans in the United States. To anyone who believes that this is simply about people being "pro-life" or "saving the children," then tell them to look at what happens after the fetus is carried to term.

Republicans oppose forcing fathers to be involved in the lives of their children that were forcibly carried to term, desires to cut food stamps and make it more difficult to feed said child, cut funding for affordable housing to make it more difficult for them to find homes, cut spending to public education so these children can't move up the social ladder, and refuse to offer the woman or her child health insurance to keep them both healthy. What about efforts to prevent pregnancy? Republicans also oppose funding birth control and contraception, as well as opposing comprehensive sexual education. To them, the only feasible solution is to simply keep your legs shut. They oppose all of these things because it is, in their eyes, a violation of individual rights to force people to do something. The bill also makes women who get abortions felons, and felons can't vote. I'll let you finish putting those two together.

If you view it from this framework, it would seem like Republicans are being extremely hypocritical by violating the personal freedoms of pregnant women, but if you look at it from the view of restricting social mobility for women, then it makes perfect sense. The Republican dogma of "individual rights" and "personal responsibility" is a socially acceptable facade that they use to cover up their true intentions of protecting the status quo and protect those in power. About any Republican policy, ask yourself: does this disperse power or consolidate it? Whether it be education, healthcare, the environment, or the economy, Republicans love to keep power away from the average citizen and give it to the small number of people that they deem "deserving" of it because of their race, gender, wealth, or power. This is the case with abortion as well; Power is being taken from women, and being given back to men in a reversal of the Feminist Movement of the 1970s.

Republicans don't believe in systemic issues. They believe that everyone has the same opportunity to succeed regardless of what point they started. This is why they love capitalism so much. It acts as some sort of great filter in which only those who deserve power can make it to the top. It's also why they hate social policies; they think that helping people who can't help themselves changes the hierarchy in a negative way by giving people who don't "deserve" power, power. Of course, we know that just because you have money and power doesn't mean you earned it fair and square, and even if Republicans believe it, it wouldn't change anything because it wouldn't change how they want to distribute power.

In short, Republican policies, including abortion, leave the average American with less money, less protection, less education, worse health, less opportunity, fewer rights, and less freedom. This is NOT a side effect. This is the point. Regardless of what Republicans will tell you about "inalienable rights" and how everyone is equal, in reality, they believe that some people and groups are more deserving of rights than others, and the group that deserves rights the most are the ones "that will do the best with them." To Republicans, this group consists of the wealthy, the powerful, and the white — the mega-rich, the CEOs of large companies, gun owners and Christians.

So, who do Republicans think deserve power and give it to? People who look and think like them. This, however, begs the question: Who do they want to take it from?

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