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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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.
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What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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News Flash: 'Building The Wall' Is Still A Dumb Idea And Always Will Be

The government is still partially shutdown because of funding for the wall. Really?

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A man who is a strong supporter of building the wall told me this metaphor: If you don't want the wrong people walking into your backyard, you put a fence up. We don't want the wrong people coming to America, so we put a wall up. I respect people's political beliefs, and because of this, I want to share mine.

I believe that President Trump demanding money to build a border wall is dumb.

It's hard to believe so many people really think that this "build a wall" has everything to do about border security. It's just inhumane and wrong.

Literally, the most notorious drug lord of Mexico has shed light about how he smuggles the drug into the U.S. They have brought it through fishing boats, trucks going through the legal point of entry, underground tunnel, but not through unwalled parts. The half of million pounds of narcotics that were secured at the border? They were all al legal points of entry.

I'm saying this because I am a proud daughter of immigrants who crossed the border. The media has portrayed immigrants as these horrible people infiltrating our country. They just want somewhere safe to live to raise their kid.

The conditions of Latin American countries are inexplicable. Communist have risen from the ashes dominating these countries letting people rot on the street starving. There are little to no job opportunities. I haven't seen my family in three years because it is dangerous to go.

The media doesn't tell you this. They don't tell you how many people have gone to the border and returned to Mexico because ICE agents tear gas them.

They tell you that they throw babies over fences to distract border patrol agents. They tell you children are dying because of malnutrition of trekking thousands of miles to get the border. They don't tell you that those same children have been eating unmonitored food with thousands of microorganism some mal some good.

Not all immigrants are not bad people. The notions that all immigrants are criminals is "fake news." It has been a hook, line, and sinker for the Republican Party. There are studies such as one from the journal Criminology showing that places with high undocumented immigrant population does not equal high crime.

Should undocumented citizens attempt to become legal residents of the United States? Absolutely, and that is a problem if they are evading taxes and other legal notions with more consequences.

However, we should not lie to ourselves and act as a wall is to help border security against drugs and crime. It's just a physical quota like 1920s immigration laws. There is a better solution then sacrificing 5.7 billion dollars. Let me translate that: 5,700,000,000 dollars. That is our taxes. As a college student, I rather have those 5.7 billion dollars be translated to scholarship, grants, financial aid, and helping us, the future of this country become the best people we can be. Why build a wall when the future of America, who I personally think is more important can be helped.

I don't come from a rich family, and I don't have the means to afford a college education without loans, so when I hear that the Government can afford to give 5.7 billion dollars for a wall, I have the right to be upset. Tell me I'm wrong, and call me dumb, but this is my unpopular opinion.

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