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!
9447
views

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.

Popular Right Now

I'm The Girl Who'd Rather Raise A Family Than A Feminist Protest Sign

You raise your protest picket signs and I’ll raise my white picket fence.
380039
views

Social Media feeds are constantly filled with quotes on women's rights, protests with mobs of women, and an array of cleverly worded picket signs.

Good for them, standing up for their beliefs and opinions. Will I be joining my tight-knit family of the same gender?

Nope, no thank you.

Don't get me wrong, I am not going to be oblivious to my history and the advancements that women have fought to achieve. I am aware that the strides made by many women before me have provided us with voting rights, a voice, equality, and equal pay in the workforce.

SEE ALSO: To The Girl Who Would Rather Raise A Family Than A Feminist Protest Sign

For that, I am deeply thankful. But at this day in age, I know more female managers in the workforce than male. I know more women in business than men. I know more female students in STEM programs than male students. So what’s with all the hype? We are girl bosses, we can run the world, we don’t need to fight the system anymore.

Please stop.

Because it is insulting to the rest of us girls who are okay with being homemakers, wives, or stay-at-home moms. It's dividing our sisterhood, and it needs to stop.

All these protests and strong statements make us feel like now we HAVE to obtain a power position in our career. It's our rightful duty to our sisters. And if we do not, we are a disappointment to the gender and it makes us look weak.

Weak to the point where I feel ashamed to say to a friend “I want to be a stay at home mom someday.” Then have them look at me like I must have been brain-washed by a man because that can be the only explanation. I'm tired of feeling belittled for being a traditionalist.

Why?

Because why should I feel bad for wanting to create a comfortable home for my future family, cooking for my husband, being a soccer mom, keeping my house tidy? Because honestly, I cannot wait.

I will have no problem taking my future husband’s last name, and following his lead.

The Bible appoints men to be the head of a family, and for wives to submit to their husbands. (This can be interpreted in so many ways, so don't get your panties in a bunch at the word “submit”). God specifically made women to be gentle and caring, and we should not be afraid to embrace that. God created men to be leaders with the strength to carry the weight of a family.

However, in no way does this mean that the roles cannot be flipped. If you want to take on the responsibility, by all means, you go girl. But for me personally? I'm sensitive, I cry during horror movies, I'm afraid of basements and dark rooms. I, in no way, am strong enough to take on the tasks that men have been appointed to. And I'm okay with that.

So please, let me look forward to baking cookies for bake sales and driving a mom car.

And I'll support you in your endeavors and climb to the top of the corporate ladder. It doesn't matter what side you are on as long as we support each other, because we all need some girl power.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

This is Cyntoia Brown And THIS is Why She Deserves To Be Freed, Immediately

A glimpse inside the incarceration of a Tennessee woman who was sentenced to life behind bars for killing a pedophile who solicited her for sex.

382
views

In 2004, Cyntoia Brown, a Tenessee woman, was sentenced to life in prison for killing a man who solicited her for sex when she was only 16 years old. Now, 14 years later, the court has ruled that she must serve 51 years in prison before she is eligible for parole.

So, what happened to Brown all those years ago? Brown says at the time of the murder, she was living with her abusive boyfriend who would often physically and sexually abuse her, force her to sell sex for money, and pump her full of drugs to make her more controllable.

Brown was picked up on the side of the road by a 43-year-old insurance agent named Johnny Mitchell Allen. Allen brought Brown to his home, showed her his extensive gun collection, and then came onto Brown. Brown then resisted Allen's sexual advances. After being rejected, Allen reached below his bed. Brown assumed he was reaching for a gun, and then shot Allen with her own gun out of fear of being shot herself. On the morning of the shooting, Brown's abusive boyfriend advised her that she better come home with money that day. Out of fear of her boyfriend, Brown then stole money from the dead man's wallet and left the home.

Since then, prosecutors have argued that Brown's intentions were to rob this man from the very beginning, though Brown and her lawyers insist that the shooting was done out of self-defense. It's worth noting that Tennessee law states that any sex work done by minors is ruled sex slavery. Brown was 16 years old, and practically in the custody of a man who is said to have repeatedly raped and solicited her to have sex with other men for money. She was under the control of someone stronger and more threatening than herself. She was scared and did what she thought she had to do to make it out of that situation alive.

I'm in no way condoning murdering someone. It's just pretty appalling to me how courts are so quick to send this woman to prison for the rest of her life when proven sexual predators like Brock Turner are given six-month sentences and only made to serve three for raping an unconscious woman in a park. How in the world does shooting a pedophile out of self-defense warrant a more severe punishment than raping a defenseless woman? Does this make sense to anyone? If so, please enlighten me.

Now, people across the country are pleading Tennessee governor Bill Haslam to grant Brown clemency before his term is up in a few weeks. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Rihanna have shared their sympathy for Brown on social media, which has garnered a lot of publicity from a younger demographic.

On Monday, Governor Haslam gave a speech on education at the Nashville Public Library. After being asked about the amount of justice within Brown's case, Governor Haslam said: "We're reviewing a lot of cases, and while Cyntoia's case has gotten a lot of publicity, I don't think you want us to treat her's any different than a whole lot of cases that I think people want us to review."

Haslam said everyone in his office is looking very deeply into Brown's case and he will make a decision on whether or not to grant Brown clemency before his term is up in a few weeks.

Haslam's conservative reputation could be impacted by his potential decision to show Brown mercy. It all comes down to how he wants to be remembered as a governor. My hope is that justice is shown and that Brown is treated as a victim of sex-slavery, rather than a killer and a thief. No person should be sent to a life behind bars for trying to defend themselves.

Related Content

Facebook Comments