I’m an assertive woman, but I have no desire to #BanBossy

BlogHer has started a new trend on the internets, partnering with LeanIn and the Girl Scouts, this time taking aim at culture for calling assertive, strong, confident women-leaders “bossy”.

The argument is that assertive men or boys aren’t called “bossy” so girls shouldn’t be either. It also makes the case that this is “society’s” way of keeping women quiet, demure and in the shadows, where they can’t bother our patriarchal system.

Sorry, everybody, but I’m calling B.S. on this one. Calling someone out for “bossiness” is not only healthy, it’s essential, for girls and boys, and I am not interested in neutering language because a word has been misused. We’re fast approaching a societal climax in which no woman can ever be criticized for anything lest she point her manicured finger and scream discrimination.

The fact of the matter is, fellow women of the world, we can be shrill, bossy, know-it-alls. I get fired up and I blurt out aggressive statements that may not be tasteful, I have been known to boss my loved ones around with impunity. When I do so, they are absolutely right to tell me to stop being bossy. The world is all too full of people with much to say and no time to listen, and so we’ve convinced ourselves that our feelings, our approaches, our beliefs and our personalities are all that matter. Anyone who sees our assertiveness as bossiness needs to be banned! Anyone who doesn’t appreciate our inherent leadership qualities must be silenced! We are women, and how dare you insinuate that we handle any situation with any less than ultimate charm, strength and grace?

This is foolish. We are not exempt from criticism because we are women, and neither should we be. If anything, we should relish such feedback because it allows us to grow and become yet better versions of ourselves, women who can persuade and lead without being bossy, winsome ambassadors who win hearts and minds instead of bullying the opposition into silence.

If we are truly strong, confident women – leaders of today and tomorrow – the light criticism of “bossy” should not bother us. We should take what wisdom we can from it – throw away what is not helpful and grow from what is. We should not work to blot out yet another word from our language, banning yet another sentiment from an already dwindling and faltering politically-correct vocabulary. I’m an assertive and strong woman, and I’ve been called bossy a time or two. But you know what? I deserved it. I should have bitten my tongue and I needed to be called out on my shrillness. Sorry to say so, BlogHer, but you do too.

Culture with a side of Pop, Social justice, Women: we're more than our ladyparts


  1. kilian francis


    I was reading about this issue because it was on Google’s front page, and I have a daughter (who is a Girl Scout). After reading a few pages about it, I did a search for “banbossy criticism,” and yours is one of the first pages I found that offered a wider view this issue.

    I think the key word you used is “listen.” I am all for women–my daughter–all people–asserting themselves when they need to or when someone needs to. More Americans need to learn how to do this. But I wish the Girl Scouts would temper this message with the “listen” message. Bossiness isn’t always a positive quality, as you state. I have had many bosses who were too damn bossy and who could have done a better job by listening occasionally. Anyway, I was doubly glad to read this, especially from someone who identifies as a conservative. (Actually, I did not even notice the title of your blog until I started writing this message; I just scrolled down to the post.) I am way, way liberal on most issues, though you won’t find a more fierce critic of American liberals than me. I can’t stand how people who identify as liberals and conservatives can’t listen to one another or can’t find agreement (or even partial agreement) on issues.

    But, putting aside any ideological differences we may have, I do wish they’d use your word (“listen”) when they talk about this issue. Perhaps as I read more about it, I will find that this is a secondary message. If so, good. If not, it would be worth them to revise their message a little.

    Nice post!

    • Dani

      Thank you Kilian! Wise words. I so appreciate you sharing your perspective… and I could not agree more with regard to the political spectrum.

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