Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Girl Scout's Ban Bossy Campaign

Last month, my daughter talked me into volunteering with Girl Scouts as a Junior Troop leader. This month, my book group selection is Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. Now, Girl Scouts of the USA have a Ban Bossy campaign. I should lean in and jump at the opportunity to wax poetically about how I too was called bossy and that it held me back. Except, I was one of those annoying girls when faced with a leadership vacuum, I stepped up-- just like I did when my daughter asked me to help.

If a label is going to get in your way, you've got bigger problems.

Maybe I should have let it fester and grow into some kind of discontent worthy of demanding others to ban the behavior? The women chiming in on this campaign are wildly successful in their fields-- you can see them in the video on the Girl Scout site where things like this are said,

"Pushy, Stubborn, Bossy. When I was growing up, I was called bossy. Being labeled something matters. Words matter. Let's just ban the word bossy. Listen to your own voice. There are no limits. Its ok to be ambitious. Let's ban bossy. Join us to ban bossy." 

I'm struggling to not want to throw a cream pie at this. I get the concern about girl's having self-esteem drops, but I can't chalk it up to name calling.

Consider what young girls begin to hear about their body, looks, development. Even Sandberg brought up the client who wanted her to meet his son. And this is in America. Try being around Saudi men in Bahrain wearing jeans and a t-shirt with your husband; they think you're a prostitute.

There is so much more to the self-esteem gap than the name bossy, although its probably not as comfortable to talk about.

I wonder about young women especially because I'm raising one and because I see the college aged women in my new hometown doing things like peeing in the streets and having sexual encounters on bank machines (that one was on the web thanks to a kind passerby's widget recording). These encounters were fueled by alcohol which likely bolsters false confidence, but it puts the thought into my head of why? Apparently not enough women are attracted to corporate boardrooms or aping male behavior.

My frustrations with the Lean In book, for all that was good in it, was that it encouraged women to play at a man's game without raising the point that we need a new game, new rules, and better standards for all of us. A ban feels enormously misguided in the face of the need to educate women about so much more, and please, call me bossy.

(Just in, this is the kind of news that bites into the core of the problems women face--a lopsided system that fails the victim... a letter to Harvard from a victim of sexual assault.)

 When a little boy asserts himself, he's called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy.” Words like bossy send a message: don't raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys—a trend that continues into adulthood. Together we can encourage girls to lead.

As part of Ban Bossy, Girl Scouts of the USA and LeanIn.org have teamed up in partnership with Lifetime television to create a PSA featuring BeyoncĂ©, Jane Lynch, Condoleezza Rice, Diane von Furstenberg, Garner and others that points out that girls are discouraged from taking leadership roles because of labeling and name-calling.

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