My entire life I have been fortunate enough to have strong female role models. Women who are independent, intelligent, and love selflessly with every ounce of their being. Still to this day, some of the people I respect and idolize the most are women with the wonderful “take it or leave it” attitude; exemplified by a strong sense of self and the fewest amount of fucks given about what anyone thinks. We all know them, we all want to be friends with them, but mainly we all would give anything to be even a fraction as badass as them.
While catatonically scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, the YouTube video for a new PSA from Girl Scouts of America caught my attention. I was a part of Girl Scouts for over a decade and it contributed largely to the person I am today…but mostly I’m a huge fan of their cookies, so I pressed play.
Here is the Ban Bossy message verbatim because I stole it from the website:
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.
I began to think about my childhood and if I had ever been labeled as “bossy.” I knew that there was a point when I began to not speak up in class, became less assertive, and cared less about expressing my opinion, however, I wasn’t sure of the exact timeline of events. I didn’t know if there was anything specific that prompted this transformation or if I had just gradually chilled out more and stopped caring. As always though, I was thinking pretty confidently that this obviously did not apply to me and I must be an exception. I decided to ask my mom because no one on this earth would know better. This is what she said:
So first of all, I was listening to some of the Ban Bossy videos and I have changed my mind: I don’t think they should ban bossy, I think girls should embrace it. Being bossy is good. We should change the meaning so if someone says they are bossy, the teachers, coaches and women in their lives should say, “That’s right, every one needs a boss but lets talk about compromise.” Bossy girls just need to learn management skills.
As for you, you were born to be in charge. Always the first in line, the first to volunteer, the first to venture out. In preschool, you helped organize snack, opened everyone’s juice boxes, tied everyone’s shoes, and made sure everyone had a pencil or supplies. Bossy? Maybe some kids thought so because they wanted to do it themselves and when someone does it for you, it can be annoying. But mostly at even 3 you could see the big picture and knew what it would take to accomplish any task.
By the time you were in second grade, some of your natural instincts had been squashed. You hesitated or needed permission to do things and taking charge wasn’t acceptable and conformity set in. (Remember the White underwear phenomenon)
But I do believe the final blow came in 4th grade, when you had to play at the big kids recess and no matter what you tried to do, you were stopped, berated and threatened. You weren’t bullied like your brother was but for a kid who wanted to take on the world that year was the beginning of your shrinking violet stage because in the world there would always be someone bigger, older, and smarter that you feel deserves to be in charge rather that you.
Even today, you have amazing ideas and then the doubt sets in. Four-year-old Claire would have done ANYTHING! Today’s Claire…She’ll do some things but need a quorum to do it.
I truly believe you are the most amazing human who is destined to do amazing things.
Well, shit. I’m not the exception. My life has been fully effected by this “bossy” label and I could have not been more unaware. What happened to this spunky in-charge four year old and how do we get her back?
First let’s address this “White Underwear Phenomenon”:
The year was 1999. There was a girl in my class who was pretty, tan, had older siblings, and wore only the best bell-bottom denim pants in existence. It goes without saying that she was the coolest second grader to ever bless the James Foster Elementary playground. She only wore white underwear and you were considered existentially lame if you were repping your favorite cartoons or any sort of design. So for an entire year all the girls of Room 28 stuck to a strict white only policy, set forth by said mean girl. Confused mothers everywhere soon found themselves at Target purchasing their daughters new white undies.
At seven years old, my confidence and instinct to lead had already begun to fade away. I was a child with so much potential! Who knows what I would be doing today if I could have just confidently rocked my Disney princess chonies like every other seven-year-old girl on the planet.
My mother’s honest words were tough to read, but inspired me to make a change and try to bring that prematurely ambitious four-year-old back to life. She’s right about everything (as moms always are). I step to the side and let others lead, silencing my voice and ideas constantly, because the majority of people may not agree. When the odds were against me, my natural instinct to lead was tossed to the side and I did everything in my power to blend in with the crowd. I highly encourage everyone to ask their parents about their individual “bossy” story; I think it can be the cause of some major self-revelations.
I am taking the pledge to ban the negative connotation of the word bossy. I am taking the pledge to no longer let the judgements of others cause me to doubt myself. I am taking the pledge to encourage young women to be creative, speak their mind, take control of opportunities that are presented, and wear whatever color underwear they want, dammit! As always, I think Beyoncé says it best: “I’m not bossy. I’m a boss.”
Ps. Thank you Mom for being such a kind and strong female role model! Love you!