Sheryl Sandberg wrong on 'bossy' ban

Story highlights

  • Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is launching a "Ban Bossy" campaign
  • Peggy Drexler: Abolishing the word is pointless; other words will take its place
  • She says banning the word seems to say bossy qualities are bad when they're not
  • Drexler: There is pride in being opinionated and motivated -- that is to say, bossy
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's latest headline-making action is a new "Ban Bossy" campaign, which aims at getting rid of the word "bossy." Her nonprofit group, LeanIn.org, has even teamed up with big names like Beyonce and Condoleezza Rice to produce a public service announcement to stop using the word "bossy."
In a weekend op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, co-written with Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chavez, Sandberg put the word at the center of the problem of unequal treatment of girls and boys, noting that girls who lead are more often described as "bossy" and "overly ambitious" while boys who lead are described as "strong" and "determined."
Sandberg raises valid points, and as a powerful woman her voice adds much to the ongoing conversation about why it's important to insist on equal treatment of, and expectations for, boys and girls, and men and women.
But while Sandberg isn't wrong that "bossy" is disproportionately directed at girls and women, and usually with negative connotations, the problem isn't the word itself, but how and when the word is used. Ban "bossy" and other words will spring up in its place: "Bitchy," "cold" and "aggressive" come to mind.
Peggy Drexler
Instead, the focus should be on how to reclaim the positive and indispensable nature of "bossiness," turning it from a word used to describe the domineering and unlikable to one used to describe those very necessary qualities for those who lead.