I have a confession to make. I have failed my daughters. I have tried so hard to be a strong female role model, to give them confidence and ambition and self-esteem. But I have let them down in one key way.
I call them bossy.
Apparently the word 'bossy' is a way of disparaging assertive girls and women. The argument goes: if a boy displays leadership skills, he's hailed as a leader, while if a girl shows the same qualities, she is dismissed as 'bossy'.And I am a mother who constantly calls her daughters 'bossy boots'. Because they are two and five years old. And small children are bossy. There's no getting away from it. They are little tyrants. 'READ BEAR HUNT AGAIN', 'TAKE YOUR JUMPER OFF' and 'ME WANT MILK' are just some of the orders barked at me every few minutes.
I'm pretty sure I'm not silencing my daughters' voices and trampling on their confidence by calling them 'bossy boots' and telling them to say please and ask nicely.
If I had a little boy, would I be admiringly calling him a 'leader'? No, of course I wouldn't. He would be a 'bossy boots' too. Anyone who issues orders in the unmistakable way of a toddler is definitely bossy. And they need this pointed out to them; to be told that it's not acceptable to boss people around all the time.
It's all part of the process of trying to teach our children that the world does not actually, despite what they might strongly believe, revolve around them. We try to teach them that ordering people around isn't the best way to get results; we try to teach them to be assertive while being polite.
I don't just call them 'bossy boots' - I also call them 'sugar pie', 'dumpling' and 'little bunny'. Sheryl Sandberg would tear her hair out if she could hear me.I know, it's probably not the most respectful way to speak to my children, whether they are male or female. I'll confess, I have also been known to call them 'wally-chops' and 'daft wombat'. I like to think I'm teaching them about the rich variety of the English language.
That's the very thing that makes the Ban Bossy campaign so utterly ridiculous (sorry, Beyoncé, I know you mean well). Language. You can't change a mindset by banning a word.
Particularly when you don't actually seem to know what it means, and what you're actually complaining about is the misuse of that word.
It's a confused campaign which gets even more tangled up when you consider that the Urban Dictionary says the word bossy 'describes a girl who is the alpha-female or the queen bee. She is gettin paid, stayin fly, and is the leader of her crew. Respected by all, loved by some.' Sounds pretty good, right?
So now we have campaigners also arguing that we should 'reclaim' the word bossy; women standing up and saying 'I'm bossy and proud!'
So is bossy good or bad? Now I'm really confused. Are you using the 'urban' definition or are you actually proud of being domineering? Or proud of being a strong woman, or proud of your leadership skills? Because these are different things.
Meanwhile, as parents of daughters, we now have to feel bad because we're calling them bossy. Never mind that we might be trying to give them the confidence to seize every opportunity in life, while attempting to teach them to be balanced human beings and respecting others.
So I'm sorry, Beyoncé, but I just don't think I can stop. Thanks to the 'Ban Bossy' campaign, I now notice every time I say 'bossy boots', but I can't stop it slipping out. My daughters ARE bossy, and stroppy, and determined, and strong.
In return, my daughters call me 'bossy boots' when I tell them to do anything. So it's kind of backfired on me. But I tell them: "Yes, I am a bossy boots. I have to be, because I'm a mummy. It's the law."
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