Recently when I met someone new, they did not like me. The reason for this was that I was 'bossy'. Just to clarify, I was in charge at work and told them to go and have a break, hardly tyrannical. However, this really upset me and has played on my mind- am I a bossy girl?
Overthinking things, as I tend to do, I started to consider the term 'bossy' and what exactly it means. Typing 'bossy' into Google images produces many results of angry looking women/ young girls, some of which then feature a cowering 'victim' of the bossiness but few of the results show men being 'bossy'.
Why is this?
It is because men and boys are not told to consider taking a position of authority, in a negative light. It has become so that the word 'bossy' has almost an exclusive usage towards women, especially young girls. Try to think of a boy/ man as bossy, the term just doesn't sound right. Yet, it should do when one considers its definition: 'Given to ordering others around, domineering'. That description could be associated with either a male or female but in reality it is not. When a woman takes a leadership role, every time she asserts this authority there is a paper-thin line between being a boss and being bossy. However, place a man in exactly the same position and he will be described as decisive or commanding.
The term has purely negative connotations; a woman who is giving too many orders to others. When a boy/ man oversteps the mark as leader there is a gravitas to the words one may use: controlling, domineering, overbearing. Yet people are so casual with their label of a girl/ woman as bossy. Perhaps it is because words criticising male authority are used less frequently, so one is acutely aware when they are used and their impact is noticeable. Whereas over usage of female equivalent words, has desensitised us to their derogatory nature.
Sometimes a person will be inappropriate with power that they are given (or may not have been given, they may just enjoy ordering people about). In which instance, there should be a term to describe their leadership style and which is freely used to describe both men and women. Both sexes are guilty of this trait but as a society, we punish women more frequently for it, and with less thought, than men.
Many children have a natural flare for being in control and as a society, generally speaking, we reward boys for showing early signs of leadership but when girls do this they are cautioned not to seem bossy and instantly there is a knock to their newly forming, fragile confidence that has not been bestowed on their male compatriots. This may be one of the reasons that traditionally less woman are seen in major authoritative positions.
One such organisation helping to change this negative image is Ban Bossy. They give tips and advice to young girls and influential figures, about how to grow up with strong and well-formed leadership qualities. Among other things, the site shares stories and testimonies and explains the psychological damage that labels like 'bossy' can do to young girls. I think it is important that boys receive this awareness as well and learn how to be good leaders from a young age but I believe girls are at an inherent disadvantage in this respect and their cause is in more need of promotion.
I hate the word bossy; it exists solely as an insult to women. I would happily see it cast into Room 101 along with the misconception that women cannot effectively take charge without resorting to micro managing.