A bunch of aggrieved women led by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg launched a high-profile “public service campaign” this week to “ban” the word “bossy.” Sandberg, Beyonce, Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham and first lady Michelle Obama have joined femme forces to combat this phantom menace. In their rarefied world, it’s a “very negative experience” and a crippling act of gender discrimination to be called bossy. “This isn’t a word we should use,” Sandberg complained on National Public Radio.
To which I say: Oh, buck up.
The key to female empowerment doesn’t lie with wheedling word police. It lies with girls and women finding the courage to speak and act on their beliefs and principles without regard to their detractors’ opinions.
My message to girls, including my own 13-year-old daughter, is not: “Ban Bossy.” My message is: Be Bossy. And that means first being the boss of you.
Here is my own little story. Over the past 20 years, I have gained a reputation as mouthy, aggressive, overbearing and, yes, bossy. I’ve barreled my way through interviews on “The View” and the “Today” show, arguing over Joy Behar and Matt Lauer. I’ve battled with some of the biggest blowhards in politics, media and Hollywood.
But I wasn’t always this way. In grade school, I was shy to the point of verbal paralysis. I failed a speech class because I was terrified to stand up in class with 30 sets of eyes staring at me. I was a doormat and a wallflower, not because I was afraid of being labeled “pushy” or “bossy,” but because I was afraid of owning my own thoughts, beliefs and work.
What changed? In college, I got sick of other people — especially, ahem, of bossy liberal white women — pretending to speak for me. I learned to say “no” when everyone around me expected and demanded “yes.” I learned to cut my own path and not give a damn whether anyone followed. I wasn’t held back by how others perceived me. I was held back by how I perceived myself.
Sandberg and her friends think “bossy” (which she calls “the other b-word”) is worth ginning up an entire media campaign over — even enlisting White House officials and cabinet members. But women with unpopular ideas and opinions face a daily barrage of unprintable c-words, f-words, s-words and w-words that are far worse. If we launched media campaigns to ban every ugly word that comes our way, we wouldn’t have time to get anything else done.
It is a blessing to be able to make a living exercising the First Amendment. It would be an absolute waste of those precious free speech rights for any woman to pull her punches for fear of, gasp, an adjective.
Girls, here’s the truth about the Ban Bossy campaign: It’s being spearheaded by a privileged group of elite feminists who have a very vested interest in stoking victim politics and exacerbating the gender divide. They actually encourage dependency and groupthink while paying lip service to empowerment and self-determination. They traffic in bogus wage disparity statistics, whitewashing the fact that what’s actually left of that dwindling pay gap is due to the deliberate, voluntary choices women in the workforce make. This includes which industries women enter, how long they stay, what levels they attain, and when and how they decide to start a family.
The supposedly abhorrent unequal outcomes that “progressive” women want to eradicate don’t always come down to sexism. It’s not just a gender thing. It’s a freedom thing.
I want young girls and young ladies to know that whatever adversity you might face, there has never been a better time to be an American woman. You have more educational, economic and entrepreneurial opportunities than generations of women before you. You have more flexibility, more choices and more ways to spread your messages and make yourself heard than ever before.
Don’t just be bossy. Be your own boss. When I started two Internet companies, I didn’t ask for anyone’s permission. I didn’t let anyone stop me. I didn’t wallow in self-pity about the odds stacked against me or the derision that greeted me. And when times were tough, I didn’t blame The Man. I woman-ed up.
Gals, you don’t need the sensitivity brigade to protect you from criticism or attacks. You need to learn from them and rise above them, not censor them. And if anyone tells you to tone it down, do the opposite: Crank it up and don’t look back. That’s an order!