If you’ve spent more than five minutes on Twitter the last couple of days, you’ve probably seen a growing movement to ban the word bossy from our lexicon when it comes to little girls. (Sorry, Kelis, at least you’ll always have your "Milkshake").
A partnership between Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandburg’s LeanIn.org and the Girl Scouts USA, BanBossy.com wants to make us think twice before calling a little girl bossy when she exudes strong leadership skills. Qualities that, in a little boy, would be expected, encouraged and celebrated.
“We too were called bossy as girls. Decades later, the word still stings, and we remember the sentiments it evoked: Keep your voice down. Don’t raise your hand. Don’t take the lead. If you do, people won’t like you,” Sandberg and her co-founder Rachel Thomas wrote in a post on LinkedIn.
With backing and participation from the likes of Beyoncé, Condoleezza Rice, Jennifer Garner and Jane Lynch, it’s safe to say that the "Ban Bossy" movement has hit a nerve…in a good way!
Ban Bossy, while a great conversation starter, is only the beginning. As a society, we’ve been programmed to teach children early on what is and isn’t acceptable behavior based on their gender. And frankly, a lot of it is flawed and potentially detrimental. So while we’re in the mood for banning stuff, here are 5 other antiquated things we shouldn’t say to children. Because words really do matter.
1. She's such a tomboy
If a little girl would rather wear ripped jeans and climb trees than host pretend tea parties in a tutu, that's ok! The word tomboy is rarely used in an uplifting way, and tells girls how they are and are not supposed to express themselves. Similarly, attacking little boys who show a keen interest in ballet or who show compassion for dolls has the same effect. Instead of labeling children with dated terms, why not describe those girls as adventurous and free spirited? Why not say that boy is compassionate and artistic? She could be the next Jane Goodall. He could be the next Mikhail Baryshnikov or being prepared to be an amazing teacher or a loving father years down the line.
2. Act like a "lady"
This is generally a charge to girls to be soft spoken, demure, pleasant, polite, and non-confrontational, to be a female with self-control who knows how and when to hold her tongue. On the contrary, we should empower girls to be assertive and confident, to be comfortable in their own skin and style, and even get a little mouthy and speak up when needed! It doesn't make her any less of a lady. In her “Life Is But a Dream” documentary, Beyonce admitted that early in her career, she kept quiet and made a lot of compromises as not to be perceived as “difficult.” She says it was her father who taught her that “business and being polite” don’t mix.
3. Girl Toys vs. Boy Toys
Take a walk down the toy aisle in any store and you’ll see it. Toys teach children very early what is "woman work" and "man work" and what experiences boys are permitted to have, but girls are not, and vice-versa. It took a 13-year-old girl from New Jersey to make Hasbro think twice about their all pink, all girl targeted Easy-Bake ovens. And a 7-year-old girl to remind Lego that little girls want to have adventures too! Boys and girls should be able to stroll down any aisle in the toy store and see toys that will unlock their imagination, regardless of gender. Companies like GoldieBlox, "a toy company out to inspire the next generation of female engineers," are doing some amazing things in this realm.
4. Slut shaming
By nature, we are ALL sexual beings. Yet while boys are encouraged to explore their sexuality, girls are discouraged and bombarded with the notion that they’ll be labeled a "slut" for doing the same. Media outlets piled a heap of criticism on an of-legal-age Miley Cyrus for her in-your-face sexuality, but virtually ignored young Justin Bieber’s sexual (and illegal) antics. As author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said, "We teach girls shame. Close your legs, cover yourself. We make them feel as though by being born female, they are already guilty of something. And so girls grow up to be women who cannot say they have desires." If we stop programming girls to be ashamed of their sexuality in their youth, perhaps they will grow up to be confident women who own and embrace it as adults.
5. That boy is being mean to you because he LIKES you!
Who came up with this lie? When you tell a little girl this, what you’re really telling her is that she should be willing to accept mean, degrading and abusive treatment all in the name of gaining the affection of a boy. It also sends a message to boys that little girls are less deserving of respect and that this abusive behavior is some twisted way of showing affection. Instead, lets teach boys to respect girls as equals, and teach girls that if a little boy is being mean to you, there's no excuse for it. Period!