Her hand clutches her hip. Her chin held high. He words leave her lips with force. “This is how we are going to play this game,” she asserts.
Her friends fall into place, but I hear one of them whisper to another. “She’s so bossy.”
I immediately cringe.
That word hits me like an age-old spear through the gut.
I was ‘bossy’ too. (Still am)
Nobody likes a bossy girl.
All the moms agree. Bossy girls are the worst.
On the same day, I see my boy in the side yard. Barking out orders about how to hit the ball. Telling all the neighborhood kids the rules and strictly enforcing his right as guardian of his realm to assert his dominance.
My husband’s chest swells. All the dads agree. The kid’s a leader. A strong force on the field.
I don’t have to spell out this double standard.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t until this conversation came up with me and few of my best friends that I realized how crucial it was to debunk it. Friend One has a daughter the same age as mine. She’s also dealing with a ‘bossy’ girl. We were stressed about how we could teach our girls to delegate rather than boss others around when Friend Two stepped in and asked, “What’s wrong with being bossy?”
Friend One and I turned to her wide-eyed and explained how while our girls ultimately got their way, they were clearly viewed as dictators.
Friend Two took a breath and said, “So maybe one day, she’ll be the boss. Is that so bad?”
Friend One and I looked at each other and smiled. Damn. Friend Two was right.
Now, while Friend One and I are stay-at-home moms navigating motherhood with ‘only’ the experience of being moms, Friend Two is a working mom in man’s world. She is a leader in her field, fighting for her place among men. She is a stringent force in her workplace, and goes out of her way to raise Strong Girls in underprivileged communities in the area. And while as a kid (I’ve known her since we were preteens) she was more reserved, she has become a fierce advocate for women’s rights. She knows how to get things done.
She took a word that we, as girls, were afraid of, and made it into a word of empowerment.
We too easily fall into the stigma of certain phrases. If we have to change them, so be it. As a writer, I know the power of editing. Let’s say we are at a seven-year old’s birthday party. The girls are loud. I know the way that people will view the noisy situation if I describe it as raucous squeals. They’ll plug their ears. But if I tell them about the harmonious laughter, they’ll smile. It’s an easy fix. We simply change the connotation.
So the next time I hear that my girl is ‘bossy,’ I’ll hear it as my girl is being a leader. I’ll support her for taking initiative and know that someday she might take that strength to build up not only herself, but all those around her.
Let her take the reins. Let her be the boss. Let her Wild Heart lead her because we know it beats strong and fierce. She knows how to get things organized when others don’t. Let that be a strength to her as friend, not a weakness. Encourage her to tackle every situation like a Boss, because someday, she may just run the world.