When you call my daughter bossy, you might be potentially silencing a young women
Guess who gets called bossy a lot? Five-year-old girls. In particular, my five-year-old girl. And the ones calling her bossy? Usually they’re adults.
Sure, she has specific ideas about how games should be played. She loves to be a leader. She likes to choose which characters everyone gets to be, or make up rules about how things should be done. But I’ve also noticed that boys exhibiting the same behaviour aren’t usually labelled as “bossy.”
Whether that’s because expectations of girls' and boys' behaviour are different, or because girls generally are more bossy, I don’t know. I do know I’m sick of it.
I'm sick of how the word bossy is often thrown around, synonymous with other words that refer to someone having a commanding presence, like leader, loud or opinionated. I guess you could say my problem stems from the incorrect use of the word.
Girls who take on a leadership role are often told that they are being “bossy” and the negative connotations of the term suggest that bossy behaviour is bad. This negative association may lead to the conclusion that if a young girl wants to be liked, they should be less bossy. This teaches girls to be a little quieter and to back away from leadership roles out of fear of not fitting in.
And since a five-year-old isn't known for tactfulness, this impossible expectation can set them up for the confusing choice between being considered bossy or a pushover.
My approach: appreciate the leadership qualities that so many girls and women show without making them feel badly about it.