Who's afraid of the big 'bossy' word

Who's afraid of the big 'bossy' word

Two weeks ago, I took a quiz to find out which Game of Thrones character I am.

Surprise, surprise: I got Cersei Lannister, the bossy, cunning queen of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, who wonders why her dad can't see that she's the best one to rule them all in the popular fantasy TV series.

I laughed at the result.

Bossy is a word that gets thrown at me a lot.

Now, I'm reading that former Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg is trying to ban the word, with the help of a stellar group like the Girl Scouts of America, pop star Beyonce, actress Jennifer Garner, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg and former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

It's not just to take care of delicate female feelings.

In a public service announcement video for the #banbossy female empowerment campaign released over the weekend, fittingly enough for International Women's Day, the stars say: "By middle school, girls are less interested in leadership than boys and that's because they worry about being called bossy."

Added Sandberg: "We need to recognise the many ways we systematically discourage leadership in girls from a young age - and instead, we need to encourage them."

I get it.

Bossy, feminist, pushy, stubborn - I've heard these words used on me whenever I have to stand in for my boss and argue about a story or denounce my male bosses for their insensitive remarks about women sometimes.

Some words like "feminist", I say sure, out and proud.

Some inherently negative words like "bossy" and "pushy" make me scratch my head.

"Am I not just doing my job?" I wonder. "Is ambition and having an opinion wrong?"

My friends call me bossy too - so much so that when I turned 29 last year, they made me a "Baws" headband.

Sure, I'm mouthy. But I have to be. I'm not even 1.5m tall and people literally bump into me because they don't see me.


How do I not get pushed around?

Other women who've succeeded at the game of work without being called bossy are probably shaking their heads right now.

Girl, they say, use your feminine wiles to get things done, and the men won't know what hit them.

To that, I reply, sure. That whole "act cute" thing works.

Until the proverbial poop hits the fan, it's an hour to deadline, and no one has any time for scheming.

So my indignant self has chosen to resist feeling sorry and victimised and that I should give up.

A woman who's had the word bossy used on her knows that sometimes, the word "bitch" can't be far behind.

And where, exactly, have we got in stamping that word out from popular culture? Nowhere.

So much so that women in pop are now reclaiming the word for themselves. Lily Allen's chorus in her recent single Hard Out Here -

"It's hard out here for a bitch" - is the unofficial anthem for any woman who's been told she needs to shut up.

US actress-comedienne Tina Fey started the ball rolling with the word bossy, titling her 2011 autobiography Bossypants, because her mantra is to "do your thing and don't care if they like it".

So here's my suggestion, bossypantsoftheworld: Own it. Own your bossiness, your pushiness, your mouthiness.

Why bother banning the word if it's going to be bandied about anyway, the way "bitch" still is?

As Beyonce puts it in the campaign video: "I'm not bossy - I'm the boss."

Only a true chauvinist won't be able to see the value of women rising up through the ranks.

We can multitask. We offer the perspective of half of the global population, the half which is increasingly more educated and who increasingly has more purchasing power.

We're big on empathy too, by which I mean we don't start panicking when someone - man or woman - starts crying about that deeply personal thing that's going on in their lives that has been affecting them at work.

We're not bossy.

We are, to use a friend's term for it, bawesome.

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