You’ve likely seen the latest effort (actually started last year but re-emerging again) by Facebook COO, Sheryl Strandberg, Girl Scout’s CEO Anna Maria Chavez and now gaining steam through the support of some of Hollywood’s elites and other notables promoting something that has gone almost unassailed, “Ban Bossy” campaign. They’ve directed this toward young elementary school girls who have been called bossy and, as a result have been reluctant to assume leadership roles because no one wants to be knows as bossy.
I understand the sentiment. And, as I’ve written in other DadPad posts (see the archives on posts related to the damage our words can do to our kids or equally have the ability to build them up), I believe words have power when used by the tongues of men (see the book of James in the Bible). We don’t really believe or adhere to the words of that old childhood ditty, “sticks and stones”. Words can harm. So, calling people names, especially young girls and boys is never something you’d hear me support.
But, when I heard about this campaign, as well meaning as it might sound, I just shook my head. Another example of a culture that’s trying to do the right thing by promoting the wrong issue. The truth is, words are amoral. Words are tools, like guns. You may not ascribe to the adage that “guns don’t kill, people do”. Yes, it’s true that if we never had a gun, i.e., had they never been invented, we wouldn’t have any shootings from gun fire occur. But, we DO have guns. Playing theoretical games is great for talk shows and cable television news program content but does little for dealing with the reality we face each day. So, are there elements of “gun control” that we should consider? I believe so. But the ultimate responsibility for the use of a weapon, be it something that fires bullets or words from our dictionaries, is ours. People. Animals don’t use guns or words. They don’t have the capacity to use either. They are instinctual. The ability for us to think and reason separates us from animals. And, unfortunately the inability of people to use things like weapons and words responsibly is much more an issue of that which exists within each of us than it is about getting rid of every word or weapon that is used irresponsibly.
Should we do away with sex because pornographers use it to debase and demean women? Let’s get rid of golf clubs because they’ve been used as weapons by notable people like Tiger Woods for something other than golfing.
To me, this whole campaign is a continuation of a nation that wants to address the symptoms but never wants to deal with the REAL underlying issue. In this case, the issue isn’t that young boys (or girls) are calling girls “bossy”. It’s that young girls and boys are not being taught how to conduct themselves in a way that builds others up and shows humility and love toward another. Maybe, it’s because they don’t see it modeled at home very well. I wonder how the mom or dad of a young boy or girl who tells another she’s “bossy” conducts themselves and comments about others who show “leadership” qualities? Perhaps we would find a strong correlation between how students treat each other and how they are taught at home to talk and behave. But, that’s hard work and would mean that we would have to take the blame, as people. Instead, let’s just start pulling words out of the dictionary that can be used in a way that might hurt another. For that matter let’s start campaigns to stop using words like, idiot, overbearing, stupid, fatty, bug-eyes, and every other possible word that a person can say to another that would hurt another. That’s the logical conclusion to things like this.
I believe that Ms. Strandberg and her followers have their heart in the right place (or will choose to believe that for now). They want to see young girls emerge as leaders and not be inhibited by the words of another. I get that. I would have been upset as a father had I heard a young person speak poorly to my daughter (or son, by the way). I’m not an advocate of children calling each other names.
And, on the other hand, I’m also not willing to side with the opposite reaction to these kinds of things, those that just say “kids will be kids”. Sure, there are things that kids do that we will NEVER be able to avoid. Why is it that from the moment a child is born we never have to teach them to do wrong, say nasty things or be selfish? You shouldn’t have to think hard about this. It reflects that which we know deep down (and read in the Bible) to be true about our own character and those of every human being that has ever lived–we are fallen creatures. We possess an innate ability to sin, i.e., do things to ourselves and each other that are intended to tear down and harm. We don’t have to teach others to harm. We must train them to do good. And, that is no more true than in our homes. God’s intention was that parents would raise their children to love Him, love them and love others. There is nothing more influential to a child than his or her parents–for good or evil.
So, I believe that no matter how well intended this silly campaign is to “ban bossy” from the vocabulary of children toward other children, it’s one more distraction from the real issue. It’s similar to the ardent argument made to eliminate the unborn child in the face of “choice”. If we called it what it was, i.e., murder, maybe we wouldn’t be as concerned about the woman’s “right” to have sex without the responsibility associated with that act. No. We would rather change the terms, fight for the lesser issue. Why? So that we don’t have to do the hard work and train young women and men to conduct themselves in a way that doesn’t diminish sex to be simply an act of pleasure that we should be able to engage in whenever we want, with whomever we want without the consequences that may come, including pregnancy. So, we come up with abortion. That’s the simpler answer. Kill the result of the action instead of fighting against and teaching about the action itself. In a similar way, we promote getting rid of a word because we don’t want to do the harder work of teaching children that words can build up or damage, they can choose and learn that it’s not appropriate to speak to another that way.
One last thing…sometimes little girls are bossy! And, they SHOULD be called out, in a respectful way (yeah, right, a little boy is going to know how to do that). Maybe we should focus on helping young girls who exhibit REAL leadership and desire to be leaders in the marketplace understand that in the midst of being leaders, they will have to deal with naysayers, jealousy and envy. Adversity always separates the real leaders from pretenders. Use this opportunity to help them see if they are leaders or just BOSSY.
Don’t eliminate words, teach right and wrong behaviors-first at home and then at school and other environments. Words don’t hurt people…People do.