Tuesday, March 11, 2014

BanBossy... and Everything Else

So a recent phenomenon has risen from the depths of the feminist movement, now riding the title "BanBossy." I'm always skeptical of media hyped attempts to raise awareness of different activist movements, but this really takes the cake. BanBossy is the most ridiculous of any censorship attempt I've given witness to since I was born.

First, let me be clear. I support equal rights and representation for all people. This does not mean I think everyone is inherently equal, but that I think that a program of "equality of opportunity" should be promoted in any case where it is applicable, within reason. That can be ambiguous, but clarifying what I mean isn't important to what I'm talking about here. Let's examine what's become of the BanBossy phenomenon.

The BanBossy movement is being sponsored by the Girl Scouts Organization and by COO Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook. This being said, one can easily imagine that the movement will gain much recognition. This in itself is dangerous, because such a viral, direct movement can completely jump the hurdles of rationality or critical thinking. This is upheld when I see that, on the BanBossy website, there are many claims, but no peer-reviewed, scientific evidence to back up the claims and statistics. This immediately hits me as being something that is untrustworthy and nothing more than activist hype.

*Note, after this post was made, a friend of mine alerted me to the fact that one of the most pushed stats -- that up to a third of girls are afraid to become leaders out of fear of being seen as bossy, or something like that --  actually does have a source. It's from a 2008 survey... by the Girl Scouts. Incredible.*

Beyond that, it actually doesn't take much to realize that this whole movement is very ineffective in terms of practicality, although it could definitely change some individual minds. With that in mind, what is the ultimate goal of BanBossy?

I found this a difficult question to be a difficult question to answer. The BanBossy website, which I refuse to link to, only gives links to Facebook and Twitter, saying how you can promise to "BanBossy." What does this practically do, however? Is the goal to simply change minds -- to raise awareness? Are there any intentions for policy implementations? I find it ridiculous to imagine that as punishment for calling a girl "bossy," Billy is just going to lose his pretzels and juice time after school. Or perhaps we could put a "misogynist" label on his permanent record. That'd be effective, right?

Another, more trivial question is: what if somebody really is bossy? Where do we draw the line before we decide that somebody is being unreasonable in calling a person bossy? More importantly, who decides where that line is drawn? I feel that with the intense support of celebrities and international organizations, the role of this assignment is being taken away from the educator, and more to the uneducated masses who will ride the wave of anything that sounds supportive and kind-hearted.

Or perhaps, "BIG SISTER"
Let me give an example. I were to assert that BanBossy is, well, bossy, am I proving their point, or am I raising a legitimate complaint? You can't really tell, because it largely depends on what side of the argument you're on. If such a debate relies purely on values, and not on any extensive, empirically verifiable data, then there's not much of a point in having the argument, is there?

Now I can go on and on asking these questions to raise criticism about this movement, but I think the most important issue to address here is censorship. Is it the answer? Should we not, instead, encourage women to feel proud of themselves as a counter to being accused of being bossy? In fact, the direct impact of the word might suggest that the individual is simply asserting herself as a boss, not a follower. What would Beyoncé have to argue with that?

The problem with attempting to censor specific words in our language is the fact that language is very liquid. It can't be controlled because every day, new words and new phrases are being conceived of to generate the same impact or to suggest the same ideas and concepts. That's what the beauty of language is. The only solution that was ever suggested was an Orwellian one -- that we should create a dictionary of approved words by the government, and if anyone were to deviate from those specific words, they could be punished for Thought Crime. This dictionary could be updated whenever needed to delete any word that could somehow suggest an idea or concept that would be threatening to the government or the establishment thereof.

What kind of society are we leading ourselves towards? Most importantly, what kind of fools are we to try to suggest to ourselves that something so fluid like language can be controlled to have a socially positive outcome? Now, I understand that the supporters of this movement have suggested that their aim is not to simply ban a word, but to ban the thoughts that discourage women from being leaders. This being said, not only is this aim incredibly vague and impossible to grasp, but it further proves my point. This is not an issue of banning a word; this is an issue of suggesting to people that unrealistically attempting to ban a word or thought is the best resolution to this problem.

Against my better judgments, however, I am going to allow all comments through for this particular post (although it'll still say it requires approval), which is a change from my others. The reason is to prove a point, but not the point that people will think. I want my potential readers and seldom commenters to feel the freedom of uncensored speech and criticism. I don't care if you call me a bitch, an idiot, or even the scare word of the week, "bossy." I have far outgrown the limitations of immature rebuttals to simple detraction. That being said, I want to see what complaints can be brought to the table against my comments here, both legitimate and illegitimate.

So as always, thank you for reading, and I look forward to any feedback. Oh, but don't forget:


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  1. First of all, thank you for explaining, essentially, a lot of my shared complaints about BanBossy. I was thinking of some similarities to Orwell and Big Brother, too; good to see that's a pretty obvious thing.

    I also commend you for keeping your cool over something that anyone could blow up over due to its ridiculousness :P.

    Another thing that I thought which you brought up: why try to ban the word bossy when there are plenty of other words that hurt women? Some, a whole lot worse. And who or what actually gets to decide what it means to be "bossy"? God forbid we have to mandate a policy or law which lays out the criteria for bossiness in order to figure that out.

    "Should we not, instead, encourage women to feel proud of themselves as a counter to being accused of being bossy? In fact, the direct impact of the word might suggest that the individual is simply asserting herself as a boss, not a follower. "

    Again I say, thank you.

    The movement behind BanBossy is completely missing the point of its own mission: "Encourage girls to lead."
    A leader who uses the coward's way to get what they want is not a leader at all.

    #BanBanBossy indeed.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Mykala. I think a lot of your complaints were shared by me in my post, and I'm glad that I'm not the only one sitting back thinking "how did we get to this?"

      Incoming addendum in my original post. Be prepared.

  2. It is probably no surprise to you, Alexis, that I agree completely: this is ridiculous. Like most other ridiculous attention-groping "movements" it is based on good intentions: helping girls to feel it is okay to be assertive and to reach for success without fear that they will be labled as, somehow, un-girlish. But it is an unabashed attempt at thought-control. They want to "ban" a word and they are not afraid to say it out loud. It makes you wonder if anyone has actually read 1984 at all. It is creepy and it is foolish. But I think this one will crumble on its own. At least, I hope so. If I had a daughter, I would want her to have every opportunity my sons have to be successful, but not at the expense of the strangling of language and of freedom of expression.

    1. Hey, you never know, there could always be something we're not getting, which is why I encouraged disagreement. My friend Val sent me a text at some 5:00 AM saying she has counted seeing the same segment on BanBossy on ABC around 24 times in the same day. I fear this may be getting too popular.

      Thank you for visiting my blog by the way. I know most of it isn't really your cup of tea but I appreciate your feedback. Come back soon!


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