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What’s in a Word? Gender Stereotypes.

Posted March 13, 2014 by Cassandra Ehrhart in Leaders We Adore
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of the bestselling book, Lean In, has teamed up with the Girl Scouts to raise gender-inequality awareness and #banbossy.

In an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal, Sandberg shares her personal experience with being called bossy as a young girl:

When I was in junior high and running for class vice president, one of my teachers pulled my best friend aside to warn her not to follow my example: “Nobody likes a bossy girl,” the teacher warned. “You should find a new friend who will be a better influence on you.

The focal point of Sandberg’s campaign is to ban the word bossy. The hash tag, #banbossy, has gone viral on Facebook and Twitter, but the overarching message of the campaign is much more powerful than banning one word.

The word bossy is an adjective used to describe someone who is domineering, authoritarian, and even dictatorial. The problem Sandberg is trying to highlight is that when a woman decides to speak up, be assertive or ambitious, she is often referred to as ‘bossy’ by her peers.

This issue is largely caused by established culture norms. Children are actually quite similar before they’ve been conditioned to believe otherwise. In an article from The Guardian Jill Filipovic writes,

Kids, as it turns out, are much more alike than they are different, and many of the differences between men’s brains and women’s brains are attributable to gendered cultural stimuli. Segregating the way children play and socialize, and policing their behavior along gender lines, shapes cognitive development.

#BanBossy is a great place for women and men to start taking a stand against the outlets that deliver these messages. Luckily, Sandberg isn’t the only woman who’s speaking out against gender inequality. The Geena Davis Institute on Gender Media is an excellent source to view research and learn about the gender stereotypes that bombard men and women everyday via media, specifically children’s media.

So, I’ll leave you with a quote from a Forbes article written by Micheline Maynard that discusses the even bigger problem:

…women at all levels of society face discrimination. They face the threat of abuse. Their economic power still sadly trails that of men, despite the efforts by Sandberg and others to increase women’s authority. Those are far greater issues than a word that may or may not be hurtful.

While we all need to continue to #BanBossy, we must remember that this campaign is only a jumping off point for empowering women everywhere to pursue their ambitions and never back down.

About the Author

Cassandra Ehrhart

Cassandra Ehrhart is a results driven, public relations professional. She's currently a senior at Indiana University, Bloomington. This semester she's working for Coca-Cola as a Brand Ambassador, Author Solutions, Inc. as a Marketing Intern, and serving as the 2013-2014 Director of Communications for IU's Public Relations Student Society of America. She’s a bona fide dog lover from a small town in Indiana. There's not much that makes her happier than her niece and red wine. Cassandra is passionate about the mission of CGN and is proud to contribute her knowledge as a rising career girl.