As a woman (and former little girl) there’s something that I want men (and boys) to know. Women are very sensitive to being called “bossy.” Why? Well, because so many of us have been called that all our lives. Bossy is what ‘girls’ are called when we stand up for ourselves, speak out, or have good ideas for how to organize something. Calling any of us women or girls bossy is a tool for shutting us up and shutting us down.
When you engage in name-calling (no matter the name), you immediately put the other person on the defensive. As a result, they won’t listen to what you have to say, even if your point is valid. If you call me bossy, I won’t stop to wonder whether I could possibly make my point in a better way or whether I’m trying to take charge of something that’s none of my business. If you call me bossy, I will just get pissed and think, “How dare you!” This is a natural and appropriate reaction to generations of oppression against passionate women.
But, when I say you shouldn’t call us bossy, I don’t mean that you shouldn’t call us out.
If I’m hurting your feelings, I want to know that. Also, If you have a good idea that we should consider, then I’m open to hearing it. If my behavior offends you, let’s talk about it. Talk about the behavior, not about my ability (or should I say “lack thereof”) to think in a “big picture” way with innovative ideas and a passion to see them implemented. That is not up for negotiation. It will never be up for negotiation. My zeal for organizing and efficiency should not and will not be tamed.
But my method of communicating my zeal can always use some fine-tuning. If you erase the word “bossy” from your vocabulary, then I will listen to what you have to say. (Seriously, never use the word bossy again.) Instead, say, “Hey, friend, when you told me what to do right now it made me feel bad. It made me feel like you were trying to be in charge of me when I already know how to be in charge of myself.” Then, I will tell you why I thought my idea was way cooler and you can tell me why you disagree. Ultimately, we’ll decide, together, where we go from there.
This is what the dismantling of the Patriarchy looks like, one word at a time.
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