The Gendered Nature of “Bossy”

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linguistic pulse

Recently, public figures like Sheryl Sandberg and Ariana Huffington have been calling attention to the labeling of young girls’ behaviors and particularly how the labels are often differently applied to young girls but not young boys.

In particular the word bossy is one that these women and others have pointed to as particularly gendered (that is applied differently to people of different genders), leading them to call for a ban on applying the word bossy to young girls. Their reasoning seems sound. If we do in fact use this label more for the actions of young girls than for young boys it would seem that we are socializing young girls out of behaviors that may one day help them be leaders, implicitly telling them “you’re not allowed to lead”. 

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