Today I met with an amazing woman who is doing some brilliant work with young people locally. She is great, inspirational and focused, so I was surprised today to find her perplexed and down. We chatted, she told me about some feedback she had received from someone at the college at which she is studying. One of the comments that had upset her, was one stating she was ‘bossy’. Bossy?! Bossy?! Where to start! She is certainly assertive, she is certainly able to articulate her own view-point, she is certainly able to delegate responsibility to others in an appropriate manner, but I really take issue with the idea that she is bossy.
It got me thinking ‘how many men have I heard referred to as ‘bossy”? Silence for a moment…..sigh….uh none! The word ‘bossy’ is so ugly and speaks to me of ugly things. It is also a label I only see attached to women. A man is ‘assertive’ or ‘directive’ – positive attributes- a woman ‘bossy’. To me the label speaks volumes of a societal idea of how women should behave. Women should be demure, passive and unsure. Women should be indecisive, a little ignorant and placid. Men should be decisive and assertive.
It’s troubling when I work with young women who are practicing being grown-ups and role-playing what they think that means by doing that passive, ‘I couldn’t possibly make a decision’, ‘I just couldn’t say no to him’ thing. Heaven forbid they make a choice, say what they think or say ‘no thanks’ to giving a boy a blow-job in the public toilets! They don’t want to be weird – they want to fit in, and fitting in means aligning themselves to these stereotypes of what they think it means to be a woman. Key attributes celebrated in women seem to increasingly be returning to passivity and naivety.
With Tinie Tempah spewing lyrics which include ‘I just want to have…I’m on a mission, I don’t even want to kiss her, I mean I won’t even miss ya, When I’m done with ya’ (Frisky) is it any wonder that young women are seen as objects to be used, abused and discarded. And the voice of the woman? Silent. And the role of the woman? Compliant. It is so difficult to try to enable young women to make more informed life choices,to flourish and reach potential, when the messages bombarding them are squeezing them into ill-fitting, abusive moulds. Even the voices coming out of some of the church are, in my opinion, in this same vein of stifling stereotypes and inappropriate expectations. Women are to fulfil some 50s housewife image in order to succeed in what it means to be a ‘biblical women’ and to honour God.
With the seeming revival of all things princess, one who tends to be a damsel-in-distress wanting desperately to be liberated by an assertive, directive man, I hold my head in my hands (metaphorically you understand – I tried to type in this position but it proved clumsy!). I know bossy is one word. I know I probably think a little too hard. I know a messy quickie in the toilets is a bit of a leap from someone being called bossy, but I can see the links – views of women, roles of women, expectations of women. It is not until people become more at ease with women being able to be decisive, offer direction and be assertive, that we will be able to see young women practicing being grown-up in a healthy and free way. So I’m advocating the expulsion of ‘Little Miss Bossy’ and she can take that placid pappy princess with her!.