Lent Blog #6: I’m Bossy…Or am I just confident? (And all the other mixed signals society sends girls)

You should all be aware of the “Ban Bossy” campaign video that came out this week by now (and if you’re not, I put the link at the bottom of the post for your viewing convenience – Enjoy). The whole purpose of this campaign is to impact the way in which the world perceives (powerful) women, but I think just women in general. While I ordinarily tend to shy away from videos and campaigns like this – my time at Smith, filled with seemingly endless “female injustice” discussions and “fix the disparages for women” campaigns,” was four years too long – I think this battle is worth fighting, and here’s why. Statistically, women in the workforce get paid less than their male coworkers, and often have to choose between having a family and career advances (many women choosing to put off having a family to “get ahead.”When women stand up for themselves, or are assertive, or, God forbid, confident, they are perceived instead as bossy, whereas if their male cohort behaves identically, they are not bossy but confident. 

This isn’t to say that all men exhibit this type of judgment, and all women are subjected to this kind of undeserved scrutiny. The cultural milieus are such that unfortunately, traditional expectations for women still exist, and are even more prominent in certain professions (and calls). The corporate world is not excluded from this “Bossy vs. Confident” debate – the church, its very own world for leaders, can be just as difficult a place for women. 

Up until college, I had no idea that women could be ordained leaders in the church, as we had never had an ordained minister of the word and sacrament who was also a woman. The ordained and installed minister at my home church is definitely NOT bossy; she is wonderfully confident, and and has a command presence that is pastoral, approachable and radiates “I’ve got this.” But I’ve gotten the exact opposite many times, both in seminary, and in my pastoral experiences – I’ve been called a false prophet, been called a devil worshipper, a temptress, and my personal favorite, been asked why I’ve desired to go against my call as a wife and mother. Most of the resistance has come from men who come from more conservative religious traditions – traditions who view the role of women as wives and mothers, as submissive to their husbands, not equal partnerships. Confidence, therefore, is a rather touchy subject, and a call to ministry is certainly out of the question.

Over the last week, I have watched the “Ban Bossy” video a few times, and each time, I wish that a video like this had existed when I was younger, when I was seeking encouragement to build confidence, when I was called “bossy,” and afterward, when I just simply kept my mouth shut. Having worked with many young girls in similar situations, my heart breaks for young women of today, who are stuck between a rock and a hard place; society has come such a long way thanks to incredible women like Conde Rice, HRC, and the like, who have fought for women’s rights, have pioneered and stuck it out when they were called “bossy,” when in reality, they were just being confident. (Although, they too were likely being bossy at times – we all have bossy times – we’re not perfect!) But yet, we still have such a long way to go for the young women I taught skiing several years ago, who feel peer pressure to be silent, or to fight far too hard to have their voices heard, and when they are heard, they are “too assertive,” or “domineering,” or “intimidating.” I long for there to be a day when we can all just be who we are – what a utopian concept, indeed. 

The “Ban Bossy” campaign seeks to encourage young girls and women to change their mindsets from believing that achievement and confidence is negative; working hard, having self-confidence and showing it in the right way is not something to be ashamed from. Jesus told his disciples that they were the light of the world, and that they shouldn’t hide their light (aka their gifts) under a bushel basket, but rather to put it on the lampstand so that it could give light to all the house. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14-16, NRSV) It is our scriptural imperative, not just our moral imperative to teach our young women that our gifts and talents come from heaven, and are worthy of being confident about. Young women shouldn’t be accused of being bossy simply because they are talented, or equally as eloquent as someone else. Pride is one thing, but confidence is entirely another, and Christ commands us to not let our gifts be hidden under a bushel, but to let it shine like a light for the whole room to be illuminated. 

Confidence is contagious, and has the power to make another’s day, whereas bossiness is a disease and can ruin a reputation. As a church culture, and as a society (but I think I can, and we can start with our own contexts, wherever we are, and I’m in the church), we have the power to teach and inspire, to improve attitudes and to teach that confidence is an emotion to be cultivated and treasured, not shamed and bullied.

Lean In: I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss (Link) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-Hp1iFnd3A


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