Beyoncé, Jane Lynch and more want to ban the word bossy

A new campaign spearheaded by Sheryl Sandberg seeks to make bossy a verboten word—but we're not entirely on board


Beyonce Photograph: Tony Duran

A coterie of celebrity women—including Condoleezza Rice, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Garner and, yes, Queen Bey—have joined forces with Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg for a new campaign against the word bossy. The thinking is that by eradicating usage of the word (often used negatively, often to describe women), girls won't feel discouraged for being outspoken. ("The word bossy is just a squasher," explains Lynch.) Rather, they'll instead be celebrated as leaders, and feel confident enough to own their ideas.

It's all well and good in theory. And no doubt, the word bossy—along with words like hysterical or strident—is frequently used negatively as code to describe a woman who's too aggressive, or who won't shut up when other people think they should. But is the solution really to encourage banning it entirely? Not using the word bossy won't eradicate the sexism behind it, and it's unlikely that it will solve the very real problems that Sandberg's campaign hopes to fight.

The Stranger's Danielle Henderson summed it up thusly in a great piece about the campaign:

"This isn't a problem of language—the problem is our backward system that rewards women for silence and compliance, and encouraging them to be less fierce is a supremely fucked-up way to counter that. What is this wilting-flower, let's-not-say-bad-words approach to empowerment?"

Amen. Banning the word only serves to reinforce its negative connotations; it's time to take it back. Let's encourage girls to be leaders—and encourage them to be as fierce, outspoken and, yes, bossy as they want to be.

Send tips and cat photos to:

Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)

Time Out videos

Subscribe to Time Out New York on Spotify for playlists and recommendations from our Music team.

Check out New York's best restaurants, hottest street style, cool apartments and more.