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Rachel Levy Lesser Headshot

You Can Call Me Bossy

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I am all for political correctness and choosing words carefully. After all, I am a writer and a mother, and I teach this to my children all the time. But last week, when I heard a story on NPR about the "Ban Bossy" campaign spearheaded by Lean In and Girl Scouts, I nearly drove off the side of the road.

"Ban Bossy?" How would you even go about doing that and why would you want to? The campaign is aimed at encouraging girls to lead and makes the assumption that calling girls bossy discourages them from becoming leaders. I see what they are trying to do and ultimately, we are all on the same page. I want girls to lead as much as Sheryl Sandberg, Beyoncé and Condoleezza Rice (all of whom have taken active roles in this campaign).

I've been called bossy before and I am sure I will be called bossy again. I actually take it as a compliment. My mother was bossy and so were both my grandmothers, and they were all awesome ladies. They taught me so much. They said that I could be whatever I wanted to be when I grew up; that it was OK and in fact encouraged to assert my own opinion; that I should always remain true to my values in the process. These lessons served me well and made me a strong, confident -- and yes, bossy -- woman.

Some of my best friends are bossy ladies, and so are other women who I admire. I had bossy friends as a child. We all bossed each other around and had fun together, too. It's these close friends that I still rely on to boss me around now and give me good advice -- sometimes, in fact, tough advice that I may not want to hear but that I need to hear. I know that they expect the same of me. For me at least, being bossy does not mean being mean or being that other B word. It really doesn't it.

I think a lot of people think that "leader" is a good word and bossy is a bad word for a girl. I'm not so sure about that. I think I led the gray team pretty well way back when in sleepaway camp because of my little girl bossiness. And later on in life, I was able to "lean in" in corporate America because of that same bossiness where some of the best bosses I had were women. These women encouraged me to be bossy without feeling bad about it. And it was my bossiness that told me it was OK to lean out a bit when my kids were babies. I had that bossy confidence to do it.

One of my babies is now an 8-year-old girl who can be bossy, and that's fine with us. Bossy has almost become a term of endearment in our family. I see our daughter's bossiness already serving her well, both inside and outside of school. She is a doer and she often likes to take charge. I think she'll make a great boss one day. So we say she is bossy and she doesn't hear a negative connotation because we don't put one on it.

I know that the world is not perfect and that young girls are often treated differently than boys in school as are women and men in the work place and that's not fair. But I'm not sure banning the word bossy will change any of this. And so I embrace this word that has served me, and I believe many other girls and women well for so long. Perhaps it's that bossy little girl in me that lets me do this, and I mean that in a completely good way of course.