The ugliness of the Ban Bossy debate

The current hyperventilation over banning “bossy” is a microcosm of what is wrong with discourse in America today.

The recent campaign to ban the word “bossy,” – launched by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Anna Maria Chavez – imparts that young girls are discouraged from developing leadership skills because they are told they are bossy, which has a negative connotation.

Sandberg and Chavez would instead like girls to “lean in” and further develop leadership skills, rather than turn away for fear of being called bossy.

I am no self-proclaimed feminist, but the message resonates with anyone, including myself, who values the empowerment of tomorrow’s leaders, women included. The issue is something that should unite people.

Instead it has become a partisan cross-fire, zapped of any real discussion of the actual merits of the message.  Why?  Because rather than being a message about empowerment, it became a campaign to ban the word “bossy” from our lexicon.

This crossed the partisan line.

Conservatives see this as yet another example of the liberal nanny state attempting to control what we say and do. Banning words is an extension of a culture that is too easily offended.

Liberals saw it as an opportunity to push another cause through the social-media-entertainment-political pipeline. Playing up the need for a cause, pushing to ban a word is sexier than merely discussing the issue.

Simply banning a word isn’t going to get you any further than ignoring the actual merits of the campaign. Both sides are flawed. We are so quick to draw swords and we don’t even know what we are really fighting against.

Much of the uproar is over the process and not the content. Doesn’t that sound familiar?

This is exactly why people have tuned out politics and Washington. There is so much partisan bickering over the politics and the process and not enough substantive discussions about the policies. This results in a lot of talk and not a lot of action.

The campaign to ban bossy and the inability of Washington to get things done have a shared theme: leadership.

The discussion over bossy girls is about encouraging women leaders. The frustration with Washington is the lack of good leaders.

Leadership is about vision.  It is about the ability to persuade people to see your idea, understand its value and be motivated and empowered to see it through.  Leadership is about moving people.

This is where the bossy girls get it wrong. True leadership isn’t about telling people what to do; it’s about helping people understand how you see things and empowering them to help you achieve it.

Washington fails at this on a very deep level. Politicians in Washington are no longer working for a common end goal, resulting in the laden anxiety among many Americans.

Some Americans no longer seek freedom, one of the founding principles of this country. They seek security and they claim the right to someone else’s life, liberty or property in order to achieve that. This is a fundamental problem because our end goals are no longer the same.

In the debate over health care, Democrats describe “freedom” as the ability to not have to work. That perverted definition of freedom changes an individual’s relationship with the government, relying on it as the means of survival, taking from someone who earned it, thus depriving them of property and liberty.

It’s hard to make the case for liberty in the face of so many who have been encouraged and emboldened to seek security.  This is why leadership is incredibly crucial at this moment.  Someone has to persuade the American people that it will be to their ultimate benefit to seek liberty.

Instead, partisanship weighs us down over silly issues like banning words or behaviors.

Leadership is vital, but we are reluctant to discuss it because bickering with the other side is easier.  It scores you political points in the short-term, but in the meantime, nothing meaningful gets accomplished.  In the end, we all suffer the consequences.


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