Sheryl Sandberg has started a campaign that seeks to ban the word “bossy” because she believes such words contribute to young girls feeling bad about being assertive. Sandberg may have good intentions here, but it seems that rather than banning certain words, encouraging the use of other words might be the better route. In the spirit of using affirmative strategies to create positive change, here are five words we should be using more often to describe our young ladies.
Too often, especially for young black girls, respectability politics rears its ugly head and relegates our girls to tiny little boxes. They can only wear their hair a certain way, they must pursue only these three courses of study in college, they can not express opinions on certain topics. We should encourage our girls to nurture and express their creativity. They need to get the message that their unique identities and ideas are appreciated and wanted in the world.
Women and girls are stereotyped as being too emotional and incapable of making rational, logical decisions. But the fact is that being compassionate, having the ability to be empathetic and truly understand someone else’s position, is a powerful place to be. It’s not weak to be compassionate, it’s smart and leads to better-informed decision making.
If she knows the words to a 2Chainz song that doesn’t make her “ghetto.” If she knows the words to a Taylor Swift song that doesn’t mean she’s trying to be “white.” If she likes to visit museums on the weekends, that doesn’t make her a “nerd.” Sometimes our girls are afraid to express their interests for fear that they will be labeled in a negative or constrictive way. We must let them know that it’s fine and even encouraged to explore all types of different cultures and that includes food, music, travel, dance and all of the other things that make a culture unique.