I became affectionately known as “the bossy babe with the crab tickets” by one of my close friends in college. This was her first impression of me, but she soon realized that I was an effective leader for all of my perceived bossiness. And I wasn’t that bossy as I was efficient. Recently, someone called me bossy, and I was a little offended, mostly because of its context. What I have come to realize is that bossiness is sometimes subjective. For people who are unclear, unsure, or unequipped to make things happen and make decisions, those of us who can, are bossy. Especially when one is a female. If we were men, it’d be ok to be forceful, and we’d be considered impactful. But as a girl …. Le sigh.
In thinking about my childhood, I was called bossy my whole life. I can look back now and see where I embraced the negativity of it, and I was proud of it. It didn’t bother me to be bossy because I was never bossy without intention. I had a low tolerance level for things being poorly or inefficiently done. As a matter of fact, in my speech and on my application for the position which rendered me as “the bossy babe with the crab tickets,” I announced to a room full of people, “Yes, I am bossy. But it’s not the evil, wicked stepmother ‘do as I say or else’ type of bossy. It’s the bossy that says we need to follow these steps to get better results.” We had a fantastic year in that organization, and I moved on to higher levels and, ultimately, became a teacher. All because I was willing to take what society deems to be negative and flip it to a positive.
That brings me to the whole point of writing today. People often stigmatize little girls early, calling them bossy and making it a negative attribute. Instead of proclaiming her bossy, let’s begin to teach her how to use that skill to develop her leadership potential. Her bossiness is unfiltered confidence. She is knowledgeable - all the difference in the world between bossy and rude with poor manners. By all means, if she is just barking orders at people to get her way, then address that accordingly. But if she takes action, comes up with a plan of execution, and can give a clear direction of how to do that task, that’s not bossiness. That is her leadership potential at its beginning. Take time to teach her about tone, inflection, pitch, and how to say things to people. That is a lesson that I’m still learning, but it helps her realize that she’s not just bossy and evil. She has a gift that she must learn to use appropriately. We teach our girls that they shouldn’t be assertive or confident, but the time for that is over. Many bold things are happening globally, and if anyone has bothered to pay attention, women are at the helm of quite a few of them.
We need to let our girls know that it is ok to be smart. It is ok to have an opinion. It is ok to know how to do things. You don’t have to play down your shine for someone else’s. You can all shine together, and you can help someone else find their brilliance. Part of why I became a teacher was that I got tired of watching incredibly smart girls dumb themselves for the sake of society through various avenues of life. I’ve never been to one to go with the grain, and when I did, it produced terrible results. Why? Because I was not me! In every endeavor that I’ve been myself and used my God-given gifts and talents, I have never failed.
I want to impart that message to future generations of children (as I tell the same thing to my sons), especially our girls. It is ok to be a smart girl! Don’t worry about what boys think. In time they will realize that certain things of importance to them at whatever phase aren’t that important, AND if they never realize that, then those aren’t the boys you want anyway, but that’s a blog for another day.
To end it all out, to my girls, I say, the next time someone calls you bossy, say ok, can you teach me how to use it? To my parents, teachers, other adults, instead of calling a girl bossy, take her to the side and let her know you see a leader in her and help her develop it. I promise it’s a win-win for everybody!!
Takhia Gaither Stuckey is an educator from Baltimore, Maryland. She has been a high school teacher for 18 years in the areas of mathematics and computer science. Takhia is a published author and editor whom is passionate about writing and blogging. You can find more of her powerful messages at takhiatheteacher.com, for business inquiries she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org