The opening webpage of the Ban Bossy campaign, led by Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In, reads: “When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a ‘leader’. Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded ‘bossy’.”
According to this same webpage, the stigma of the term ‘bossy’ is often detrimental to the development of a girl’s self-confidence, while this term is rarely, if ever, applied to boys.
In order to combat the term ‘bossy’ and its detrimental effects, Sheryl Sandberg has collaborated with other powerful women such as Beyoncé and Jennifer Garner to spread the message that the term ‘bossy’ should not be used to define a girl’s leadership skills.
On the surface, the “Ban Bossy” campaign seems to be empowering and to have good intentions. However, Sandberg has received ample amounts of criticism from scholars and professionals for her overarching theories on how to change the face of women empowerment in the world and workplace.
According to Professor Christa Craven, Chair of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Program and Associate Professor of Anthropology at the College of Wooster, “Just looking at blogs and internet response, I think it’s gotten a very positive popular response, but I think many people who study inequality, people like sociologists and anthropologists and a lot of feminist scholars are quite skeptical of it. They feel that it is not really doing a whole lot to help people in disadvantaged situations.”
Craven’s response matches that of many other criticisms of Sandberg’s mentality.
Craven went on to say that although the ideas Sandberg presents in Lean In are interesting and have some real world application, it cannot be said to apply to every woman in general. Also, many women in disadvantaged positions cannot so easily apply the advice on promoting themselves in the workplace that Sandberg gives because their lives are nothing like hers. “Sandberg neglected to consider that not all experiences can be compared to hers, and that our position in life determines our outlook of the situation, “ Craven said.
Bell Hooks, a guest author for The Feminist Wire on Oct. 28, 2013, wrote, “[Sandberg’s] vision of individual women leaning in at the corporate table does not include any clear statements of which group of women she is speaking to and about, and the ‘lean in’ woman is never given a racial identity. If Sandberg had acknowledged that she was primarily addressing privileged white women like herself (a small group working at the top of the corporate hierarchy), then she could not have portrayed herself as sharing a message, indeed a life lesson, for all women.”
Although Sandberg has a generally good idea of empowering women to get what they want out of their careers, critics such as Hooks are justified in thinking her message may not apply to women everywhere because of Sandberg’s lack of perspective on a racial and economic scale.
While there are definite holes in Sandberg’s plan for equal opportunity for women everywhere, the fact that she has been able to get people to talk about the feminist movement is success in itself.
“Women need to work together, with likeminded colleagues, and people that care about equality in order to improve women’s presence in leadership roles,” Craven said.
Even though many people may not agree with how Sandberg presents her argument on how women can successfully ‘Lean In’ in the corporate office and in life itself, there was a need for someone to stand up and point out there is a problem, and now using both the general ideas of the Lean In movement and the criticisms of scholars, the world may develop a formula for equality and success for women everywhere.