Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Is Sheryl Sandberg Bossy?

First, she conquered the world of social media. Then, the conquered the New York Times best seller list. What worlds are left for Sheryl Sandberg to conquer?

How about the language? Now Sandberg has called for a crusade to eliminate a certain word from the English language. Are you ready for battle?

If you want to join this crusade, henceforth, thou shalt never utter the word “bossy” in relation to a female human being.

There will be no more bossy girls or bossy women. There will be more female executives, more happy egalitarian marriages and a new Feminist Paradise will descend on the earth.

By Sandberg’s reasoning, the word “bossy,” when directed at girls, discourages them from wanting to be grow up and become executives. Because, we all know, every little girl wants, when she grows up, to become a CEO.

In truth, as reported on this blog last week, a recent study has shown that women are not very interested in executive leadership. They prefer collaborative enterprise.

At the risk of being repetitious, feminists like Sandberg do not accept that women might choose not to get on the CEO track. They do not respect women who choose freely to spend more time nurturing their children.

To be blunt about it, feminists do not respect women. They do not respect a woman’s free choice when that woman chooses family over career or collaborative work over executive leadership. They are convinced, in the depths of their marrow that a woman who makes an unfeminist choice has been manipulated by the patriarchy.

Sandberg wants to solve the problem by manipulating women’s (and men's) minds. She wants women to conform to her ideology, and even better, to become more like her.

According to Sandberg when girls take charge and assert themselves in leadership positions, they are told—often by women—that they are being “bossy.”

OMFG … the indignity of it all.

It happened to Sandberg herself, and, by all evidence, this horrendous appellation has not prevented her from asserting her executive leadership skills at the highest level.

In effect, Sheryl Sandberg is a living refutation of her own idea.

Sandberg recalls a defining trauma from her junior high school days.

She describes the scene:

When I was in junior high and running for class vice president, one of my teachers pulled my best friend aside to warn her not to follow my example: "Nobody likes a bossy girl," the teacher warned. "You should find a new friend who will be a better influence on you."

As I said, the trauma did not have any noticeable effect on Sandberg’s ambition.  Could this be much ado about nothing.

Allow me, before moving on, to note a salient fact. During junior high school, boys and girls experience the onset of puberty. When this happens, boys' voices changes. It is not a mystery. It is a fact.

When you communicate something, your tone of voice is part of the communication. If you have a high pitched voice it is not a great idea to try to pretend that you have a lower pitched voice.

Let’s imagine that a pubescent girl, noting this change, and feeling that human nature is conspiring against her, decides that she needs to speak more loudly and forcefully, the better to erase the difference in tone and tenor.

Won’t she sound shrill and even fake? Is it any surprise that her tone of voice, coupled with her attitude, will be off putting to both boys and girls?

Worse yet, if she is encouraged to continue doing something that is, fundamentally a travesty, how long will it be before someone calls her bluff?

Telling girls to get in boys’ faces by being more aggressive and assertive is not  good advice as long as girls continue to be the weaker sex.

Sandberg then complains about the fact that the public school system discriminates against girls. She notes that teachers call on boys and accept boys’ assertiveness far more than they do girls'.

Unfortunately, reality begs to differ. As everyone should know, today’s public school teachers favor girls over boys. They have skewed the curriculum to ensure that girls do better than boys. They call on girls more often and believe that assertive boys are suffering from a psychiatric disorder.

By way of a response to Sandberg Jonah Goldberg explains:

… to the extent there is a gender crisis in America it is pretty plainly a crisis about boys and men more than it is about girls and women. Academically girls do better. They’re getting better grades and going to college more. Economically, the recession was also a “mancession,” disproportionately affecting males.  The rate of women rising in corporate ranks, again, may not satisfy the activists of 1-percenter feminism, but no one can dispute the trends are all going their way. 

Sandberg herself notes that successful women are not very well liked, by either men or women:

Powerful and successful men are often well liked, but when women become powerful and successful, all of us—both men and women—tend to like them less.

A woman who succeeds in a man’s world—more power to those that do—will not be one of the guys and will not be one of the girls.

It’s not an enviable position. But human nature explains this phenomenon without resorting to ideology-driven data.

Sandberg wants to change this situation and she has chosen to do so by policing your thought. She wants to ban the word “bossy,” because it has a negative connotation and is most often used to refer to females.

One might note, if only in passing, that when we say that a man bosses people around, we are not paying him a compliment. We are accusing him of poor leadership.

Unfortunately, Sandberg believes that this problem-that-isn’t-a-problem can be solved with mind control. She proposes that we ban the word “bossy,” especially as it is used to describe certain females.

She argues her point, as follows:

Social scientists have long studied how language affects society, and they find that even subtle messages can have a big impact on girls' goals and aspirations. Calling a girl "bossy" not only undermines her ability to see herself as a leader, but it also influences how others treat her. According to data collected by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, parents of seventh-graders place more importance on leadership for their sons than for their daughters. Other studies have determined that teachers interact with and call on boys more frequently and allow them to shout out answers more than girls.

It's no surprise that by middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys are. Sixth- and seventh-grade girls rate being popular and well-liked as more important than being perceived as competent or independent, while boys are more likely to rate competence and independence as more important, according to a report by the American Association of University Women. 

Of course, Sandberg is failing to see that correlation does not always mean causation. As you know this is normally called the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

For all she or anyone else knows, the differences between boys and girls during junior high school have more to do with the onset of  puberty and less to do with using the wrong words.

For all anyone knows, the girls who want to take charge do not sound as though they are in charge. They might sound as though they are faking it.

If an older woman tells a young girl that her tone is off, this might mean that the girl’s tone is off.

At the least, girls should understand that leaning in has a price. They have every right to choose their path, but if they discover that they have paid a price for their career success, they should not try to punish everyone else.

One needs to be especially wary of people who decide that they should police your language or your thought. Could there be a better instance of bossiness?

An objective observer might conclude that they should have taken the lessons of junior high school more to heart.


Sam L. said...

The worst part of a girl or woman being called "bossy" is that cows are often called or referred to as Bossy.

If she actually thinks she can get her way by diktat, she is bossy; applies to men who do that, too.

Lastango said...

Sometimes, I get the feeling Sandberg has -- like the celebrity she has become -- set up a group of advisers who tell her how to become socially relevant and stay in the news, what to say and what issues to avoid.

My gut instinct is that the Democratic Party is grooming her to run for President some day. This Michelle-Obamaesque utterance about young girls being called "bossy" is evidence she is being carefully stage-managed to that end.

The Democrats learned long ago that establishing someone in the culture is always the first best step toward a political future. They usually come at this from multiple angles, including (for instance) a photo smooch in Vogue, and social appearances with celebrity-level figures. So, when we notice someone being lionized, our antennae ought to go up.


BTW, Maclean's Magazine had a piece not long ago about how this trick is done in Mexico. Our own style is different, and more sophisticated and mufti-faceted, but Mexico's political climbers certainly grasp the essence of star-power politics: image is everything. Actual issues not so much.


JKB said...

Actually, Lauren Bacall did very well by artificially lowering her voice. But she may be an outlier.

I have had to counsel several young women not to en their commands with a question mark. That uplifting lilt at the end of a sentence. I presume an artifact from women seeking consensus.

Commands end in a period. Often a hard period that feels like a smack to the back of the head. One should not use the command voice in normal conversation.

Perhaps there is little that can be done. Commands are harsh and harshness is more abrasive in women. My elderly aunt, a retired pediatric nurse, could snap a bratty child into compliance. Her kids often complained that her tone was "hateful". She did speak brusquely when she was sorting people out. One might say she was bossy when need be. Men just aren't expected to always be amenable.

Dennis said...


Dennis said...

If one cannot take being called names then one does not have the wherewithal to "lead." Except for Blacks and feminists, there has not been a minority group that has not suffered discrimination. Where the large majority of them succeeded is because they got past it by using it to their own benefit. Some of the best comedy is done by people making fun of themselves and their ethnic backgrounds
It is how we all learn that we actually have the same challenges to face and become something greater than an hyphenated American.
All this whining only serves to demonstrate one's inability to with stand the rigors of leadership. Even more disgusting considering the constant deriding of the other 50 percent of the population.
As they say "Heal Thy Self." R Want respect then one might consider giving respect. It truly is very simple.

Anonymous said...

There are few things that disgust me more in life than listening to the tone of a little girl disciplining and bossing around her younger siblings.

She learns this tone from her mother, and does not understand that her mother does so from authority. The little girl imitates, and commands by fiat. When not corrected, she becomes a little snot. When not countered or limited when coming of age, such a little girl becomes a bossy little tyrant.

Sheryl Sandberg is the oldest of three children. Go figure.


Anonymous said...

This media darling is a little too much to bear. Over and over, the more I learn about Sheryl Sandberg, the more she sounds like a pain in the ass. Can you imagine a conversation with such an insufferable human being? Her background is less interesting than it is a vomit-inducing, all-too-often-seen elite pedigree: Harvard undergrad (summa), McKinsey, the Clintons, Harvard MBA (highest distinction), Google, Facebook, Obama, Disney, Brookings Institution, Starbucks, an autobiography that "spawned a movement," an alphabet soup of women's causes... please, just stop. She's 44 years young. Despite all this success, privilege, education, appointments, fortune, and all else, she's unhappy with the world. The world is in a conspiracy against women, ad infinitum. I wonder if her story (and book) is less a rallying cry than a cathartic tale of victimhood. Worse, a Democrat drenched in victimhood for the sake of self-promotion, she is a poster child for the contrary. What more could she possibly want? It's really boring. Meanwhile, as Jonah Goldberg points out, all the trends point in the opposite direction, and have been pointing this way for some time now. She offers nothing new.

Dennis said...


If anyone really wants to know what this is actually about. Battle Space preparation for Hillary. Guess who is a big Hillary fan?