So I just caught up on this “Ban Bossy” thing last night (I’ve been traveling). It strikes me as ludicrous on its face. It seems patently untrue that a) Bossiness is the same thing as “leadership,” b) That bossiness is a gender-specific issue for kids, c) That girls are falling behind in leadership nationally or in schools. Some of my views are based on the fact that I am the father of a little girl and some of it is based on informed common sense.
Let’s start with the big picture. In every conceivable way women are doing better and better. Sheryl Sandberg is herself proof of that. No rational or objective person believes that things aren’t getting better for women in the workplace or the executive suite. The complaint is that things aren’t getting better fast enough. That’s a perfectly fine complaint as far as it goes, but 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.
Then there are the issues at the school level. Admittedly, I don’t send my daughter to public school in D.C. (because I live in D.C.), but to one of those hoity-toity schools that affluent liberals who oppose school choice send their kids to (for the record, we love our kid’s school). Most of my friends either send their kids to similar schools or, if they live outside the District, to good public schools in the D.C. suburbs. In short, these are the kinds of schools Sandberg probably sends her kids to. And the idea that the girls are being shunted or shortshrifted strikes me as just plain other-worldly. Don’t get me wrong, my kid has her complaints. For instance, she signed up for girls lacrosse and is miffed the boys get to “tackle” and the girls don’t.
Sandberg herself admitted to NPR that she is using studies that are over 20 years old. Does anyone think the treatment of girls in grade and middle schools hasn’t changed since then? Now, maybe things really are bad in the poorer public schools. That’s certainly plausible, given how bad they are on so many other fronts. Which is to say: Given the academic failures of poor public schools — and in particular the crises the males who attend them face — does it really make sense to focus on the scourge of false-accusations of “bossiness” in these schools rather than, say, drop-out rates, illiteracy, violence, discipline and — oh, yeah — poor academic performance?
Last, being bossy isn’t being a leader, it’s being a jerk. Boys can be bossy, too — though because boys are barbarians we tend to call their bossiness “bullying.” When my daughter acts like a leader she gets a lot of praise. When she barks orders at her cousins or friends just to dominate them, we tell her “don’t be bossy!” So far I’ve seen no reason to stop that.