#BanBossy and a question for Beyonce
How good is #BanBossy? If you’re not on it, check it out. It’s an awesome call to action from our friends at Lean In to ban the word “bossy”, in favour of much more inspirational words like “strong, ambitious and leader”.
There’s some mammoth names like Jennifer Garner, Condoleeza Rice and Beyonce all reinforcing such a simple but important message. Tell a girl she’s bossy, by middle school she’s less interested in leadership than boys. Encourage her to lead, and she can change the world.
I LOVE it. Love it love it love it. Although, like that annoying girl in primary school who got a Cabbage Patch Doll ages before you ever heard of them because her Dad had been in America, we banned bossy in our house 6 months ago when I first read Sheryl Sandberg’s manifesto Lean In.
My daughter is 5, which is an age where all children are, shall we say, natural leaders. It can be a little grating, but we’re determined not to squash her beautiful spirit, so we’ve banned bossy, even when she’s naturally leading her cousin into squishing the cat into the Tupperware drawer.
As someone who has struggled with listening to my own voice and believing in myself, I love being reminded that there are no limits. It strengthens my resolve to raise my daughter with this innate knowledge.
But. And I hate using the word ‘but’ anywhere near this very important campaign, but…Beyonce has got me a teensy bit confused. Not when she says “I’m not bossy, I’m the boss.” That’s brilliant. I’m using that on Ms 5 at bath time tonight.
No it was where she says “Be brave. Be You.”
On it’s own that’s an equally crucial message. But you see, I watched the #BanBossy clip coincidentally about 20 minutes after I’d seen Beyonce’s video for Partition, in which she sings “I just wanna be the girl you like, the kind of girl you like.”
Do you see my problem? There’s a mixed message there I’m struggling with. Am I to Be Me, or Be the kind of girl You like?
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not some kind of conservative. There’s a place for hilarious faux subservient bedroom play (for me it’s generally between the finishing of a bottle of champagne and a snoring sleep of the dead).
But little girls don’t know this. Little girls, who let’s face it are more likely to be singing along to a song than following a hashtag, hear only that validation comes from being liked, and from being the kind of girl that is liked. It’s a stark contrast to the #BanBossy message.
I’m sure Beyonce doesn’t intend her song to be interpreted this way, but I think she needs to be careful what message is heard loudest. While #BanBossy has been viewed a healthy 1 million plus times, Partition has been enjoyed (and I emphasise enjoy) 34 MILLION times more. Bey has the power, and she obviously knows it. But is she using it wisely?
If you haven’t seen the clip, Partition is billed as Bey’s sexiest clip ever, and, not surprisingly, it’s amazing. It’s classy stripper, just shy of nude, roll around on a piano, wow she’s got core strength, how does she do that without hurting her knees, seduction.
We all know Beyonce is bey-ond. Beyond beautiful, beyond sexy, beyond anything that is generally found in a normal person’s genetic code.
We also are smart enough to know that this clip, with it’s perfect lighting, make-up, editing, silhouetting and clever camera angles is possibly as close to reality as I am to the Little Mermaid (which is a LOOONNG way away because I can’t really swim, otherwise, peas in a pod I’m sure you’d agree).
But I do think it becomes difficult for some of us, particularly the younger version of us, to see ourselves in this frame of reference and like what we see.
Obviously, the answer is to know the difference between fantasy and the flesh and blood ‘us’, and I mean the universal ‘us’ including the real Beyonce who I’m sure gets in-growns after a bikini wax too. Intellectually, we know not to buy into comparing ourselves with an unattainable, highly manufactured image. To be stronger.
Except that separation is easier said than done. Especially when the goddess singing to us is saying “I just wanna be the girl you like, the kind of girl you like”. It’s not exactly a message of self-acceptance. It’s more a lesson in doing whatever it takes for the receiver of this song (be it Jay Z, your bloke, the cool kids at school, your collection of stray cats) to like us.
And then what do we become? Ariel ditching the Mermaid tail to follow her fella onto the land?
I don’t think Beyonce is responsible for all society’s self-image problems. She could film her next video clip in a fetching iron lung and a balaclava and not much would change. I’m just saying that when you’re the boss, you need a consistent message. Ban bossy. But while you’re there, ban convincing our next generation of girls their role is to pander to the desires of others.
I pledge to have both conversations with my daughter, and I’m sure Bey will also. And when she sits down to have that chat with Blue Ivy, it would be super helpful if she could put together a catchy hashtag with a natty YouTube clip. I guarantee I’ll give her at least one view.