Monday, September 01, 2014

Attitudes on female leaders, not words, are the real issue

3/28/2014

The idea that “well-behaved women seldom make history” is credited to author Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, who wrote a book profiling women who were pioneers in causes that matter to them. While some of these women were the first of their kind, others simply excelled in the areas driving their passions. These trendsetters — which included Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman Betty Friedan, Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King — no doubt, weren’t considered well-behaved.

Some people perhaps called them bossy.

The idea that “well-behaved women seldom make history” is credited to author Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, who wrote a book profiling women who were pioneers in causes that matter to them. While some of these women were the first of their kind, others simply excelled in the areas driving their passions. These trendsetters — which included Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman Betty Friedan, Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King — no doubt, weren’t considered well-behaved.

Some people perhaps called them bossy.

The label “bossy” is one many people think is holding girls back and should be banned. Who hasn’t heard a child say “you aren’t the boss of me”? Advocates of the effort to “Ban Bossy” contend little girls stop raising their hand and speaking up at school because they might get called bossy, and that deferential mind set carries on into adulthood. This campaign, however, might instead give more power to the word than it deserves. Building a female’s confidence and leadership skills can do more to overcome labels and stereotypes than banning a word simply because good leadership is a far cry from being bossy.

Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail, is on a mission to Empower Women: Overcoming stereotypes and breaking barriers. Her message of being able to do it all — be an active outdoorsperson, be beautiful, smart and a leader — and still being a female might speak louder to girls than the Ban Bossy effort hopes to effect.

Another young woman bound to make a positive impact on girls for her leadership acumen — albeit on the movie screen — is Tres, a character portrayed by actress Shailene Woodley in the new movie “Divergent.” Tres is able to control and conquer her fears. As part of a society 100 years after a war that destroyed the world, a new heavily rule-bound society is resurrected in the shell of Chicago, and it divides people into one of five cultural teams based on their primary skill and aptitude set along with the manifestation of a truth serum-type test.

Tres is on the “Dauntless” team — which includes the physically-oriented fearless protectors and enforcers — but she has more than one behavior and characteristic and consequently is labeled as divergent. Everyone has fears it seems, except for Tres, who doesn’t let her fears slow her down and instead they amp her up. No one called her bossy because leaders — even when labeled as a divergent — create followers, rather than having to demand in a bossy manner.

A look in today’s edition of The Herald at some women in Franklin County’s history shows women long have possessed important leadership skills that helped them to be trendsetters — including the area’s first female teacher, author, artist, editor and even photographer. Some of those women might not have been well-behaved by the standards of the day, however, the depth of their convictions in the causes they so deeply believed in and their ability to lead to ensure they are remembered for what they did — regardless of any negative labels some may have used to describe them.

 

— Jeanny Sharp,

editor and publisher

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