Earlier this year, a group of celebrities including Beyonce, Jennifer Garner, Jane Lynch, and Diane von Fürstenberg, teamed up with Sheryl Sandberg and the Girl Scouts for a campaign called Ban Bossy, that aimed to empower young girls and let them know being powerful and accomplished isn’t a bad thing. But bossy isn’t the only word used to complain about powerful women. As it turns out, women are also “pushy.”
The word pushy has recently come to light as a close relative of bossy, after it was used to describe Jill Abramson (whose recent firing from the New York Times has led many to speculate that she was the victim of sexism). And while it’s still up for debate why the former executive editor was fired, it’s certain that citing her pushiness was a big mistake.
For any woman who has ever been called pushy, it’s obvious that the word is charged sexist connotations. While men who assert themselves and make confident demands are seen as, well, manly, women who do the same are often treated as though they’re doing something wrong. And as with “bossy” they are belittled and labelled as “pushy.”
In fact, the sexism of the word “pushy” isn’t just in our heads. According to a random sampling of data compiled on Linguistic Pulse, women are referred to as pushy twice as often as men. Whereas for other words like “brusque,” “condescending,” and “stubborn,” this is not the case.
The Atlantic points out that this discrepancy probably has a lot to do with the amount of power people expect women to have. They say that “‘condescending’ implies someone is abusing power they already have. ‘Pushy’ suggests an improper attempt to charge through a barrier.” A glass ceiling, perhaps?
So should #BanPushy along with bossy? Or should we make the word our own, like “bad bitch” and “push” our way through though the barriers of sexists’ expectations? Or maybe we should just submit and get a power bob. What do you think?