The "B" word

Whether the target is a word or negative messages more generally, “mass semi-coerced self-censorship” would be a more accurate description of what she is calling for than “a ban,” since she has not yet proposed that any laws be passed prohibiting speech. (The widespread semantic confusion over the word “ban” and its constant misuse in public discourse is arguably a more pressing problem than young women in America being cowed by gender stereotypes.) Regardless, the point is that she thinks the way to help girls get ahead is to shield them from certain negative reactions to their behavior. This seems unlikely to thicken their skins, and anyone who wants to rise to the top generally needs a thick skin.

Another odd thing about latching onto the word “bossy” as a totem of sexism in need of vanquishing is that it ignores the fact that, whatever Sandberg had to contend with in her day, young women today are beginning to eclipse their male peers in school and in the work force. More Millennial women than men have bachelor’s degrees, and the young childless professional women among them are out-earning men in most major cities. Sandberg is actually aware of this: As Jonah Goldberg points out, she admits that some of the studies she cites are decades old, and concedes that yes, girls tend to be more academically successful than boys. But it’s the top echelons of power — the places (corporate boards, the U.S. Congress, etc.) that offer the most scope for bossing others around — where men still heavily outnumber women, and it is this that she finds unacceptable.