Wendyl Nissen
Wendyl Nissen on being 'The Supportive Wife'

Wendyl Nissen: You say bossy, I say results person

Know-it-all little girls are really tomorrow's leaders so let's do society a favour and ban that stifling B-word.

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

I have always been a bit bossy. One of those women who like to tell people what to do, how to do it, how to hurry up and do it and do it myself when it isn't done fast enough.

Being bossy is not something to be proud of, however. Over the years I have lost count of the number of times someone has said: "Woah, hold off with the bossy pants will you?"

And in the rare times that my husband is forced at gunpoint, on a cliff above a fast-approaching train by me to suggest something I could be doing better as a supportive wife, he always says "be less bossy".

My bossy nature forced me to become a leader. At school I was always joining something and leading someone, and then I turned my attention to editing magazines and really let my bossy streak expand into a Force 10 channel of snap, crackle and pop bossiness.

But in my defence, without bossy people, nothing would ever get done. I find myself unable to stand back in that silence that follows a conundrum and not contribute my thoughts.

I'm sure everyone else had an idea, too, but when you're bossy you just leap in there, say it and get it done.

So rather than see myself as a bossy person, I see myself as a "get things done" person.

But I do acknowledge that criticising my husband's driving: "slow down ... turn there ... watch out!" is not being very supportive. Nor is rattling off instructions to do something in two seconds flat.

Instead I have been working on breathing in and breathing out before opening my mouth. I find this changes the bossy instruction to more of a suggested action. Just trying to help in a very kind way.

My husband is often asked by men who think it's funny to make jokes about other people's wives how he copes living with such a bossy woman. "Man, she must be a handful at home," they wink.

What do they expect him to say?

"Thank God, someone's finally seen the living hell my life is. Won't you help me? I'll be ready at midnight with a few clothes thrown in a bag and the small amount of money I've been able to conceal in a sock away from her grasping fists over the years. It should be enough to buy me a bus ticket to Hamilton if you can take me to the station. Even that would be better than what I have to live with."

Which he doesn't. Usually he tells them to f*** off. If he's feeling very patient he'll explain that strong men aren't threatened by strong women.

This week I watched a video featuring Beyonce and other high-profile American women like Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg calling for society to ban the word "bossy".

When a little boy asserts himself, he's called a "leader," says the BanBossy movement.

"Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded "bossy". Words like bossy send a message: don't raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys - a trend that continues into adulthood. Together we can encourage girls to lead."

This is new feminism, right there staring us in the face.

Instead of moaning about lost opportunities for women, sexism and lack of equality, which after all these years really doesn't seem to have changed things, this approach is refreshing.

Our little girls who practice asserting themselves at a young age are encouraged to speak their mind, raise their hand and told their contribution is valued. Instead of being told not to be bossy.

I have raised a couple of bossy daughters and I may have reminded them not to be too pushy and to take time to listen to others but I don't think I ever told them their opinion was not valued. And that's what's important. Just because boys shout and nudge and get in the way, doesn't mean you shouldn't pay attention to the girl who stands with her hands on her hips and says in a very even voice: "What you need to know ..."

So far we have managed to ban words which are used as ethnic, religious or sexual slurs. Perhaps we can now do one thing for our daughters and ban bossy.

- NZ Herald

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