Periscope Depth

the dream police, they live inside of my head

Sheryl Sandberg’s Word Police: Have You Banned Bossy Yet? (

Sandberg’s latest idea may create more problems than it solves as she pivots from individual action to societal obligation. Beyond the general absurdity of trying to ban words, it also places extra emphasis on the role outside forces have on the individual. I’m not saying that outside forces don’t matter, clearly they do, but accentuating them can be problematic.

The campaign to ban bossy is in a way telling women that they are dependent on the society around them for their achievements. It implicitly suggests that women can’t be successful until society stops saying mean and hurtful things to them.

(1) You probably hear the word “privilege” a lot and wonder what it means. If you’re digging your heels in at the idea of giving up use of a word you insist is innocuous – like “bossy” – that’s a textbook example of privilege. Picture a two-year-old who has all the toys in a pile and shrieks when you ask him, politely, to let one go. That’s what it sounds like when you refuse to lay aside a word that you probably don’t even use that much. You have something that you don’t even like, but civilly being asked to put it aside tasks you. That’s privilege. That’s a soft life.

(2) Putting aside the degree of cavilling Ekins needs to make in order to take some sort of principled stand here (“I’m not saying that outside forces don’t matter, clearly they do, but [I'm not going to enumerate how]“): isn’t Sandberg’s effort perfectly libertarian? A captain of industry seeks to change the culture through a concerted campaign in the marketplace of ideas. Isn’t this what libertarians fantasize about? Isn’t this straight out of the private-charities-can-totally-replace-welfare, social-pressure-would-have-ended-segregation-without-the-Civil-Rights-Act, Reason magazine playbook? What am I missing?

(3) And I don’t even like Sheryl Sandberg.

(4) Also, arguing about this last night on Facebook (sigh), someone made a point about how they have nothing against civility, they just despise “political correctness,” and I laughed out loud. “Political correctness.” What’s it like living in 1995? SPOILER ALERT: the Rockets won their last championship, and the quality of rock radio is going to plummet.

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