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BWW Blog: To All the Bossy Little Girls

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It sounded ridiculous then—and now, after the Zoom reading has come and gone, it  feels ridiculous to type. Bossy.

BWW Blog: To All the Bossy Little Girls

A few weeks ago, I was asked to direct for the first time. It wasn't anything huge, just a short play during a night of staged readings put on by Allegheny College Student Experimental Theatre (S.E.T.). I was nervous. I had never directed anything fictional or story-driven before, and it immediately took me back to playing pretend when I was younger. Despite my years of experience behind the scenes in theatre, I was struck with an overwhelming, childish fear. I didn't want to be seen as bossy.

It sounded ridiculous then-and now, after the Zoom reading has come and gone, it feels ridiculous to type. Bossy. It's a word that hearkens back to elementary school recess and playground taunts. Gap-toothed tattling. Paint-stained hands that shove you to the grass. It's an adjective that many women have had flung at them during their lifetimes, usually when they are too young to fight it.

I'm no exception. I remember playing pretend and wanting to cast all the roles how I saw fit, giving other kids line readings and deciding who wore what costume. My micromanagement wasn't a CapriSun-fueled power trip, I just felt that it was my role within the game to make everything run smoothly. I wanted a good story to come out of every playtime, not a disjointed collection of children's musings. A bit pretentious, I know, but in my mind, there was no point of playing make-believe when I could just as soon play with the dolls in my dollhouse.

I'm sure that there was reason to warn me of bossiness at times. I'm not that naive. But, I have noticed that while girls are warned away from authoritative positions in childhood, boys are often rewarded for this same behavior. Surely, this isn't a natural dichotomy. Women have every ability required of directors, but are often actively discouraged from taking leadership roles and very rarely have such roles even offered to them. And, as I found out when I got the opportunity to direct, this early-life conditioning will haunt you. I spent all of the time leading up to rehearsal crippled with the fear that I would be too controlling. I didn't want to step on the actors' toes. But, if I was too hands-off, then it wasn't really my vision. What if I wasted too much time in rehearsals? What if I was too much of a work horse and everyone dreaded our Zoom meetings? What if, what if, what if.

This notion of being bossy as a director is completely ludicrous, of course-it's a director's job to mold and rearrange. If I wasn't being bossy, I wasn't doing my job right. I knew this, I reminded myself of it daily, and yet I still felt uneasy. This lesson that we learn in childhood, that girls should speak softly and leave the big stick at home, has far-reaching repercussions. It affects schoolwork. It affects public speaking. In this case, it affected my ability to effectively do my job. And yet, we still accept it as the natural order.

The staged reading (or "clopening night", as the board of S.E.T. affectionately called it) went off without a hitch. I had no reason to be nervous, ultimately-the actors were great, the script was fantastic, and everybody involved was incredibly supportive. Despite that, I know that the voice in the back of my head will never be satiated. It will take many years and many, many more plays before I am able to let go of my fear of being bossy. But, I'll take those years. I'll take the plays. I'll do my time, however long it takes, to prove to the bossy little girls of the world that there is a place for them-and it's in the director's chair.

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From This Author Student Blogger: Sydney Emerson