She’s usually clad in designer, monochromatic pantsuits with an overpriced espresso in hand. She’s monopolized hustle culture with catchy hashtags and aesthetically pleasing infographics. She is the coalescence of feminism and capitalism. We’ve all seen her. She’s the #Girlboss.
History of the Girl Boss
The Girl Boss sky rocketed into public consciousness when Nasty Gal founder, Sophia Amoruso, released her memoir #GirlBoss. The rags to riches story of an eBay shop turned million dollar business made Amoruso the poster child for ambitious young women looking to make their mark in a man’s world. This new amalgamation of the career woman rejects the archetypal cold and cunning female opportunist, while also rejecting the stereotypically feminine and coy workplace pushover. This new generation of female entrepreneurs promised feminism to airbrushed social media perfection.
Problems with the Girl Boss
However, It was not long before the superficiality of the #GirlBoss yielded empty promises. Although the Girl Boss claimed to be an iconoclast fighting for representation and women’s rights, she ended up being an embodiment of second wave feminism. This manifested as a parade of privileged, white women assuming stereotypically male roles under the guise of diversity. Rather than working to dismantle a misogynistic system rigged against women (especially women of color), we were bombarded with Girl Bosses perpetuating the patriarchy under the guise of feminist rhetoric.
Demise of the Girl Boss
Often, the allyship offered by the #GirlBoss is relegated to palatable activism that lacks intersectionality and substance. Calling herself “girl boss” rather than “woman boss” emphasizes her non-threatening demeanor, a perspective that can not be assumed by more marginalized and stigmatized groups of women. The disparity between white and POC Girl Bosses is not incidental. Many women from policed socioeconomic backgrounds don’t have the capital and/or resources to monetize their passions, and cannot adopt neutrality from social justice issues to avoid alienating customers.
Where do we go from here?
If the modern business woman truly wants to be an ally, her focus must be on dismantling the workplace hierarchy rather than rising up the ranks of it. Women cannot waste time on respectability politics or non-threatening personas. There must be a cultural shift towards uplifting women and configuring a system where all hu(e)mans can be exceptional. This can be actualized through diverse hiring practices, uplifting POC and LGBTQIA+ workers and businesses, and partnering with organizations focused on creating change. Because in the ever poignant words of Audre Lorde, “The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house.”