The Girlboss and the perpetuation of a culture of toxic agitation
From coffee mugs to keychains, t-shirts to tote bags, “girlboss” is a term we all know. We are often spoon-fed the term in the form of “compliments” or asked to take inspiration from other stereotypical people under the term. But what does that really imply? And is there any real benefit behind its elevation? With the gradual decline of the glory of boss stereotypewe examine why this is essentially problematic.
The origins of the term girlboss date back to Sophie Amoruso’s 2014 memoir, “#Girlboss.” The founder of Bad girl, a clothing company, Amoruso widely used the term to refer to those who had defied the glass ceiling in the workplace, like her. Using the concept as a metaphor for his own success, Amoruso argued that women should take charge of power structures rather than focus on dismantling male-dominated power dynamics in the workplace. Instead of restructuring the systemic bias, she advocated for women to rise up the ranks to claim authority instead of men.
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Subsequently, the stereotype of the girlboss appeared: a “powerful” woman who generally occupies a high position in a company and who regularly puts on trouser suits. She is a go-getter and does not stop at any obstacle, among other characteristics.
Capitalizing on the “Girlboss”
The term’s popularity is largely due to the many “Girlboss” branded badges, t-shirts and other merchandise in a range of colorful fonts and designs. On social networks, it is a popular hashtag. This inadvertently feeds all the companies that use this term.
Young girls are mostly sold on the idea, through attractive merchandising, of believing that there is a certain standard to aspire to, without which they can and will be seen as failures. The suited power woman can be a dream ideal, but can also sell you a stereotype through merchandise.
Additionally, the purpose of the girlboss, especially in popular media depictions, is often associated with financial stability and especially financial wealth. This makes apparent a certain classism in the stereotype and the ideals it perpetuates. Success is equated with financial gain and even a certain harshness and ruthlessness to have the ideal financial status.
How justified is the term
Almost everyone is familiar with the term now and even more are using it, but what exactly does it imply and how justified is it really to use it anyway? Vicky Spratt calls the term a “Sexist Trojanand rightly so. She points out that while the term seems to create a place for women in a world overpopulated by men, in reality it might just create a bigger divide. Why does the term “boss” have to be gendered only when referring to female workers? If he were in fact standing up for the equality he claims to be doing, there would be no need for a different term to alienate women’s actions, but rather a more sustained effort would be made towards real change and inclusion.
And the problem extends to the so-called girlbosses themselves. Cruelty, cutthroat competition and, to some extent, even inconsideration are now associated with the stereotype. This makes the workplace or any social environment, even with a girlfriend, extremely toxic. This drives a wedge between the ruthless boss and anyone who doesn’t fit that standard. She also associates a certain coldness of attitude with these women placed on a pedestal and separated from the others. These characteristics should not be idealized and it is doubtful that they will do any good any good.
Additionally, the girlboss is also often synonymous with the culture of toxic hustle. You have to go for it every moment and whoever slows down there is a failure. In addition, there are several other discriminations that are often masked by this practice – is it really inclusive? Is it free from racial discrimination? In reality, love she herself has been accused of racial discrimination, perpetuating abusive management and “questionable labor practices”. If the structures created by these girlboss ultimately create problematic norms of power to achieve, how are they different from the heteropatriarchal cages they aspire to dismantle?
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If more leadership and representation of women is indeed needed, it is important to examine stereotypes of all kinds, so that they are priceless and to check if they are not just ideas toxic perpetuated by a front. While this may apparently help the feminist movement, it may, in essence, encourage personal gain rather than helping the larger cause.