Asst. Opinions Editor
#GirlBoss is a term that has been used, quite often, since the early 2010s to praise female entrepreneurship and to reference females in power, such as CEOs, or women who run their own businesses. ‘Girl Bosses’ are known to be examples of female leaders who encourage and empower women to hustle and work their way to the top, all while overcoming gender stereotypes. Yet, the term doesn’t reflect the actual reality of working women, and is more of a harmful, sexist term, rather than an empowering one.
In 2014, Sophia Amoruso (owner of clothing company Nasty Gal) popularized the term #GirlBoss with her autobiography, which later became a Netflix show titled Girl Boss. The show described her transformation from an eBay vintage store into the multimillion-dollar fashion brand that is Nasty Gal. The term “girl boss” was inspired by the 1975 Betty Davis album for Amoruso’s autobiography, but was it used differently, as Davis signaled a female rebellion against the clothing trends during the ’80s. The term #GirlBoss does the opposite of what it intends to do, as many people use it to look down upon women, and even profit off of them.
According to the Advertising Standards Authority, companies such as People Per Hour, a freelance company, have used ‘girl boss’ in order to demean women. During a campaign PPH was doing in 2019, they used the slogan “YOU DO THE GIRL BOSS THING. WE’LL DO THE SEO THING,” and then, underneath, put “hire expert freelancers by the hour to help your business grow. With everything from coding to video editing, it’s easy to see why over two million people have trusted PeoplePerHour to help build their dream business.” In my opinion, this campaign is horrible, and a huge slap in the face to women everywhere. It conveys the message that women cannot edit or code their own work by implying that women are not technologically skilled in a very patronizing way.
People Per Hour has issued an apology since this campaign started, which they stated came across as “sexist and demeaning to women.” I believe this apology is fake because they were trying to appeal to women by using the term ‘girl boss’ in order to profit off of them, not to empower them. PPH knew exactly what they were doing; they only issued an apology because they got called out for being sexist.
GirlBoss culture overall has been a part of mainstay feminism for years, as the term is everywhere: in adverts, emblazoned across notebooks, and, ironically, printed on T-shirts made in countries where it is highly likely a woman was underpaid for her work. Capitalists have been profiting off this term for years, and this is known as woke capitalism.
Woke capitalism is “a political term of African-American origin that refers to a perceived awareness of issues concerning social justice and racial justice. It is derived from the African-American Vernacular English expression “stay woke,” whose grammatical aspect refers to a continuing awareness of these issues.” This is exactly what ‘girl boss’ is: a way for capitalism and social justice to mix. It’s wrong. People today don’t trust politics or public institutions anymore because they have lost faith in them. This makes them turn to corporations in order to get the moral leadership they aren’t getting from people or institutions they used to trust.
In Leigh Stein’s article, “The End of the Girlboss Is Here,” she stated how capitalism is the death of activism, as capitalists just create money off of the problem at hand. She wrote, “Woke capitalism lets the elites maintain the status quo while paying lip service to the demands of activists, and, as ethical consumers, millennials get to feel like they’re making a difference every time they go shopping.” Stein is right. Just because you buy a shirt that maintains the status quo doesn’t mean you’re doing anything to help that cause at all. In fact, you’re just adding to the problem.
Fast fashion is often linked to GirlBoss clothing brands. Nasty Gal is a fast fashion company that profits off of the use of sweatshop labor that is unregulated, and has unsafe working conditions; 80 percent of these people are women in the Global South. To me, this shows that the term ‘GirlBoss’ isn’t actually trying to uplift or protect working women at all; it’s just a sneaky way for capitalism to take over, as there are no ethical guidelines whatsoever. This is not surprising to me because the brand has the foundation of white supremacy and exploitation, as the company had many people step down since December of 2019 and at the height of the 2020 BLM protests for toxicity and racism claims.
What infuriates me the most is that many people will say that #GirlBoss is feminism. It’s not. The term is actually a part of white feminism because it excludes so many people from their vision in this ‘girl boss’ world by further oppressing and abusing the most vulnerable groups of women in our society. Just because a woman is running a company doesn’t mean it’s run ethically, or inherently full of equity and equality. Without people of color and working class people, capitalism wouldn’t be a thing. Companies thrive on the profit they make off of women of color. The term ‘girl boss’ is inclusive only to white women who want to profit off the working classes and women of color. This isn’t right, and this is why ‘girl boss’ shouldn’t be a term people use in order to describe a powerful, working woman.
Featured Image: Courtesy of Forbes