#HustleCulture #SelfMade #GirlBoss. What started off as movements meant to empower women everywhere ended up being a cringe-worthy punchline. Well, worse than cringe-worthy — discriminatory as well — but we’ll get into that in a minute.
Tagging your socials with the ‘girl boss’ phrase felt synonymous with a woman who had an exceptional work ethic. A woman who prided herself for being able to go toe-to-toe with a man, not only doing the same job and the same work, but doing it better. Well, at least that’s what I picture a girl boss to be. Instead, it ended up being less like that and more like pop culture faux-feminism used to make women feel like we were thriving in a system that was never designed to include us.
Insert a girl boss into the ‘boys club’ and the competition gets fierce. (You know, the men who think they are a gift to the world. Zuckerberg, Besos, and Musk — I’m looking at you.) But a system where men are viewed as better, more aligned with their industry’s expectations simply because they are men, leaves no space for women to flourish, no matter how hard they try.
Hustle harder, work longer hours, push until you have nothing left to give, and then keep going. Drink more coffee, sleep a little less, and wear burnout like a badge of honor. Give me a fucking break. We all know how toxic this kind of hustle culture is. Stop it. This is not empowering, it’s not inspirational. So how did it start? And who exactly decided this was a good idea?
The OG Girl Boss
Back in 2014, Sophia Amoruso wrote a memoir titled #GirlBoss, paving the way for years of the girl boss hustle culture. According to an article from The Cut, “#Girlboss is the millennial-pink version of Helen Gurley Brown’s Having It All, supporting the notion to lean in.” The idea was that women could have their cake and eat it too. They were all about empowering each other and forging a path forward for other women. Well, as long as you were all about toxic hustle culture, wealthy, and white. Yes, absolutely don’t forget that last part.
Truthfully, Leigh Stein said it best when she wrote about the downfall of the girl boss in mid-2020: “Racial inequity was never really on her (girl boss’s) radar. That was someone else’s problem to solve.” I’m sorry, but what? How do we push for changing the narrative on equality for women when we’re failing to include all women? Women of color aren’t only trying to break into a system created by men, but they also have to work through a movement that said it included every woman, when in fact, it clearly catered to a specific type of woman.
When one of us breaks through and creates new space, it isn’t just about balancing out male to female representation. It’s about holding space for all our sisters to be represented. It’s time to stop looking to other women as competition and remember why we’re doing this in the first place. Equal, diverse, all-encompassing representation for everyone.
With the pandemic raging, everything and everyone slowed down. We took time to take stock of our relationships and think about what mattered most. And a toxic hustle culture that didn’t value the contributions of all women was something that needed to be left behind. Midway through 2020, a huge reckoning occurred within the movement. Several founders of companies that previously claimed girl boss culture, and ran with it, stepped out of the way to make sure that the true purpose and goals of girl bosses everywhere were being served.
Let’s All Break Glass Ceilings Together
It’s about time we all work together instead of competing with each other. Let’s start off with figuring out something better than girl boss. I mean, what do you call a guy boss? A ‘boss,’ right? What do you call a male CEO? Not a #BoyCEO. Why? ‘Cause when you say that shit out loud, it makes zero sense. What does gender have to do with your ability to lead? Nothing. Not a damn thing.
That’s been one of the most disappointing parts of this movement. In order to feel like we could play their game along with them, we tried to conform to the expectations instead of rewriting them. Magdalena Zawisza, of the UK’s Anglia Ruskin University, hit the nail on the head, “While girl boss immediately draws attention to the feminine, it also infantilizes the role of a female as a boss.”
We are not children, and we are not girls. We are women who believe in fair, just, diverse leadership for everyone, no matter how you identify. Falling into the role of a girl boss just allows men to feel more comfortable with women being involved in the decision-making. By labeling yourself a ‘girl boss’ instead of just a boss, you’re placating their egos. You know what they’re thinking: Yeah, you’re a boss, but you’re a girl boss, not a boss like me.
Instead of propping up toxic work culture which involves clawing over each other to get a seat at the table, why don’t we just hold space for others at that same table? The demise of the ‘girl boss’ has been a long time coming, and honestly, I’m glad. There is a whole new chapter, another new generation, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.