One scroll through any social media platform and you’ll without a doubt see it: #girlboss. Over 17 million posts on Instagram sport the popular hashtag covering anything from inspirational quotes, motivational workout photos, a variety of products ranging from makeup to jewelry, and, strangely enough, lots of babies.
While I have no inherent problems with content like this, the term girlboss makes me want to throw up. It’s degrading, and a fancy branding band-aid that glosses over the accomplishments of women. Women in their twenties making waves in the world are just that: women. Young women, perhaps, but watering down their identity to “girl” degrades the hard work they’re celebrating.
You’re not a “GirlBoss”, you’re just a boss
The term #GIRLBOSS, originated from the title of Sophia Armuso’s best-selling book published in 2014. Netflix picked up the concept and launched an original series inspired by the book that came out in 2017.
Since then, the hashtag has made appearances all over social media, TV, and in popular culture. During the last presidential election, Drew Barrymore claimed “Hillary Clinton is going to be the ultimate girlboss as our next president.”
When men take office, make change, or lead the way no one creates a cutesy narrative around it because that’s what’s expected of them. For women, the standard should be the same way.
I’d like to take a moment to clarify, I endorse women supporting women, and women who work hard for change. However, I can’t support any jargon that treats women any differently than men.
The girlboss “movement” highlights the gender of female leaders and not in a positive way. For starters, women shouldn’t want to be recognized for the work they’re doing because of their gender; they should want to be recognized for doing good work. By attaching such a label, we’re undermining our own abilities and calling attention to ourselves in a negative way.
I want to scream it from the rooftops: you’re not a girlboss, you’re just a boss! But companies continue to target women with their girlboss accessories and apparel. We don’t have to spend our money or our time on proving our leadership with products that say so and posts that celebrate it. Let your work speak for itself.
You might be thinking “it’s really not that bad. It’s cute!” Maybe it’s not that bad, and sure I guess it’s cute. But using that type of language to separate yourself from male peers does you a disservice; I would argue it’s that exact isolation that contributes to people not taking you seriously in the first place.
Embracing the different traits that women bring to the table is absolutely a good thing. Women problem solve differently, tend to approach situations with more empathy, and have had a different experience of the world as shaped by their gender.
The girlboss movement or trend or whatever doesn’t highlight any of this. Instead, it highlights the ingrained “cuteness” of doing a job, instead of the work itself. I would argue this too is a type of sexism. Working women are not girls, and they shouldn’t identify with or be treated as such. Women need to stand against this language and own the work they’re doing as the boss.
Girlboss may be the latest trend, but a woman in charge never goes out of style.