‘Girlboss’: A term that has been absolutely everywhere since it was first introduced to the public back in 2014 by Sophia Amoruso, the founder of clothing brand ‘Nasty Gal.’
Snappy, bold and memorable, the term is a marketing dream and has been stamped onto everything from clothing to home wear, hooking a generation of young women keen to make their mark on the business world.
On the positive side, the ‘girlboss’ movement has been interpreted as being inspiring – empowering high-profile figures and showing everyday women that they too can take control of their professional lives. Despite Amoruso’s own reluctance, the term has also been linked to hugely weighty concepts. “#girlboss has always been aligned – especially on social media – with go-getting, 1% feminism.” The Guardian wrote in 2017 and whilst Amoruso insists that “It’s about choosing for ourselves what success looks like,” the term has become synonymous with impressive professional gains.
So far, so shiny, but whilst some aspects of the ‘girlboss’ movement have been applauded, it has come in for its fair share of criticism too. Along with rumors that the working environment at Nasty Gal itself was ‘toxic’, some have criticized the term for being far less empowering to women then it first appears.
A 2020 Refinery 29 article explored how “in reality [the term girl-boss] denies us agency, it diminishes us and denigrates our authority. A girl is a young woman – to suggest that a female worker or leader is a girlboss directly infantilises her.” Similarly, other articles have tracked the journey of the term, noting how with further exploration and unpicking, it morphs from “aspirational to insulting.”
And what about if you simply do not want to be a girlboss either?
‘Hustle culture’ – the idea that we must all be pushing ourselves to the absolute maximum at any given point, can be incredibly easy to get sucked into. In recent years, social media has been rife with posts constantly championing the busy ‘boss’ lifestyle. From getting up at 5:30am to exercise every day, working side-projects until midnight, or simply never taking a day ‘off’, it can become dangerously easy to feel like unless you’re maximizing every hour of your life… you’re wasting it.
“Loads of my friends have a side-hustle.” Sasha* says. “They mostly started in lock down when there was the time for it but even though they’re back to their normal job now they’ve kept them up. They work all hours and I’m proud of them but it makes me feel lazy for just doing my standard 9-5.”
The thing is though, working any job at any point is tiring and every individual is totally different. Thankfully, we’ve started to recognize that our diets, exercise and sleeping routines are pretty much unique and now maybe it’s time we do the same with our working lifestyles too.
Some people thrive on a busy schedule – drawing energy from completing tasks, being sociable and working at a quick pace. Others, however, do not. They require a more moderate schedule to feel at their best and can find the pressure caused by expectations such as being a ‘girlboss’ hard to take.
“Before Covid I was so fast-paced.” Lia remembers. “I just had it in my head that I needed to get up and get to the gym before work, go hard all day and then straight into events, drinks, dinners or a range of different hobbies that I’d picked up because I felt like I had to be doing something. When the pandemic started I did miss a few things but mostly I was just glad that it was okay to be at home for once.”
Aira also has a similar take on post-pandemic life. “It’s just made me realize I don’t want to be killing myself at work every day or make work my only focus.” She confides. “I definitely feel lazier now I don’t try to cram as much in but I’m happier.”
Perhaps this is what we all need to remember. As the world starts to open back up it can feel like we must dive back into everything but is it worth taking a breath to consider if that really is right for you? After two years on pause you might truly have a burning ambition to make 2022 the year of career milestones and gains but also… maybe you don’t. Maybe, you want to spend more time at home and less time hustling and that is absolutely fine as well.
If being a girlboss really was meant to be about taking ownership for yourself then surely we can take from it whatever we choose? It’s 2022 after all and we’ve all been through enough. Instead of letting the term pressure us, let’s adapt it to suit or kick it to the curb and say no thanks… the ultimate self-progressing move.
*All names changed for privacy.