Girl boss feminism symbolizes regressive gender politics


Carolyn Cheng

Girl boss feminism ignores almost every aspect of feminism, while presenting itself as such.

Tania Ortiz, Opinion Editor

We have all seen those shirts with the phrase “girl boss” plastered on them in the name of women empowerment. While the shirts and accessories made women feel empowered to be a “boss” in their daily lives, the theory behind the infamous phrase is problematic and regressive to gender equality in 2021.

The term “girl boss” was coined in 2014 by Sophia Amaruso, founder of online retailer Nasty Gal. In her book, entitled “#Girlboss,” she proposes that instead of dismantling the power men have retained in America, career women should simply take it for themselves in the office. 

Amaruso also argues that the success of ambitious women is like killing two birds with one stone type of activism. Womens’ pursuit of power can be portrayed as a “righteous” quest for equality in the workplace.

 This contemporary concept of girl boss feminism is essentially a corporate feminist vision. And for this theory to work in practice, women have to be good and moral beings. In my perspective, it is hard to uphold decent morality once you have reached a certain level of power, especially in the corporate setting — no matter what gender you are. 

 Abuse of power can lead to toxic work environments. Recently, there have been multiple accusations of prominent businesswomen, including Amaruso, of having alarming labor practices in their offices. Circling back to the idea that women have to be good and moral beings, had these women upheld feminist values and treated their employees humanely, toxic environments wouldn’t have been created.

 Another problem created by girl boss feminism is the lack of race awareness. Most, if not all, self-proclaimed “girl bosses” are white women. Race is never really on their radar, which could mean there’s a lack of understanding of these issues in the workplace—only viewing the struggle of gender and ignoring the rest, resembling white feminism. 

One of the main reasons why girl boss feminism gained a lot of popularity was that people became more aware of the way power functions in America.

The girl boss concept only focused on encouraging women to take leadership roles in the workplace without any proper stance to the movement. Even though women are steering the ship due to girl boss feminism, the failure lies in creating any real change within the company. Women of color are still earning less than their white counterparts and face more challenges in the workplace.

When the girl boss concept first emerged, it represented a promise of a new order. When examining it closely, it upholds the same power dynamics used by men and infiltrated companies led by women. Making women heads of companies as the new “men” will do nothing to improve the systemic racial and gender inequalities or at least address them in the workplace.

Girl boss feminism is the symbol of regressive politics, wrapped up in a feminist exterior marketed to masses out of touch with inclusivity. In the end, it really isn’t feminism at all.