Column: Gaslight, gatekeeper, farewell mainstream feminism


If you’ve ever been told to ‘get up and grind’ or have met a self-proclaimed ‘boss babe’ or ‘SheEO’, you know the ‘girlboss’ culture.

While women see more opportunities for growth and advancement in white collar jobs, the phenomenon of “girlbossing” has been used to characterize the hard working women in these companies.

And for young women in college – who pursue internships and seek to get a foot in the door – the “girlboss” culture often characterizes the attitude we’re meant to have on our foray into the formal economy. As inspiring as the increase in gender equality in the workforce is, these advances are often limited to white women, who have been at the forefront of Internet “girlboss” culture.

The idea of ​​”girlbossing” has become a meme, with the slogan “gaslight, gatekeep, girlboss” parodying women who take on traditionally male activities. Despite its evolution, “girlbossing” is based on reality and is considered a “lifestyle” by self-proclaimed “girlboss”.

The term “girlboss” was popularized in 2014 by Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso as the title of her autobiography. Amoruso’s entrepreneurial story became the basis for the Netflix comedy show of the same name, which chronicles a young Sophia’s decision to start an online fashion business.

Nasty Gal’s digital fashion empire, although ruled by a ‘trailblazer’ businesswoman, does not appear to be any different from other fast fashion companies, ranking poorly in terms of environmental impact, working conditions and of global ethics.

Toxic work environments and unethical practices don’t just go away when corporate leadership diversifies. The Verge Away Covered Baggage Company, who was known to former CEO Steph Korey, who created a fierce corporate culture of bullying and bullying through Slack work channels. The employees were subjected to long hours, harsh criticism and constant surveillance.

The Cut paints a similar picture of the girlboss mentality: Well-educated, white women find positions of power in white-collar jobs, then engage in business practices that don’t always live up to demands for inclusion and change.

Statistics support this archetype. Over the past 20 years, the number of white female CEOs has soared above their stagnant black, Latin and Asian counterparts. Likewise, the percentage of black CEOs has fluctuated between just four and seven percent since 2004.

As important as it is to see women empowered in the workforce, this mentality has primarily meant only the mobility of white women – as they fill roles within oppressive systems and capitalist power structures. Instead, we need to empower women to step out of these systems and dismantle them.

Moreover, the use of the term “girlboss” legitimizes the empowerment of women only when it is part of the formal economy. It devalues ​​the impact of informal work, such as childcare or contract labor, which is equally valuable and necessary to the economy, and more likely to be inhabited by women of color and immigrants. .

The “girlbossing” mentality is one symptom of mainstream feminism that has caused many people to distance themselves from the feminist title. The advancement of all-white women into nefarious power structures does not reflect the true values ​​and goals of gender equality, as it only serves the white cis women who inhabit these predominantly white, cis and male spaces.

Ideologically, these spaces are hardly more diverse than they were in the past.

But intersectional feminism provides solutions. Intersectionality Рa term coined by Kimberl̩ Crenshaw to explain the unique difficulties of black women Рfocuses on the overlapping identities that people hold and how multiple systems of oppression can impact very differently upon them. people.

This movement focuses not only on the advancement of women as a broad category, but also on women of color, women with disabilities, trans women, immigrant women and sex workers – to name a few marginalized groups. who are often excluded from traditional feminist advocacy.

It is not enough to have more diversity in positions of power. We also need to create more equitable and less exploitative workplaces that challenge the power dynamics of these positions.

Intersectional feminism means extending the rights and well-being of working women everywhere, regardless of their status in the company. This is because social justice, at its roots, should aim to dismantle all systems of oppression. This is a principle that mainstream feminism has proven to disregard.

Whether your future takes you into the job market or down another path, it is essential that your advocacy reaches everyone affected by discrimination, not just those you identify with the most.

Finally, it’s time to reconsider what it means to be a “girlboss” in an economy that is far too often exploitative and still maintains barriers against marginalized employees.


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