There’s No Such Thing as a GirlBoss
Books + Reviews + Work December 1, 2016
Girlboss. This is a term I’ve seen absolutely everywhere the last few years. It makes sense to see it in the blogging world as bloggers tend to be quite entrepreneurial. We’re all here building our own little empires. Still, it’s a term that’s always irked me a bit. Why GIRL boss. Why not just the boss? If we must provide a qualifier, why not Boss Lady over the diminutive “girl?”
Admittedly, while all these thoughts were floating around, I hadn’t actually read the book #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso. And, in fact, not being much of a fashionista myself, I’d never really heard of its author or her business, Nasty Gal. So before I could write this post I thought I should do some research. And with recent job changes, I was in the mood for career motivation in general, so I also picked up Aliza Licht’s Leave Your Mark.
I tried to go into #Girlboss with an open mind, but a few pages in the author suggested that perhaps North America was post-feminism and my eyes rolled so far back into my head that I saw the meaning of life and the universe. I was also immediately struck by the idea that the term GirlBoss could be replaced by any other term and it wouldn’t really matter. I imagined the author writing the entire manuscript referring to the audience as BloopidyBloops and then whacking a find and replace over the whole thing. That is to say that none of this seemed specifically female-centric. And that’s completely fine, since I’m not a huge fan of the gendered term in general! But all it made me think was that the title of the book is purely for marketing purposes.
The book itself was an interesting tale of a young woman making it in the world of e-commerce (although I read it just as news of Nasty Gal’s bankruptcy filing came out, which cast a bit of a dull light on the whole thing). But I don’t see how it’s apparently becoming this source of inspirational career advice for young women. If you want to work specifically at Nasty Gal, it’s probably a good resource for knowing the ins and outs of the (now former) chairwoman of the company. But while I’m certainly not raking in millions, I have been at this career thing for a solid 5 years, and there wasn’t anything that even stood out to me as something I would have needed to know as a fresh graduate.
On the other side of the coin, there’s Leave Your Mark, which I’m just going to say right off the bat, I thought was brilliant. It was funny, well written, with Devil Wears Prada-esque vibes at times and a treasure trove of relevant career advice for both newbies and some of us who are entering our intermediate years.
This was a book that contained fun anecdotal advice in a similar way to #GirlBoss, but also had the facts to back it up. Throughout the book are lists of tips and tricks that you can apply right at this moment to help advance your career. While #GirlBoss felt so specific to a niche business, Leave Your Mark was easily applied to my own situation, even though I don’t work in fashion PR.
And it delivers its message without mentioning gender at all.
Now I’ve heard many arguments about how the term GirlBoss is reclaiming a feminine word to empower, but I just don’t see it. And, obviously, I realize that I’m writing this post about a million years after the book has reached global success, so everything I’ve said has definitely been said before. One of my favourite articles on the topic is this one by Anna Jordan.
Even after doing my research, I still think the term GirlBoss needs some work. Try applying it to any other career that is seen to be male-dominated and successful. GirlSurgeon. GirlLawyer. GirlEngineer. “Hello, I’m Aisling, GirlWebDesigner.” If these make you cringe, why wouldn’t GirlBoss?
My recommendation is this: if you’re looking for career advice and motivation, put aside those pink paperbacks, and pick up Leave Your Mark. Approach your career from a strategic point that doesn’t even consider your gender to be a contributing factor, whether good or bad.
By all means, be a Girl. Be Yourself. And if you’re bossin’ it, be the Boss.
Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think in the comments below.
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