August 26th is Women’s Equality Day, commemorating the hard-fought battle for women’s suffrage and recognizing the ongoing struggle for gender equality. While this day is an opportunity to celebrate the progress made, it’s also crucial to reflect on the evolving landscape of women’s empowerment. This includes the emergence of “girlboss” culture. While initially championed as a means of uplifting women, girlboss culture has been criticism for its toxic elements that can hinder true gender equality.
The Rise of Girlboss Culture
Girlboss culture emerged as a response to the historically unequal treatment of women in the workplace (and society at large). The aim started off positive: to inspire and empower women to embrace their ambition, pursue leadership roles, and challenge societal norms. The digital age allowed girlboss to gain momentum through social media. The message was clear: women could be both strong and successful.
Gaslight, Gatekeep, Girlboss
While girlboss culture was initially well-intentioned, it has been criticized for its toxic tendencies that can perpetuate inequality in subtle ways.
Individualism Over Solidarity: Girlboss culture places a strong emphasis on individual success. Sometimes at the expense of collective progress. This can inadvertently discourage collaboration among women. Resulting in a competitive rather than supportive environment. Not exactly the intersectional feminism we’d prefer.
Elitism and Inclusivity: The idea of the girlboss can inadvertently reinforce exclusivity, implying that only a select few can attain success on their terms. This perspective can undermine the experiences of women from diverse backgrounds who face additional challenges due to their race, socioeconomic status, or other factors.
Blurring the Lines Between Empowerment and Exploitation: The emphasis on working tirelessly to achieve success can sometimes blur the lines between empowerment and exploitation. As hustle culture began to receive criticism, girlboss culture did as well. The pressure to constantly hustle can lead to burnout and neglect of other important aspects of life. We’re all for successful women, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of a healthy work-life balance. The expectation to excel in every aspect of life can lead to stress and diminished well-being.
Superficial Feminism: Some critics argue that girlboss culture can promote a superficial form of feminism. In this case, surface-level empowerment is championed without addressing systemic barriers that still exist for many women. Girlboss tends to be associated with white woman feminism that doesn’t consider barriers beyond gender.
Reframing Women’s Empowerment
To foster genuine gender equality, it’s important to reframe the conversation around women’s empowerment and leadership.
Embrace Intersectionality: Recognize that the challenges women face are not one-size-fits-all. Embrace intersectionality by acknowledging and addressing the unique struggles of women from various backgrounds.
Collaborative Empowerment: Shift the focus from individual success to collective progress. Encourage women to support and uplift one another, fostering a sense of community rather than competition. Consider mentoring other women in your field.
Holistic Success: Promote the idea that success should encompass personal well-being, mental health, and a healthy work-life balance. True empowerment means thriving in all aspects of life. Success shouldn’t come at the expense of your health and happiness.
Advocacy for Structural Change: Instead of relying solely on individual efforts, advocate for structural changes that promote gender equality in the workplace, healthcare, education, and beyond.
What to do if You Girlbossed too Close to the Sun
Girlboss hustle culture makes it tempting to take on all the responsibilities. If you find yourself “girlbossing” too close to the sun, take a step back and reevaluate. Learn to say no and prioritize what is most important to you. It’s okay to reassess your goals and strategies to find a more balanced and sustainable path to your goals.
Women’s Equality Day serves as a reminder of the progress made in the fight for gender equality. While girlboss culture aimed to empower women, we should critically examine our approach to women’s empowerment. By shifting the focus from individualism to collective progress, embracing diversity, and advocating for systemic change, we can build a more inclusive and equitable future for all. Let’s celebrate how far we’ve come and get to work making more progress (without sacrificing our own wellbeing)