How to grieve the Girlboss

What’s next for a generation of women who don’t aspire to climb the corporate ladder

Maria Lisboa-Ward

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Photo by Polina Tankilevitch

A little over a month ago, Vogue published an opinion piece by Daisy Jones that tickled me just a tad too much. Maybe it was because I had been an aspiring card-holder of the girlboss club, but something about Vogue’s Instagram reference on ‘the death of the girlboss mentality’ was annoyingly captivating. ‘Wait, we are killing the Gilboss now?’ I thought, with a sting of anger, surprisingly followed by a slipped ‘oh, thank fuck for that!’

Well, I was late to the game. It turns out that the term ‘Girlboss culture,’ explored by Jones in her article, had already gathered a plethora of haters in the last few years. If it initially meant to describe the wave of female CEO’s and career woman wanna-bes in rise, the term has most recently been associated with an ‘intersection of white feminism and hustle culture’ and ‘remunerative quasi-feminist liberation fantasy’ promoted by a specific demographic labeled by The Guardian as a ‘pinkwashed hypercapitalist career queen.’ The terms scoff the short-lived reverie of empowerment sold through cute outfits and late nights that turned structural oppression into a self-help industry. And they make sense.

For a movement that took pride in promoting freedom and equity, girlboss culture does not seem to have fulfilled its mission. Instead of creating a more welcoming work environment, ‘girlbossness’ added pressure for women to strive for perfection in yet another aspect of life. Not only do we need to look thin, act graceful, be patient mothers and wives — all while holding a perfectly white yet not-so-fake-looking smile — now we have to be the ‘she-E-O’ too.

It turns out that, just like Jones, I, too, grew up admiring depictions of the corporate dream in movies like The Devil Wears Prada and Legally Blonde. Truth be told, my copy of Girlboss by Sophia Amorouso is probably gathering dust in my parents’ storage room. Still, instead of being inspired by those characters in a relatable way, I saw Hollywood ‘girlbosses’ the way little girls look at their pampered mom. I was too young to try living the lifestyle, but I could surely admire it from afar and wish for a future in fancy high-rise offices.

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Maria Lisboa-Ward
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I write about life, people, love, and the courage to navigate it all.