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Why I Would Never Call Powerful Woman a “Girl Boss” 

The term “girl boss” has taken the social media world by storm. It has been plastered across motivational pages on Instagram, T-Shirts, mugs, and literally everything in between. It has become a phrase women proudly claim and call each other, endearingly. While I strongly believe that women should be supportive of one another and celebrate each other’s accomplishments and success, I’m not really sure if this phrase is as endearing as it is implied to be. 

Just like you shouldn’t call a doctor a “female doctor” or an engineer a “female engineer,” I don’t think you should call a powerful woman a “girl boss.” Why can’t she just be a boss? Personally, I believe that language shapes your perspective on everything, which is why you should be very careful about the terminology you use when you speak about things. An example of this would be “garbageman” versus “sanitation worker.”  While the term “garbage man” has dirty implications and focuses specifically on what they get rid of, the term sanitation worker, on the other hand, focuses on the results of their actions - sanitation. Having said this, I believe that the term “girl boss” has some negative connotations to it for multiple reasons. 

First of all, I find the use of the word “girl” in the phrase within itself to be rather problematic due to the fact that it is a phrase that is regularly used to refer to children, but “girl boss” is typically used to refer to grown adults. Personally, I find that to be degrading, because it strips the woman of her adulthood. Instead, it insinuates that she is more of a “child playing boss” rather than simply just being a powerful and successful boss, who just so happens to be a woman. 

The use of the word girl is also problematic due to the fact that is used to distinguish the “girl” bosses from the “boy” bosses; however, men are rarely, if ever, referred to as “boy” bosses… they're simply seen as bosses. Using this gendered terminology to refer to successful women, while keeping a gender-neutral term to refer to men insinuates that male bosses are the norm, while female bosses are outliers, which continues to perpetuate the very system the term “girl boss” is thought to fight. In order to shatter the glass ceiling, I believe that part of the issue is being more selective about the terminology we normalize. Although there is still a long road ahead of us, language is an underrated method of challenging social norms that should not be taken for granted.

Brianna Walton

Agnes Scott '21

Brianna graduated from Agnes Scott College in 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Business Management. She has a passion for social justice issues, self-care, and self-expression via writing. Her favorite things to do are listen to music, draw, talk to friends, and take long walks in nature. She is currently working as a digital marketer and freelance social media manager.
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