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The Problem With the ‘Girl Boss’ Narrative

Now don’t get me wrong, I am a huge advocate for strength, independence and self-worth, especially when it comes to women. After too many years of societal constructs shaped by men, systemic discrimination against women in the workplace and the overwhelming patriarchal nature of today’s world, we must surely welcome and celebrate any instances of female empowerment and solidarity – we all know we need it from time to time. 

The Free Dictionary defines ‘girl boss’ as ‘A confident, capable woman who pursues her own ambitions instead of working for others or otherwise settling in life’. For all intense and purposes, the words ‘confident’, ‘capable’ and ‘ambitions’ all sound great. Right? 

The problem is, however, that the ‘girl boss’ narrative sets a considerably high standard that can be reached by some, but not necessarily by all, resulting in disappointment, and often lower self-worth than before you began the trek to financial and emotional independence. While it is never a bad thing to aim high, be ambitious, and acknowledge dissatisfaction in your life (not always something you can change) these results that everyone is trying to achieve, whether it be through vision board manifestation or late nights in the library, are not necessarily the key to happiness and contentment.

Take for instance, a 21-year-old final year uni student (who will remain nameless…) struggling through endless hours of dissertation work, anxious about not having a secure plan for after she graduates, and desperately seeking the approval of her peers and the world by becoming a financially self-sufficient, emotionally stable, thriving young (female) entrepreneur by the age of, say, 30? She relentlessly scrolls through LinkedIn, seeing everyone she knows, ‘girl boss’ (adj.) this and ‘girl boss’ that, as she sends off another hopeful application for an internship at a firm run by a man, thinking ‘when is my ‘girl boss’ moment going to happen?’ Terrifying, unrealistic and unnecessary – we do not need to add more things to the list of ‘worries every 20-something girl should have!’ 

It is true that we should be able to feel completely whole and fulfilled by ourselves, in all aspects of life, and for many this is the preference. No debts, responsibilities or potential let-downs from other humans. However, in a competitive capitalist climate with a never-ending source of stress, worry, and bills, total financial independence can be a daunting prospect, and we should not shun the large community of women and men who feel intimidated or repelled by this notion.

Firstly, I hate how this term includes the word ‘girl.’ It attracts unwanted attention and disparaging comments from the same sort of people (men and women) who view feminists as nothing more than a bunch of bra-burning hooligans who don’t shave their armpits. The only thing these bullies love more than The Wolf of Wall Street is another stereotype to use in their hatred towards successful women, so let’s try and steer away from the nickname-y terms, just for the sake of keeping them quiet.

Secondly, there is just no need to specify that the ‘boss’ in question is someone who identifies as a female. It’s the same energy as ‘female pilot’ or ‘woman CEO’ or if we’re really going there, ‘actress.’ As true, fair feminists, what we’re going for is equality. In life, in media representation, in the workplace. You wouldn’t ordinarily say ‘boy boss’ when referring to Ben Francis, founder of £1billion brand GymShark. You wouldn’t call CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg a ‘man boss’ would you? These are bosses, CEOs, founders, employers, employees, and people who have worked hard and gained financial independence because of their success. Just like, Grace Beverley (GraceFitUK), Florence Given, Kim Kardashian or any other successful female businessperson (note – person.) I’m absolutely sure this is not the intent, but the gender specificity in ‘girl boss’ actually diminishes its impact, it makes it a buzz word used to refer to women in business who are usually regarded as angry, bossy, hysterical and sensitive. 

Sadly ‘Girl Boss’ is just one of those things. The term itself could be harmless if it weren’t for the surrounding society, and as a fundamental idea it generally seems decent, but it means different things for different people. For some, its a realistic ambition, for many it’s an intimidating cause for feeling inadequate. And so, I’ll leave you with this; try your best, go at your own pace, and do what you enjoy, all of the rest should slot in somewhere along the way.



Alex Berry

Bristol '21

fan of mashed potato, films, and massive dogs.
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