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The Boss Girl Syndrome and How It’s Damaging the Female Psyche

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at MUJ chapter.


“Boss b*tch”

“Boss lady”

We’ve all heard some or the other version of these words before. They’ve been implied in songs by highly successful artists like Cardi B, Beyonce, or Taylor Swift. Highly paid actresses like Emma Watson, Kristen Stewart, and Priyanka Chopra (citations vary) wear the elegant rendition of the word like a crown. Public figures like Lilly Singh and Ellen DeGeneres made a whole career out of living the word. Being a girlboss is a delightful picture painted to every girl that dares to be ambitious in a world made for men.

Girlboss, like most aspects of the feminist movement, has already received her share of hate and censure (read: Gaslight, Gate keep, Girlboss). She has been trashed by chauvinists for obvious reasons. She has been criticized by intersectional feminists, who think the neologism pertains solely to privileged women who belong to a certain race or at least, a certain class, and who do nothing to lift the women on the lower end of the ladder. She has been shunned by employees working in capitalist economies who’ve come out with unsavory stories of what it’s like to work under her. Each claim is marked with varying degrees of hypocrisy or validity, which is a topic of discussion for another day. Right now, we’re going to say something more controversial.

Being a girlboss is bad for women. Not in the social, cultural or economic sense, but in plain terms, being a girlboss is straight up bad for women.

Before you chuck your least favorite pair of shoes onto my face, hear me out. 

Conventionally, being a girlboss is supposed to describe a woman who’s made it to the top of the proverbial ladder. A woman who, despite all odds rooted in misogyny, grows to defeat the patriarchy at its own game, all while retaining her taste for all things women. She is supposed to be the antithesis of the ‘career-women’ of the 70s, for whom it was a horror to be perceived as anything less than another man at the office, and who shied away at anything remotely close to womanliness. She’s a queen of multitasking, parties, deadlines, and fashion. She makes her money, and she writes her checks on her dates. After 10 years of overtime, sleepless nights and endless meetings, she’s still got it. Hookups, flings and long-term commitments fit conveniently into her overflowing calendar, should she simply choose to. Actually, she needs no man. She is her own woman; she is her own boss.

At its core, the idea of girlboss is not only superficial, but also exhausting. Everyone has different priorities in their life, and we’ve got to make sacrifices to attain the things we hold dear. The innate pressure to be perfect, a sense ingrained in women for centuries, is now willingly combined with the immovable dynamics of corporatism that rewards less and punishes hard. The problem is not in the notion of career-oriented women being feminine, but that the incorporation of femininity in her life is strictly cosmetic. Yes, she can wear or not wear makeup, or dress up or dress down. However, there seems no place for attributes that women have been long celebrated for: compassion, sensitivity and nurturing relationships. The romanticization of the whole ‘hot single nasty woman that makes bank’ is influenced by singers, actresses, and public figures, all of whom belong exclusively to the glamour industry and some of whom have done questionable things to other women for the men in their lives.

The makers of Barbie were called out for portraying a shallow version of feminism.

What makes people unkind to your girlboss is that she is actively discouraged to rely on other people, particularly men, at any point of time. Ironically, women who are currently at the top seem to know how crucial it is to maintain high connections, even at the cost of either their own values or the interests of womankind at large. It cannot be said that all women in workplaces have zero reliance on the people around them, yet it is a trait that is somehow gobbled up by Millennial women on the way to leadership positions. This sort of alienation of oneself is detrimental both socially and psychologically and is prone to causing resentment and burnout. Having a picture-perfect lifestyle that combines a demanding career, excellent health, a thriving social life, and, to top it off, doing it all on your own, is nothing short of impossible.

Girlboss, in these ways, creates and encourages narcissism. Success where we’ve been least expected is something that ought to be celebrated. But that shouldn’t define someone to the point where they think simply making money will fetch them unwavering respect or give them a pass to be terrible to those still struggling. Being a good person is a norm, not a standard. Maybe they think, “I did therefore I deserve.” This characteristic is sometimes played out by working parents who think it is okay to force children into accommodating their work tantrums, or veterans who shudder at the thought of being ‘replaced’ by women younger, more enthusiastic or talented than they are. These behaviors may be exhibited by anyone on the gender spectrum, but girlboss-hood honors it in women. The fact that someone has succeeded once does not entitle them, and them alone, to its continuance. This may be the cause of internalized misogyny or a mindset of scarcity; it impedes women’s progress in society, nonetheless.

The ‘girlboss’ ideology is a flawed ideology created by Millennial women in response to another flawed notion of women in the workplace. Gen Z recognizes this fact, which explains the recent cultural shift that focuses on changing corporate environments as opposed to women themselves, to make way for them up the ladder. Perhaps this approach has flaws that time will reveal, but it must do for now. Only when we embrace the presence of women in every sphere from our core, will we have a culture that does not need them to morph into a false perception.

I'm currently in my junior year doing Bachelor of Technology in Computer Science. I'm into opinions, politics and of course, writing!