The Problem with #girlboss


After Blogtacular back in June, I like everyone else who attended came away in a haze of love and creativity and general joy at having found this fantastic network of inspiration. I arrived back at my hotel and unpacked my goodie bag with several squeals of joy, and then packed it all away again, ready to write about it all at a later date. Well, that date didn't really arrive, but I did unpack it all again when I got home, and one of the items made me feel a little...odd.

#girlboss

This hashtag has almost become a word in itself in recent months. A whole army of creative business women, celebrating their successes and sharing their goals and aspirations with the internet. At first glance, and without too much thought, that's great! But something about seeing this little banner made me feel uneasy, and it wasn't until a few months later that it dawned on me again.



This popped up on my Facebook newsfeed, and I remembered again that slightly prickly feeling #girlboss gives me and felt hugely grateful that it's not only me that is beginning to have an issue with the term...


Now, before I cause chaos, don't for a minute think that I'm saying women don't deserve to be the boss, or to be equal in every single way to their male counterparts, in position, wage and the level of respect and authority they hold. 

What I am questioning is the need to define our selves by these parameters. I am female, and I identify as such, but why should that mean I need to shout it from the rooftops as though it makes me special or in some way more deserving of success? Do I think I am any worse than my male counterparts? No, of course not, but neither do I think I am better or deserve to be treated as such. I am yet to see a male creative business owner, blogger, maker or other wise declare them selves a #boyboss! 

I know the argument will be that men don't need to because they are treated differently by society and don't have the same struggles as women do in the workplace or in the creative industries, and I admit to being slightly naive here because I have never experienced it. Every job I've had has been as part of a predominantly female workforce, and every single superior I've ever worked under has been female, including my university and college course leaders, and the majority of school teachers. I have thankfully never been subjected to any sort of discrimination because of my gender, or experienced a pay gap or struggle for a promotion, although I'm under no illusion that it does go on. 

I wonder how men view this phenomenon. Do they feel, as I suspect I would, as though woman are declaring themselves not only equal, but superior? I'm all for empowerment but I cant help wondering  if this sort of thing is actually veering towards doing to men what many women feel has been done to them for so many years - 'boy bashing' as a friend affectionally put it! 

The gender lines are becoming increasing blurred too, so many people now identify with a gender they weren't classified as when they were born, or chose not to identify with one at all, but rather choose to live their lives in exactly the way they feel most comfortable. A friend and I were recently looking at the application form for the US based 'Girlboss Foundation'. Since 2014 they have awarded over $120,000 in financial grants to women in the creative industries, and supported these women to develop and market their businesses. This is obviously amazing, and I'm certain every grant recipient was totally deserving of it, but it did raise a question for me. What would happen if a transgender or bi-gendered person were to apply? What even classifies a person as a girl? 

On a similar note, I listened to The Playful Day podcast last week. This season's theme is exploring family, and host Kate was joined by Dad and graphic designer Anthony Peters, who explained his own family set up. His wife goes out to work full time and he works from home while his two children are at school, which means he is generally the parent on the school run, cooking meals and going to school plays and sports days. He talks about how he's been affectionately laughed at at the school gates, by the Mums', and (if schools I have experience of are anything to go by) female teachers, and received quippy comments such as 'Oh look, Dad's got all three children on his own - and they're wearing the right clothes, well done you!" Why!? Why, just because a person is born a certain gender does it automatically make them better equipped for being able to dress a child? Nobody would ever look at a Mum at the school gate say, 'Oh look at her with all three children on her own!" - are we not as a society creating self fulfilling prophecies by holding these outdated beliefs? We don't have children yet, and as we both work freelance now we don't how how our family set up will work once we do - but one thing I know for sure is that my husband will not 'babysit' our children - he will be their Dad, just as I will be their Mum. 

This view may be because of the upbringing I had. My Mum was very much the 'boss.' She was the manager at her place of work, and always had the higher income. She was often at work overnight and while my Dad also worked, it was often him who was with us at weekends and after school, and more often than not him who did the washing, and the hoovering and feeding. You know - the things men still get quippy comments about if they're seen to be doing on their own!

I think, for me anyway, it mostly comes down to expectations. I can't help but think the the more women expect to be the underdogs, the less outrageous it will be when that's how we are perceived. Wouldn't it be better if everyone just expected everybody to be equally capable and competent until they learned otherwise? Even the notion of being 'equal' is an odd concept really - there are plenty of things about each gender (not to mention each race, religion and ability level) that make us different from one another, either because of physical ability or choice. Some people are able to give birth, some people choose not to eat meat, some are physically stronger than others, some chose to worship a higher power and some people learn to speak using sign language. 

We are all delightfully different, and wouldn't it be amazing if we didn't have to be shoved into a box with a big shiny hashtag on it, but could simply be proud of being a person? 

A strong, brave, independent, individual, world changing human being? 

6 comments

  1. I don't have a formed opinion yet about this topic, at least not in a way I can be as eloquent in a language that's not my mother tongue but I can say that this reflection feels right. I do believe that in the search for being taken into account and noticed and equals, some feminist movements have gone a bit overboard. This girl boss is one example... I'll come back to this when I can express myself better! :P

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  2. I've worked in a factory dominated by men for the last three years and there are only six other girls who work there. I like the tag Girlboss (and I'm sure all my female colleagues would agree) because it's a tag of confidence. Day in and day out where we work we are subjected to sexism. A lot of the time it is linked to saying we aren't as strong as the men but I can lift things some of the men don't believe I can until I do it in front of them. I got offered a promotion on the spot about a year and a half ago...I tried to step up for the role and got told by some of the men that they thought I wasnt good enough because I was a woman...my 'promotion' never got said about again after a while and it was taken over by a colleague I work with ...obviously a man. I know it varies in the work place but I honestly think women are easily undermined in the work place to the point of putting them down, whether it is saying it to their faces or behind their backs to sabotage achievement. As for gender roles, I agree that men can look after the house and children just as well as men...but I hate to say it, as long as women are the only ones giving birth (unless there are some random weird scientific advancements where men also give birth) they will always be the primary nurturers, the caregivers, the organisers, the yin as it were - and men the yang. Back to the original point, sometimes women need a confidence boost and reminder that they can do more and be more than just what society (and men) expects from them. It's pretty much hard wired into our evolving brains since we started walking on this earth that women provide the home and men provide the food (aka 21st century terms - work to get the money for food). It's quite extraordinary for a woman to have children, work full time and keep the house clean and tidy...like a boss. Hence why I like the hashtag, it's encouragement to take charge no matter what anyone else says, whichever gender. I hope gender roles become more equal and accepted as potentially equal, hashtags like Girlboss I think help.

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  3. It's interesting to hear the perspective of someone who has experienced sexism - as I said, I have never experienced any sort of gap or descrimination because of my gender, and there were actually plenty of times in my last job where myself and my female colleagues really weren't strong enough to do something and had to ask someone male to step in. I'm sorry to hear someone else was promoted above you when it should have been yours too. I think for me it comes down to expectation, and also the way men I have encountered see this situation. If we continually expect to have to work our way up from the bottom and routinely think of ourselves as the underdogs then it becomes socially ok for others to think that too. I don't think that because some men are discriminatory towards women they all deserve to be thought of as the cave man type who is pre-disposed to go back to work full time either. I know of plenty of men who are the primary care givers because either they have to be or because they and their partner have chosen for it to me that way round - I agree it's not traditional and that's not the way we are biologically designed - but again, biology doesn't seem to have worked out for the thousands of people who were born into a gender they don't identify with. Like you said, women can give birth and men can't, and there are things men can do that women can't but it's not the fault of either gender that they don't have the abilities of the other, and just as women don't deserve to be abused by men, men don't deserve to be critisised in places that are seen as the realms of women - isn't that just as bad? If it helps people to feel empowered and to have the confidence to argue for the jobs and promotions they deserve then that's brilliant, I just wish it didn't have to be an issue at all. If we all had the confidence to expect to be treated equally and to argue vehemently when we're not then maybe we'd all start to evolve to see equality as the standard, but also to celebrate our differences. As I've said, I've thankfully not been on the receiving end of any of this shit and maybe I would feel differently if I had, but it's really interesting to hear the point of view of someone who has. Thank you for starting a conversation! Lots of love xxx

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  4. As a now retired older woman, I can relate to both sides of the argument - I did a paper round (remember those) where the owner persistently left out one of my newspapers just so I had to say 'I need a Sun' to which he replied, 'I'll give you a son, love' Oh how I would've loved to have been his #girlboss. I have also worked in a higher managerial role, on an equal footing with both genders. My biggest issue is GIRL boss. I haven't considered myself a girl for many years and it's this labelling that continues to haunt us - 'girl' implies lots of things and maybe that's the point, but while grown women carrying out grown up jobs continue to label themselves 'girls' it really does lead to self-fulfilling prophecies. Great post, as always

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    1. Thank you, and indeed! It just conjures up so many unhelpful connotations I feel! Also, I think the way we feel as woman has a lot to do with the way we respond to these things - if we let ourselves be downtrodden and always considered the underdog and never question the people who make us feel undervalued or who give the promotions we deserved to people who didn't (regardless of their gender) then it gives permission for it to continue happening! I'm sure this is the very reason many people find #girlboss helpful - but its not for me! x

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