The concept of a girlboss cannot coexist with the concept of feminism- equality for women, regardless of status or job title says Amy Walsh
Girlboss. We’ve all heard the word- but what does it mean?
‘Girlboss feminism’, also known as ‘choice feminism‘, is a movement that focuses on the empowerment of the individual, rather than the liberation of women as a whole.
It plays into the notion that any decision a woman makes is inherently feminist because she made it, whereas in a past, more patriarchal society, these decisions would have been made for her. On the surface, we are forced to question what is so wrong about a woman doing well for herself and no one else?
Margaret Thatcher and Girlboss Feminism.
This wave of feminism is certainly a 2010s phenomenon, but has roots in the 80s, as women like British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher strutted over Britain in a power suit and heels. Thatcher certainly captures the essence of what a ‘girlboss’ is. Loved by some and hated by most, being Britain’s first female prime minister should be something that we look back at with pride, as places such as the US, are yet to be led by a woman. however, instead, her period of power is looked at with shame and resentment by feminists everywhere.
Thatcher didn’t politicise her gender, and for this she is praised, showing girls everywhere that it doesn’t matter if you’re not a man in politics or in this society in general, you can still achieve. However, this is not as inspirational as it seems. Some may see Thatcher’s refusal to ‘play the gender card’ as powerful, but in reality, this simply ignores the fact that for her, this was a choice that undermines the feminist movement.
Had Thatcher been a loud and proud feminist, emphasising her position as what could have been a feminist pioneer, and using this to empower young or working-class women who did not have the privilege, or option to be career-chasing businesswomen, for example, chances are she wouldn’t have ended up where she did. Thatcher was able to get herself into the highest position of power possible, but in doing so, she disempowered women everywhere.
This is entirely the premise of Girlboss feminism. Margaret Thatcher did do something incredible, she became the first female Prime Minister, but did so at the cost of her identity, and in turn, the identity, sacrifice and suffering of millions of British women, past and present, because society treats women differently based on everything, from political views to job title. Thatcher did what men wanted, she kept quiet and didn’t allow her gender to be a talking point in UK politics at the time.
Sophia Amoruso, Feminism and Capitalism.
Whilst the case of Margaret Thatcher and her connection (or lack thereof) to feminism looks to the choice and privileged aspect of ‘girlboss’ feminism, and how her ignorance toward the feminist movement put her in the highest seat in Britain, there is also a capitalist aspect to this forever- problematic commodity.
For example, many see Sophia Amoruso as a self-proclaimed girlboss, majorly popularising the term. Amoruso originally founded clothing brand Nasty Gal in 2006, which is now one of the top international fast fashion brands, as well as writing New York Times bestseller ‘#Girlboss‘, and executive producing Netflix show Girlboss.
Amoruso’s success is riddled with problems and is built on anti-feminist principles. Amoruso was a businesswoman first and foremost, and while in her mind, this was a feminist statement and symbol of female empowerment, her girlboss movement failed to acknowledge that it is impossible for all of us to be successful under capitalism. Capitalism works by allowing some people to ‘succeed’ at the expense of others. Put simply, capitalism can only exist with the exploitation of the working class (including women).
It may seem like a major progression to have women involved in the world of big business, such as Sophia Amoruso, from a perspective of diversity, but this individual woman disempowers thousands of other women worldwide.
An investigation by The Sunday Times discovered that her company was paying their garment workers an hourly wage of £3.50 at a factory in Leicester-much lower than the minimum wage of £8.72 for those over 25. This is a perfect example of capitalism exploiting working-class women, whilst a business giant sits at its head preaching girl power. At its core, the concept of a girlboss cannot coexist with the concept of feminism- equality for women, regardless of status or job title.
The future of Feminism.
So, what is wrong with a woman doing well for herself and no one else? We must use nuance when looking at people and their actions. Not every action is empowering, inspiring or liberating simply because a woman is doing it. Being a woman who is successful should not go hand in hand with being a woman who is cutthroat, willing to step on anyone (including other women) to get to the top of their field, whilst a major part of their success and brand is owed to feminists (Thatcher) / relies on feminism (Amoruso).
Feminism is about the freedom of women, standing together for equal treatment, an expansion of rights and fighting individual issues such as the gender pay gap. As we enter the future of feminism, let’s ensure that all women are included, empowered and treated fairly to men while understanding the importance of the feminist movement to young people. The fight should not be against another woman as we are all working to achieve the same thing.
Feature Photo by Nicola Styles on Unsplash