After a long week of work, and countless all-nighters, I decided to let myself sleep in for once. I woke up around 12 PM and scrolled through Tik Tok only to find a “Day in my life” montage of a woman waking up early, listening to podcasts on entrepreneurship, and working all day. The comment section was filled with praise like “I wish I could be that productive!”, “How can I become you?”, and plenty of “#girlboss”. I was sent into a state of panic, asking myself: “What am I still doing in bed at 12 PM? I should be working not being unproductive.” Once I was up, out of bed, and getting ready to catch up on all the work I could have been doing while I was resting, something felt off. Why did I get worked up over a few extra hours of rest? After all, I had been working tirelessly all week. Suddenly, the #girlboss trend, which I thought was empowering, became something a little more problematic than I had imagined.
The Commodification of Feminism
Within the past decade, we have witnessed a huge increase in the discussion of feminism in popular discourse. More recently, social media has been flooding with content related to the “#girlboss” trend, typically featuring young women celebrating their career success, potential business opportunities, and other forms of capital growth. These so-called “girlbosses” have become the face of pop feminism today, which largely revolves around relentless productivity and corporate success. In consequence, this endless scroll that was meant to uplift women has turned into an oversimplified form of feminism that only praises commercial and professional accomplishments.
Girlboss feminism suggests that as long as you are maximizing your economic efficiency and profit, you are free from the patriarchal apprehensions you have as a woman. It commercializes feminism into something that you can only be a part of if you are achieving financial success. This view of women as another mere tool of capitalism is dehumanizing, and fundamentally fails to address the larger questions of dismantling unequal power structures that feminism entails.
The Dehumanization of Women
One of the problems with girlboss feminism is that it detaches women from what it means to be human, that is, only celebrating those who have achieved conventional success in this capitalist society. This robotic “hustle culture” that girl boss feminism perpetuates works to equate self-worth with capital productivity while ignoring the importance of individual projects (e.g., learning a new instrument, reading a book, learning to cook) that help us truly build our sense of self. It becomes a harmful mindset that makes us feel guilty when we feel the need to sleep in, take a mental health day, or do anything else other than work.
This isn’t to say that the #girlboss trend hasn’t helped many women achieve their professional goals, but that it delegitimizes the efforts of those who are working to achieve goals within emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being as being productive. The point of the matter is that self-care is just as—or even more—productive as professional and socio-economic success, and should not be overlooked as also being #girlboss just because it is not being monetized.
What can we do?
It is important that we renounce from this learned narrative of productivity within girlboss feminism, and reconfigure our perception of productivity as being any means of self-care. Otherwise, the current traits of girlboss feminism will continue to grow as the epitome of the modern-day feminist disrupting mainstream media with inaccurate perceptions of productivity.
In terms of addressing the larger questions of dismantling unequal power structures, there are a few small steps that we can take to be better feminists and contribute to the radical movement. We can begin by neutralizing gender roles. This means neither women nor men should be acting on the basis of gender. Housework is not only the responsibility of women, but of equal responsibility to that of mens’. It is also important to point out sexism when you see it. Because sexist tendencies have been so normalized in today’s systems, most people don’t recognize it when it’s happening. If you notice sexism, point it out and encourage those around you to think critically about gender. In playing an active role in the feminist movement and refusing to accept the stereotypical gender roles that have been detrimental to the female community for decades, we are fundamentally minimizing the power imbalances.
Overall, it’s imperative that we step away from the false ideas that girlboss feminism has imposed on us and realize that there are ways to approach feminism that doesn’t involve ignoring our humanity. So, let yourself sleep in, bake that recipe you saved on Tik Tok for fun, or get back into your hobbies because taking care of yourself doesn’t make you any less of a real #girlboss.