Girlboss Media is a platform notable for peddling the beliefs of Sophia Amoruso, a She-E-O best known for upcycling a vintage clothing store into an ill-received Netflix show into a brand of corporatized feminism. Its various outreach events, like the Girlboss Rally, aim to create a global community of “female entrepreneurs” linked by their shared desire for pinkified corporate hierarchies. Never mind the litany of complaints from former staffers at Nasty Gal, alleging a toxic work environment, as a self-described #GIRLBOSS, Amoruso’s latest endeavor is a “Linked-In for millennial women” which professes to help them “share not just what they do, but who they are.”
Like many initiatives targeted at the trendy demographic of empowered businesswomen, girlboss.com features a minimalist look and aesthetically pleasing colorway. In a statement to Fast Company, Amoruso revealed the ethos behind Girlboss’ design:
“There’s a sense of levity. This isn’t a stiff, stale professional networking environment. [...] We want to be really accessible to everyone out there. Often it’s the women who can’t afford to join a members-only club who need this platform most.”
I too begin every new journey with a call-out of The Wing!
In an age when feminism has been co-opted by corporations just like Amoruso’s defunct Nasty Gal, who does Girlboss really serve? Is it the many hopeful users looking to navigate the increasingly dire job market, or the corporations that might someday employ them? (Or, per chance, Amoruso herself.) With these questions plaguing my sleep cycle, I struck out to find the answers myself.
The platform’s sign-up process walks you through a variety of questions on your industry, the kinds of people you hope to connect with (girlbosses), the skills you’d like to learn (girlbossing), and what your contribution to the “conversation” might look like (how to be a girlboss). Since my alter ego, Jenna Maroney, is the amalgamation of the ambitions long crushed out of me by adulthood and capitalism, I decided to insert her in a career field I could only dream of—aviation and aerospace. Thinking an astronaut might draw suspicion on the platform, “Information Technology Specialist” seemed a more realistic career #goal. Girlbosses love an underdog story!
Animated confetti punctuated the end of my entrance exam, unveiling a reminder: “Brag! But just a little.” Quick to learn the many secrets of this tribe of empowered entrepreneurs, I posted my first question:
Title: How do you deal with the sometimes crushing pressure to outperform yourself in the modern job landscape?
Post: Sometimes, the endless grind really wears me down. I feel like I work so hard—skipping out on sleep, pursuing my “side-hustles,” and even forgoing social connections—so that I can keep up in my job field. Does anyone feel the same? How do you stay empowered?
Having grown up on various sub-forums and Livejournal communities, I understood the replies would need some time to cook. Feeling nosy, I set out to find a sampling of the initial messages from various other girlbosses on the Reddit-style homepage. Some were straightforward. A middle manager in the technology sector asked, “Advice for hiring first employee?” Many peddled the sort of interactions likely dreamed of by Amoruso. An influencer asked “Are you a digital nomad? Let’s connect!” and a “founder” shouted a rallying cry, “Calling all social-impact Entrepreneurs and Change-Makers!” Further down, a BlackStone investment banker offered her advice for “cold intro-ing” a relationship, a term for approaching random people and handing them personalized pieces of stock paper. I learn something new every day.
Unfortunately, the site crashed before I could offer my advice. With its secrets now shut to me, I wondered
While I waited for the sacred font of wisdom to resume its pleasant bubbling, I watched some illegal footage from the latest Girlboss Rally. Inspirational chats are currently popular among the rich, career driven women empowered by networking conferences and motivational TED talks about Hilary Clinton’s pantsuits. Leaders of the influencer economy, like Amoruso and Jameela Jamil, have built their own cottage industry popping up at music festivals to host “Create+Cultivate in Partnership with AERIE Real Models Present: AERIE Real-treat!” Such influencer cabals are often closed to those on the outside, controlling information through heavily curated Instagram posts and celebratory coverage. (Which, one might point out, is contradictory to Amoruso’s general ethos of building a paradise for those who can’t afford the luxuries of The Wing.) From what I can tell, “boss babes” gather once a month in the California desert to discuss the toxicity of influencer culture, podcasting, accepting yourself, and which rose quartz will heal your generational trauma.
Amaruso’s brand of feminism, which prioritizes business relationships and “empowerment,” is nothing new. As corporations have realized the profitability of feminist ideologies, so come the sloganeering merchandise and seminars aimed at empowering women to “be their best.” Goop has built a sizable audience on such practices. This year’s speakers at the Girlboss Rally itself were marketed as businesswomen, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and venture capitalists. Panels such as “When did financial literacy become a crusade against your latte?” feature problems mostly experienced by contributors to Refinery29’s “Money Diaries.” This packaging signals that empowerment won’t be found through the dismantling of corporate systems, but acceptance and “feminization” of the corporate workplace itself. Amoruso, amidst the site’s launch, gave an interview to Business Insider that illuminated her desired demographic for a site like Girlboss:
“It’s a place for someone who does or doesn’t have a traditional career, who may not have this C-level title, but may be on her way up. There are very few places for her to go to represent her resume or life today.”
Contrary to this, the women promoted on the front page’s “Featured Girlbosses” include a private equity investor, a project manager, a lawyer, a fashion executive, a marketing director, and an executive assistant. Most (if not all) of these are jobs that typically require a college education with a degree in their respective field. How many women “without a traditional career” or who lack “C-level titles” would be hired as executives, directors, and venture capitalists? Here I think lies the appeal of Amoruso to her many dedicated fans. Early branding positioned Nasty Gal as the underdog in the cutthroat world of fast fashion retail. Lacking a traditional corporate backroad, Amoruso spun this yarn into larger and larger motivational speaking opportunities and the core message of Girlboss itself. Anyone—with enough empowerment—can be anything they want. I set out to ask my peers how our leader’s journey inspires them but discovered my previous post had been blocked by administrators. Rethinking my strategy, I upped the stakes in Jenna Maroney’s endless vertical trek.
Title: Looking to move up from a c-level position to that of a director - help!!!
Question: I was recently told to “apply” myself more by a boss so I could be considered for the job she has. I don’t have a college degree like her, nor do I come from a family background that afforded me a private school education and the networking a posh, Connecticut upbringing provides. I work just as hard as she does, if not more, and my work is frequently highlighted by upper management when training new hires. Help!
Should I continue to keep my head down? Should I confront her on the classist assumption I don’t work as hard as she does? Do I have any hope of moving up? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
The specter of Goop similarly looms large across much of Girlboss’s brand. In my 24 hours spent trawling the message boards, I encountered exactly five women who work in “wellness” advertising their events, products, and polling on future firesides. As Jezebel writer Stassa Edwards has often pointed out, Goop sells a version of feminism rooted in biological essentialism, troubling post-medicine products, and empowerment through whiteness and wealth. Its brand, although popular amongst the “founders” and CEOs of America, contrasts greatly with Girlboss’s initial aesthetic. Instead of Hamptons socialites in bedecked in knits and drop-pendant earrings, Girlboss presents an inclusive atmosphere. The aforementioned “Featured Girlbosses” are both “diverse” in the easily marketed sense. They similarly vary in age, weight, and geographic location. I emailed the site to inquire about whether non-binary people would be included in the site’s “women in business” ethos, to which they responded: “YES!”
The site crashed again as I drafted my third question, on unionizing a workplace. When it eventually came online early this morning, I discovered all three posts had been blocked by administrators. Looks like I’ll have to find my empowerment elsewhere.