It’s time to ditch #girlboss, and social media’s infantilisation of women

Image via Netflix

Words by Bianca O’Neill

There’s a reason that the hashtag #boyboss doesn’t exist.

I was scrolling through my feed today when I spotted a post that made me shudder: two women over 40 who run incredibly successful businesses were posing for a pic. However it wasn’t the pic that caught my eye, it was the caption. “Girlbosses, A and B, catch up ahead of their business panel together!”

Grown women termed ‘girlbosses’? It’s yet another on the long list of ways that social media infantilises women to reduce their feminine power and business prowess down to that of an inexperienced and childish ‘girl’.

There’s a reason that the hashtag #boyboss doesn’t exist. In fact, when I searched for it on Twitter, the only Tweets were that of exasperated women making a point about how we don’t call male CEOs #boybosses.

Even the founder of the term renders its use questionable these days. The original Girlboss, Sophia Amoruso, and her company Nasty Gal have fallen from their feminist perch amid filing for bankruptcy and allegations of firing three women for ‘getting pregnant’. These have since been settled out of court, along with another employee who sued the company for being fired while on leave battling kidney disease.

You’re probably regretting that Millennial Pink #girlboss book flatlay now, aren’t you.

So if the original Girlboss philosophy of female empowerment in business has turned out to be decidedly anti-feminist – and has ultimately resulted in entrepreneurial failure – where does that leave its devotees?

Well, I think it’s high time we ditch the term and about a billion other things on social media that undermine women’s power. What other things, you say? Let me count the ways.

Shall we start with the use of the term ‘girl’ to refer to women in their 30s? If you are over 15 and have ‘girl’ in your social handle, it’s time to consider a new one, ladies. You’re undermining yourself before you’ve even begun.

Infantile trends are just as damaging. The most Instagrammed shoe this year was a pair of heels with Mickey Mouse ears on them. Not only would men over the age of five (and without a #failuretolaunch complex) never be caught dead with cartoons on their shoes, but the idea of combining stilettos – a symbol of sexual arousal  – and Mickey Mouse ears is just downright disturbing.

Add to that, an unhealthy adult obsession with rainbows, unicorns, and glitter proliferating feeds everywhere, and you get a serious case of arrested development.

It speaks of the ultimate female catch-22: that when girls are too young, they’re sexualised, and when they’re sexually mature, they’re infantilised. It’s a control mechanism that we’ve come to act out subconsciously; our gender reduced to the eternal filter of the male gaze.

It goes much further than simply a penchant for Millennial Pink. Society’s youth obsession in women is as much about reducing women’s perceived expertise and intelligence as it is about sexual desire. You should be virginal, as well as fuckable, but you should never talk about why this very paradox perpetuates rape culture. That would make you unfuckable!

You should cover your grey hair and fight your ageing face, because lord help you if you look *old*. Those physical signs will never render you ‘wise’, ‘experienced’, or a ‘silver fox’. They will only confirm you’ve already surpassed your last fuckable day and are no longer useful to society.

When a successful woman is reduced to the term ‘girlboss’, her logo decorated with swirly writing on kiddie-pink backgrounds, it hardly speaks of her many years of hard work and wisdom. Rather, it reduces her perceived age to allow for men in her category to feel superior.

It’s the same patronising power play as a male manager calling a woman ‘young lady’, while never referring to her male equivalent as ‘young man’. The only difference on social media is that we’re doing it to ourselves.

Fluffy pink slides, be gone – we’re all adults here. Let’s fucking act like it.

Only then can we take over the world. #whoruntheworldWOMEN

Follow Bianca’s adult feed mostly devoid of millennial pink at @_thesecondrow and listen to her podcast at @thefashionpodcast

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