Lean Out
June 26, 2020 8:58 AM   Subscribe

Leigh Stein, former cofounder and executive director of Out of the Binders/BinderCon, maps out the meteoric rise and sudden fall of the Girlboss: "The girlboss didn’t change the system; she thrived within it. Now that system is cracking, and so is this icon of millennial hustle."

On who gets to be a Girlboss:
The gap between everything that successful men took for granted and everything that ambitious women wanted became outrageous tinder for the girlboss’s fire. Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential run was the match that lit the flame — it was a total girlboss move to run again after losing the primary to Obama in 2008. The white girlboss, and so many of them were white, sat at the unique intersection of oppression and privilege. She saw gender inequity everywhere she looked; this gave her something to wage war against. Racial inequity was never really on her radar. That was someone else’s problem to solve.
On why the Girlboss wasn't able to secure larger-scale progress:
The end of the girlboss does not represent the failure of women to make corporate America more diverse, inclusive, and equitable in 10 years or less. That would be asking a lot of her (and nothing from the men at the top). The rise and fall of the girlboss says more about how comfortable we’ve become mixing capitalism with social justice, as we look to corporations to implement social changes because we’ve lost faith in our public institutions to do so. As Americans become less religious, and our distrust in politicians grows, we increasingly turn to corporations and influencers for moral leadership.
And on what will be commodified next:
In two weeks, support for Black Lives Matter increased almost as much as it had over the previous two years. Now that racism is on her radar, the girlboss is on an apology tour, donating to bail funds and sharing the mic. So why do I find myself bracing to find out how anti-racism becomes the branding for her next for-profit venture?

Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility is number one on the New York Times bestseller list and it’s poised to become the Lean In of the 2020s, a book by a white woman, for white women, that says: See this big systemic problem? Start by working on yourself. White Fragility is social justice through the lens of self-improvement and, as is always the case with self-improvement programs marketed to white women, there’s money to be made here. DiAngelo is available to speak to your organization for a $30,000 to $40,000 fee. If you want anti-racist education in the comfort of your own home, Saira Rao and Regina Jackson will come to your dinner party for $2,500. The Wing may never recover as a luxurious in-person hub for ambitious go-getters, but working on your white privilege is fast becoming the next elite social club.
Amanda Mull at The Atlantic provides additional perspective and insights on the end of the Girlboss:
For most people, an equal-opportunity reckoning for those in power offers a glimmer of hope. America’s workplace problems don’t begin and end with the identities of those atop corporate hierarchies—they’re embedded in the hierarchies themselves. Making women the new men within corporations was never going to be enough to address systemic racism and sexism, the erosion of labor rights, or the accumulation of wealth in just a few of the country’s millions of hands—the broad abuses of power that afflict the daily lives of most people.
[Previously: Away]
[Previously: The Wing]
[Previously: Sheryl Sandberg]
posted by Ouverture (20 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
Brands “are listening” and have quickly come around to the fact that feminism is out, anti-racism is in.

The cynical take here is that the end of #girlboss will be the rise of #bipocboss and the system stays the same.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:39 AM on June 26 [24 favorites]


capitalism: assimilate the new boss, same as the old boss.
posted by Reyturner at 9:54 AM on June 26 [30 favorites]


I may be even more cynical regarding the prospect of investment in black people even as window dressing by corporations - I’ll believe it when I see it because we’re kind of a caste.
posted by Selena777 at 9:55 AM on June 26 [11 favorites]


cool. glad we all realize this is marketing bullshit. but please don't let that cynicism stop you from advocating for yourself and/or all the women and devs of color in your workplace. you don't have shove money to facebook lady to do your part in trying to make tech more diverse. surprisingly enough, there's way more effective, actionable ways to do that than having your company pay a PR company to write some shitty lip service to the woes of the world.
posted by zsh2v1 at 10:02 AM on June 26 [27 favorites]


Honestly, I always got a performative sense from the whole "girlboss" thing. Consider: it could have been an opportunity to highlight real structural inequities in corporations, where women who actually made it to positions of power set up policies that actually corrected those inequities. And yet all I ever seemed to see was a whole lot of talk about the cute ways people set up their bullet journals or the pat little inspirational messages you framed and hung on your office wall or suchlike.

The men at the top of the Fortune 500 didn't get there because they had a cute mug urging them to "Be Like Beyoncé" or whatever. They got there because they got lucky in a rigged system, and one of the ways that system is rigged is to prefer men to women.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:03 AM on June 26 [28 favorites]


Business Insider list of “sexiest CEOs alive."

What he sweet fuck is that?
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 10:29 AM on June 26 [14 favorites]


I can't read this article because of a Medium paywall.
posted by crazy with stars at 10:29 AM on June 26 [3 favorites]


Until this country is willing to reckon with its extraordinary wealth inequality, and our government requires corporations to pay their fair share in taxes

Distribution is the tail: production is the dog.
posted by No Robots at 10:36 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]


This article gets at my gut feeling reaction about BossBabes in Austin ever since it started.

Like BossBabes does good work but what about advocating for calling labor in the home actually a job that requires value under capitalism.

Or did we just decide that historically "women's labor" is not something to advocate for as valuable work in a capitalist society?
posted by nikaspark at 10:39 AM on June 26 [6 favorites]


cool. glad we all realize this is marketing bullshit. but please don't let that cynicism stop you from advocating for yourself and/or all the women and devs of color in your workplace. you don't have shove money to facebook lady to do your part in trying to make tech more diverse. surprisingly enough, there's way more effective, actionable ways to do that than having your company pay a PR company to write some shitty lip service to the woes of the world.

Yes, agreed. Unfortunately, the most effective, actionable form of advocacy (unionization) is also the one least supported by white women and developers of color.
posted by Ouverture at 10:45 AM on June 26 [5 favorites]


how bout instead of end of girlboss/bipocboss. we just end... boss? (not the guitar pedal; they can stay).
posted by symbioid at 11:07 AM on June 26 [16 favorites]


The #girlboss thing always seemed like a cargo cult of success. Work the work! Rise and grind! Let's get this bread! But remunerative work, in this historical moment, is not something that you can count on to be rewarding, not even in the material terms of getting fairly paid for it or seeing a job well done. And yet, where pay is miniscule (or aleatory) and jobs are intangible (or consist simply of a round of auditioning for jobs), it makes sense that a cargo cult would arise.
posted by Countess Elena at 11:08 AM on June 26 [20 favorites]


Unfortunately, the most effective, actionable form of advocacy (unionization) is also the one least supported by white women and developers of color.

Wait, really? Why? How can we change this, if true?
posted by nat at 12:48 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


Wait, really? Why? How can we change this, if true?

Developers, product managers, and other similarly situated tech workers are usually so highly paid that interest in labor organizing is extremely low. This sector is extremely conservative when it comes to labor rights, sadly.

This is changing with video game tech workers (partly because they are paid so much less). Otherwise, change needs to come from a hell of a lot of internal organizing.
posted by Ouverture at 1:40 PM on June 26 [4 favorites]


I'm a female CEO under 30 and this is my introduction to #girlboss. You would think that I'd be in the target market, but I guess not?

I do a lot of mentoring with woman-identifying and Latina founders. We talk a lot about not only finding ways to get paid, but also finding ways to get paid enough. There's nothing like a spreadsheet to show how much X you have to sell to quit your day job and afford daycare.

The real work of getting a business off the ground is not an easy thing to watch. A lot of time it's watching dreams die before they can get started, or watching businesses get just off the ground only to be hit by a historic downturn. If you aren't offering capital or customers or a way to get to capital or customers then the coaching offered is the business equivalent of "thoughts and prayers".
posted by Alison at 1:53 PM on June 26 [10 favorites]


My impression was that a lot of self-appointed #girlbosses were in fact just "small business owners" in the sense that they were involved in MLMs and other pyramid schemes and/or were freelancers. In both cases you are the boss but you are also the...bossed.
posted by potrzebie at 3:00 PM on June 26 [4 favorites]


"girl petit bourgeois" isn't nearly as catchy as "girlboss" tho
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 3:04 PM on June 26 [8 favorites]


we just end... boss?

What did Bruce do?
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 4:36 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]


we just end... boss?

Tank gets the boots!
posted by AdamCSnider at 6:01 PM on June 26


Girlboss is about the dream of moving from the exploited to the exploiter without changing the system of oppression. It’s sooooo beautifully expressed in the name. Girl. Boss.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:55 AM on June 27 [11 favorites]


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