Hustle Culture’s Cosmetic Feminism: The Redundant Girlboss Trope

WRITTEN BY Keelin Moncrieff

March 29, 2022

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Hustle Culture’s Cosmetic Feminism: The Redundant Girlboss Trope

by | Mar 29, 2022 | Arts & Culture

Keelin Moncrieff

29 Mar, 2022

Now more than ever, hustle culture is rampant. The ‘that girl’ archetype seen on Pinterest, Instagram and Tiktok is propagated as the ideal female prototype. Characterized by her aesthetic matcha lattes, impeccable workout routine and glossy hair, this woman is presented as a derivative of the girlboss trope, portraying quintessential #girlboss-isms.

The term girlboss originated in a 1975 Betty Davis album and was subsequently popularised by Sophia Amorouso’s (founder of fast-fashion online retailer Nastygal) bestselling 2014 autobiography of the same name. While this reinvigoration of the term was done with the best intentions – to both empower and celebrate the achievements of women, it was soon to become a patronising or even infantilising term. Society’s habit of consecrating women in business has been broadly branded as ‘feminism’. The patriarchal system which selectively and strategically permits such sanctifica to take place needs to be examined more closely. It is very possible that the girlboss is merely a hamster in a capitalist, sexist, environmentally and humanly exploitative, racist wheel. We have to differentiate between real equality, and something packaged to look like it.

Molly Mae Hague recently signed a seven figure deal with fashion retail giant, Pretty Little Thing – assuming the role of Creative Director for the next 12 months. In a predominantly male-led market, this was widely perceived as something to be revered and admired. Hague would now be societally classified as a girlboss.

We’re all aware of the hypocrisy within big corporations; greenwashing mostly, offering empty promises to disguise their wrong doings. Selling a “girl power” t-shirt that was the direct derivative of a sweatshop. It’s one thing to shop from these places, it’s another thing entirely working for and promoting them to your millions of followers – predominantly consisting of young women.

This is not a direct attack on Molly-Mae. I am not trying to shame anyone. However, she serves as an example for arguments sake. The detrimental implications of a person of such influence, encouraging the worshipping of this girlboss trope within a context of fast-fashion capitalism – and all its destructiveness, is not a step in the right direction.

In comparison to traditional patriarchal systems; before women had the right to vote or independently earn a living and instead, were expected to do the housework as a sort of ‘labour of love’ – the girlboss is a sign of progression. However, these rights did not come as a result of economic or technical innovation under capitalism. They were won by social led movements, because the sole driving force behind the edifice of capitalism is not social justice, but profit. A woman’s so-called ‘progression’ or the glorification of her promotion to a revered position and thus, attaining power under the current economic system is seen as a sign of encouragement for other women.

A ‘this could be you too’ message. This false sense of empowerment or ‘faux powerment’ is inhibiting women from actually achieving power. The foundations of fast fashion are built off of greed, entitlement and exploitation of women and children. Being a male dominated industry, it allows this misogyny to prevail, and still, it continues to make profit. In my opinion, a woman replacing this position is not something to celebrate. In a roundabout way, it stops us from achieving real equality.

This girlboss trope of neoliberal feminism; the idea that feminist goals can be achieved by women striving towards positions of power and success within capitalism. Feminism is not about women being treated the same as men, but to achieve an egalitarian world where everyone has a better life, regardless of gender, race, age or background. Now that would be something to celebrate.


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