Why girl boss and boss babe have got to go- It's Simply Lindsay

The hashtags #girlsboss and #bossbabe have swept social media, with 2,574,479 and 1,457,339 Instagram hits, respectively, to date.

Women are using the tags on photos that demonstrate their professional or personal strength, fearlessness, successes, and ambition, always lifting up others in the process.

The notion of girlboss and bossbabes has united women and truly started a movement of what seems very empowering to the gender deemed the weaker sex by popular societies around the world.

So why is this a bad thing? Why do I say these hashtags and language have got to go?

Come at this with an open mind, and let’s break it down and take a closer look. Looking forward to your take and responses at the end.

Why #Girlboss & #Bossbabe Have Got To Go

Why Girlboss is demeaning

“girl”

You may think I have an issue with calling strong women girls, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, I always refer to myself as a girl and even though I’m 29-years-old, I have a hard time calling myself a woman – it just sounds so grown up! I feel in my heart that I’m a girl, and I have no problem calling other women girls or men boys. Just like when I see a baby dog or full-grown dog, I’ll call it a puppy.

Along this gender issue vein is a hot topic in parenting culture today – de-gendering things, you know, that we shouldn’t label boy and girl things. I also don’t think de-gendering everything is productive – as humans, we are boys and girls, men and women. That’s a fact. It’s also a fact that inherently, men and women have different innate strengths, weaknesses, and differences.

By refusing to acknowledge someone is a boy or girl and that that boy or girl may have different preferences is just pointless to me. Do I think girls should be forced to have pink everything, dolls, and cleaning toys only? Heck no! Should little boys be dissuaded from playing with and learning to care for babies and never given a toy mop to learn to help out around the house? Of course not! I’m all for freedom to choose your toys, books, and interests by being given a variety of choices and opportunities.

So you’ll see, there is nothing wrong, in my opinion, with the girl portion of this term, although don’t you think people would find the term more intimidating if ‘woman’ was used? Why are we even dumbing down this already sexist term and coining it as ‘girl power’?

“boss”

Boss is the person in charge, someone who gives orders in a domineering manner. Because of our history of men assuming a dominant role in society and the family (because they are commonly the primary breadwinners), people would overwhelmingly presume ‘boss’ referred to a man. I’d like to actually do this research, but I would predict that by showing people a photo of a man and a woman and asking them to identify the boss and the worker, the vast majority would choose man for boss.

I’m not saying if you assume the man is a boss that you’re wrong and sexist – it’s what hundreds of years of history has dictated to us, after all! But the fact that we automatically associate man with boss is an issue to me.

Put it all together: “Girlboss”& “bossbabe”

Even as women, we hear boss and think man (or at least assume others hear this), so women are distinguishing themselves as bosses…who are girls. But a boss is a boss – it’s not masculine or feminine, it just is what it is. If I’m calling myself a boss, I’m a BOSS, not a “boss babe” or “girl boss,” implying that a normal boss is not a girl. The problem comes from using girl as a defining adjective before boss.

Are men “empowering themselves” by identifying as “boyboss” or “bossbabe?” Not that I’m aware of. And girls, we shouldn’t either.

I think it’s a point of pride to be a successful woman – successful in business, in her family, in her life, and it’s great to embrace being a girl. It’s nothing to hide from or be ashamed of.

But why do I have to be a babe to be a boss? Isn’t sexual harassment in the workplace something we’ve been demanding an end to? Or the whole, ‘I’m more than my looks’ line? Well we can’t even blame men for this because we’re not only buying into sexism but creating and propagating it ourselves! Ewww, no more of this.

Show, don’t tell

It seems that by having to identify ourselves as GIRLBOSS and shouting our girl-ness and boss-ness from the hashtag rooftops that we’re overcompensating for something – why not just show your success by being a good boss.

We don’t have something to prove because we know we’re smart, qualified, talented women in our fields; by identifying as a girlboss or even worse, bossbabe, you’re discrediting yourself and your achievements. Let your work and qualities speak for themselves. Maybe it’s the English teacher in me – we teach to “show, not tell.” Telling someone I’m a boss really has no effect; showing them by my actions speaks volumes.

By me telling people I’m a great teacher means nothing, and in fact, they might think I’m overcompensating for shortcomings by feeling the need to state my awesomeness. No, instead I’ll let my work speak for itself.

Thank God in America these days, women are bosses, from boss executives, teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, mothers, administrative professionals, and more. In fact, there’s a higher percentage of girls than boys in higher education, and an increasing amount of businesses are putting their gender biases aside to make room for the talented and qualified women in positions of power, but not without obstacles, of course.

Even in modern-day America, women have disadvantages, subtle or blatant, that they’re constantly working against, things you may not even be aware of because it’s subtle or because we’re desensitized to it.

Subtle obstacles

In fact, when I posted my article about subtle discrimination in the workplace on social media, a fellow blogger commented that she couldn’t support or comment on my article because “men get raped too” and she “didn’t agree with the article.” Clearly, she didn’t even read my article, because it had nothing to do with men or women being raped – in fact, there was no sexual harassment link at all. When I asked what she didn’t agree with about me being discriminated against, she just said that she can’t support my feminist view. Again, no tie whatsoever to my article or point at all. It’s not just men that have these natural biases, it’s women and girls, too.

In fact, when I talk and write about feminism and my choice to keep my name after marriage, here have been some of the responses:

  • Is that legal?
  • Your husband sounds like a p**sy
  • You’re a selfish slut who’s lucky any man took you.
  • That butter face should be happy she found a man. That he didn’t just hit it an quit it!

When my attorney friend spoke out on social media about her intention to start a website to support women in law, a guy demeaningly told her it was “really adorable” what she was doing. Her whole life she dealt with people being intimidated by her drive and success, something few, if not no, men have to face. These are just two very small-scale examples.

Showing support for one group

Can I also just say that I have support for all people; because I identify as a feminist (and here’s why I bet you do too!) does not mean I do not support and care for men. I recognize that men face their own challenges and discrimination, too. Because I show support for victims of a tragedy in Florida does not mean I ignore those victims in other states. Because I show support for black victims of subtle or overt discrimination does not mean I don’t support other colors who suffer as well.

Whether you want to accept it or not, even though disadvantaged groups have “come a long way,” (as people like to say), does not mean those groups still don’t face challenges. I support all people and feel for anyone who has been a target of discrimination or violence.

Lasting thoughts

While #girlboss and #bossbabe do not personally offend me, I think they are sad and are a misrepresentation of how the women are intending to use them. You’re using them for empowerment and strength, but it’s creating the opposite image.

Since I think beliefs should be questioned, traditions challenged, and controversy embraced, I feel only good can come out of questioning these popular, beloved terms. If you want to still have a cutesy way about it, why not just say, “you’re the boss, girl!”?

By having to describe yourself as a girl, who is a boss, it’s not empowering you, it’s feeding into that very same misogynist view we’re trying to overturn.

I think going forward, the only solution to overcoming preconceived notions of stereotypes comes from teaching love, acceptance, and kindness. Let’s just all focus on mutual respect and question ourselves.

Now you tell me – what’s your take on #girlboss?

Everywhere
  • I loved having this discussion with you several weeks ago. I’m not offended by these terms but I think you make an excellent point, girl! 😉

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Yes, I referred back to our discussion while writing this – always great to have someone to discuss ideas with : )

  • Elizabeth Johnson

    Great read! I personally do not use either hashtag but I really liked how you broke it down to shine a new light on it. Very thought provoking and also made me think about other hashtags that I currently use and what I may be implying. Thank you!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Thanks for reading and for your insight, Elizabeth ; )

  • I’ve never really thought about it this way, but to be honest I’ve never cared for the term “girlboss”, I kind of see it as a pointless rallying cry, it’s the “girl power” of the 2010s. Full respect to all the women out there who are totally BOSS, who identify positively with the term and who get shit done… but I don’t need a hashtag to know that I am a kick ass lady with goals 🙂

    • Lindsay Katherine

      RIGHT! I feel the same way, Laura.

  • I’ve honestly never considered these terms from that perspective, but I love your insight on this! Definitely got me thinking!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Getting my readers thinking is exactly my goal – made my day!

  • Katie Shank

    This was a great read! I have a different view on those terms- I think they are a great way for a) women to find other women to support and get support from, and b) a way to set yourself apart as a woman in business. I’m proud of the fact that I’m a woman with my own business, and I want to show that to the world. I think that putting boss with girl and babe shows younger women that there is a new cohort of working women emerging – those who are feminine and feminist, and are changing the world by running their lives and businesses on their own terms. Also, I loved the book #girlboss, and I adore the podcast so perhaps that’s where my view comes from. Nothing wrong with advocating for/labeling yourself as a woman and a businessperson.

    As an aside, I am offended by the #boyboss hashtag (unless it’s used to describe a male child with a lemonade stand or something similar) because it seems to be used as a mockery of women who work. We (still, unfortunately) have it a lot harder than men do, so stop making fun of us so setting ourselves apart. /end rant.

    Great points to think about tho Linds!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I knew you held this position and was looking forward to hearing your perspective. There’s so much pride in being a woman in business or a boss at home, but where I see the problem is that we have to distinguish that we’re girls who are bosses – it’s just implied that regular bosses are men. I wish there were more empowering hashtags for strong women to connect with. I think you don’t like the boyboss hashtag because it’s shedding light on how ridiculous the girlboss hashtag is. Love the meaning and movement behind it, just have a problem with the term.

      • Katie Shank

        Agree to disagree, I guess ☺

        • Lindsay Katherine

          Yes ma’am – and this is why I love us.

  • Paige Allison

    All of what you said I agree with, but I wish you would have touched on more. Girlboss has become popular because men already “own” the term boss, and therefore we need to put a sex in front of it. (Just like women “own” the word whore, and you need to put “man” in front of manwhore.) But unlike MANwhore, we couldn’t use womanboss because that’s too intimidating for men. So it was dumbed down to not offend men, and sadly, young women found it cute. It’s the PERFECT example of how sexism IS MAINSTREAM CULTURE. It’s so ingrained, even women get behind sexist hashtags! Bossbabe is newer, but in the same vein. It implies (and subtly reinforces) that women have to be attractive in order to have and maintain power over men. Ask a man, and he’ll flash a huge smile and say, “hell yes, I want a bossbabe in my life!” because he immediately thinks of a hot chick in a pencil skirt whom he can fantasize about. He still has sexual power over her even if she outranks him at work. Therefore, bossbabes are ok and acceptable by mainstream culture. Bossbabe is probably the most disgusting term I’ve heard in a decade, and to see 20 something women embrace it breaks my heart. They’re clueless that they’re reinforcing their own glass ceiling. Until women stop using these ridiculous terms, we will never have equality in the workplace. Period.

  • Rachel Golden

    I loved this article! I never thought about girlboss like that, but as soon as you said it, it made sense. I only used the hashtag once, but the fact that men ‘own’ the term boss and the fact that we have to feminize the term just shows why it’s not okay. Whenever I thought of it, it had a more empowering connotation, and while I still think this can be true for some women, it doesn’t erase the underlying sexism of it. A very interesting and prevalent topic, for sure!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I’m so glad this gave you something to think about! I also used the hashtag before because I saw it trending, but then I starting thinking about it, and it didn’t sit well with me. The English teacher in me wants people to show, not tell, their successes. By me telling people I’m a great teacher means nothing, and in fact, they might think I’m overcompensating for shortcomings by feeling the need to state my awesomness. No, instead I’ll let my work speak for itself.

  • It was an interesting read for sure! I really agree with the second part of your post “show, don’t tell.” I know sometimes the hashtags are way overused and the people that use them aren’t even always the women that I really admire. I agree with the first part of your post in saying that “boss” isn’t supposed to be a masculine term. However, I can see how women may want to change that stereotype with the hashtags. I personally wouldn’t use the hashtag, but I can see the argument for the other side. I do find the terms “girl” and “babe” so be slightly demeaning toward strong women. Overall great post and great read.

    http://www.thewanderingbrunette.com/

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Thank you for your thoughtful response; my best friend, who I referenced as my attorney friend, actually holds the opposing view and finds these hashtags empowering, so while I do recognize where she’s coming from, we ultimately agree to disagree : ) But I think it’s important to keep an open mind and see things from both sides before making up your mind, which is what I always try to do. Thanks for reading!!

  • I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS! I think you’ve articulated how I felt about these terms more than I could ever have. I think it’s overused and I agree that you sohuld “show” and not tell. Just go for it, be a boss, and people will take notice. I didn’t even think about the connotation of boss babe but now that you’ve pointed it out, yeesh, that’s no good. Being a babe or being attractive has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that women can be successful. So why are we correlating them?

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I’m so glad this resonated so strongly with you, Alanna! Thanks for reading and for your thoughtful comment.

  • I LOVE THIS. And my only regret is that I didn’t think about the connotation of this word sooner. At first, I felt super empowered using the word, but now I feel like….we don’t call men “boy bosses”, and it just leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Like, the word is almost offensive now because we have the RIGHT to be girl (bosses) , so we shouldn’t need a separate word for it, you know? It’s like, we are beating on ourselves as women here. I’m not quite sure if what I said made sense, but I feel you and I understand this post.

    • Lindsay Katherine

      It definitely feels like an empowering term, and especially in the blogging world, we hear it all the time, developing a sense of pride in the term. But I believe it’s false and misdirected pride and hopefully people will start using different terms! And of course, you made perfect sense to me.

  • Neely

    Fantastic read! I could not have said it better!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Thanks for reading!

  • linda spiker

    My thoughts exactly!

  • Mmm, very interesting thoughts. I’m honestly not sure what I feel. I kind of think that using a term like “girl boss” is just emphasizing what, sadly, is something that isn’t commonplace or hasn’t been in the past (as you pointed out, most bosses are assume to be men). But I don’t know that it’s a damaging thing because I think it’s good to draw attention to it. It’s hard because I think a lot comes down to interpretation. I read it as “I’m a girl, and I’m a boss, and I’m proud of that.” But I can totally see how it would be interpreted other ways (like “I can’t just call myself a boss, I need a cute name for it”). As always you’ve provided a fascinating read with this post that has really got me thinking!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      The thing is, it’s drawing attention in a bad way. People (men and women) also use it in a mocking manner along with the hashtag #boyboss to poke fun at the flippant term. Thank you for reading and for your insightful comment, Becky!!

  • You made some really great points, and I’m totally with you. I love the part where you talk about showing rather than telling. I’ve always been more about less talk and more action, so that really spoke to me. Great post.

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Thanks so much, Shann. Definitely showing through example rather than telling someone makes the most impact.

  • Bree Hogan

    Great thought-provoking article, I really enjoyed reading it!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Thanks for reading, Bree!

  • Kelsie Kleinmeyer

    Great points Lindsay! I totally agree!!

  • I felt this way in college when our women’s basketball team was referred to as the “Lady Gamecocks”, while the men are just “The Gamecocks”!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      What a great example!! Nothing wrong with you athletes being ladies, of course, and yes it’s a point of pride, but you are all ATHLETES. Lady athlete implies that a regular athlete is not a woman. I feel ya!

  • I honestly never thought it that way – thanks for bringing a fresh perspective to the table.

    xoxo, Jenny

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I’m glad it got you thinking another way – thanks so much for reading, Jenny.

  • Tiffany {A Touch of Grace}

    While neither term offends me, I think they are both pointless and something I’d never use. I can see why women started using them, but they aren’t empowering to me in any way. I do, though, enjoy #likeaboss. 😄

    • Lindsay Katherine

      YES, totally love #likeaboss

  • I agree with Tiffany. These words don’t bother me really, but I do like #LikeABoss haha. I actually think if such words motivates people then go ahead and enjoy it, but I like to see myself as an equal. I LOVE that you mention how it is important to SHOW your success. I really enjoyed reading this, Lindsay!

  • Joules (Pocketful of Joules)

    I hate hearing the term ‘girlboss’ I’m just a boss. Why does it have to have anything to do with my sex?

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Yesssss exactly!!

  • What an interesting argument. I kind of read #girlboss as #gogetter.

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I think a lot of people feel that way, so I appreciate you thinking about the other side of it ; )

  • I’ve never been a huge fan of either hashtag and I love that you point out how important it is to show and not just tell. This is an awesome read, Lindsay!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Thanks so much for reading, Lecy! Your actions will totally speak volumes for you without having to say it!

  • Heather Gullett Denniston

    The hashtags have always made my skin crawl, frankly. i appreciate so much that you wrote about it. Well done!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I’m glad you see where I’m coming from!

  • YES GIRL. YES. We are BOSSES. Badass BOSSES. We could be boss UNICORNS for all I care, and it doesn’t change the fact that we are JUST as boss (if not moreso) than men. Sometimes they’re cute, but at the core, we can’t allow it to consciously or subconsciously alter our bossness, especially in comparison to others!

    Coming Up Roses

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I love your points here, Erica, especially “if not more so than men.” Couldn’t agree more with you!

  • You have a lot of interesting points here. I know the intention behind the hashtags is to celebrate female success, but we definitely do need to look at the reasoning behind them. As for gender discrimination in the workplace, it is so real. I quit my job a few months ago (teaching) and my principal’s response was “If that’s the decision your husband and you have made, then okay.” Can’t imagine anyone ever telling my husband that! Thank you for your thoughtful post!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      WOW, I can’t believe your principal said that!!!!! Well, actually, I can believe it, because these things happen ALL THE TIME for women in the workplace.

  • Wow, I hadn’t really thought of it this way. I totally see your point and definitely see the misogynistic twist on #bossbabe in particular. As far as #girlboss, I can see both sides of the coin. I see on a deep analytical level that you are totally correct – but on a more simplistic and hashtag level, I see that women are trying out a unique blend of femininity and career success. I see this as something we struggle to balance in many realms as opportunities both open and close for us as a sex.

    • ps. I also remember the comment to which you refer on your workplace discrimination post. I was equally shocked and puzzled by it, which is why I think my brain immediately recalled the interaction when I read that!

  • Laurie Lambert Wales

    I agree with other readers that #girlboss is sometimes meant to imply “a real go-getter”. That term really doesn’t bother me, but #bossbabe does – I agree with what Paige Allison says below about ‘bossbabe’. I committed career suicide four years ago, so I still have not achieved girlboss or bossbabe status, LOL >> I am held captive by my benefits. Enjoyable read about something I hadn’t really considered before since I don’t use those tags on social media.
    Interesting fact about calling yourself a girl, now that I’m in my mid-30s, I feel the opposite about the terms girl/woman! 🙂

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Thanks so much for coming by to read, Laurie, and for your thoughtful comment! I think the term is definitely MEANT to imply go-getter but think it achieves the opposite. Like I said, I’m not offended by the term, I just think it’s not an accurate representation of what it’s intended use is. I’m glad you read the others’ comments, too! Paige is one of my blogging besties ; )

  • I’m not really sure how I feel about these hashtags. I feel as women we have a right to be proud of our accomplishments, but I’m not sure using these hashtags really imply how we feel about ourselves. To me, it seems like the “trendy” thing to do, and will phase out as do all trends. My second thought for the women who feel they do have to validate themselves with these hashtags is sorrow. You shouldn’t have to use hashtags to validate yourself, and I believe society may be to blame for that.

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Well, you pretty much summed up my whole post in 4 sentences!!!! I completely agree, Erin : )

      • Maybe I should have started with I agree with everything you had to say 😉 Great post! It still has me thinking about certain wording we use and if it is being misused in terms of self-doubt or encouragement.

  • Sheila

    As a 50 something , I truly believe that women are their own worst enemies. Until we quit comparing ourselves to one another and trying to fit into someone else’s mold we can’t embrace who we are we and will continue to miss opportunities to empower ourselves and other women. Don’t ever let a hashtag define you .. We are all worth more than that….

    • Lindsay Katherine

      YES Sheila, yes!!!! We are definitely our own worst enemies, and with many of these trendy labels, we’re not actually doing anything positive.

  • Shani Ogden

    Wow, lots of great thoughts here. I would have to say that I dislike the term ‘bossbabe’ more than I do ‘girlboss’, but I’m not really a big fan of either. I’m totally with you on the ‘show, don’t tell’ because that was pounded into me by my high school AP english teacher and it’s always stuck with me in writing and in life. I hope that the women who choose to use either hashtag simply do it because they are proud of their accomplishments and not because they are looking to downplay anyone who hasn’t achieved the same success as they have.

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I’m glad your AP show don’t tell principle stuck with you : ) I agree that it would be sad to use these terms as a way to assert your superiority.

  • Boxwood Avenue

    I can totally jump on board with this – can we add “#goals” to the list!? I hate the comparison driven game we’ve got going on right now!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      YES! #goals is on the list, too. Social media is a powerful tool that is often a negative place for the comparison game.

  • What an interesting take on this! I don’t think I honestly gave it any thought besides thinking it was a fad. I still have a hard enough time explaining to friends and family that I am a content creator/blogger – and that it is a real thing 🙂

    • Lindsay Katherine

      hahhahaha I totally get it! People who aren’t in the content creating or blogger world may take a while to come around.

  • Sarah Jean

    I haven’t been a fan of #girlboss either. I feel like it’s just feeding into the sentiment that because I’m a woman I have to prove something. Can’t I just be a good employee instead of a bad ass woman employee? Can’t I just be a boss instead of a woman boss? I also feel like it adds this added pressure to woman to be a “rock stay all the time!!” instead of just living life well.

  • Day Preston Joly

    I so agree! This: “By having to describe yourself as a girl, who is a boss, it’s not empowering you, it’s feeding into that very same misogynist view we’re trying to overturn.” So much this!!! Love it, Lindsay!

  • Patricia Hickey Rosasco

    I don’t like any hashtags…..still don’t really understand all the “hashtag” talk. But I don’t think women need to lessen their leadership by defining their position with “girl.” Now the term, “man-boy” I like!