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Why #GirlBoss Culture is not real

Believe it or not, Instagram Live was first added to the Instagram functionality back in November 2016 and the long-form IGTV video channel was made available two years later in June 2018. However, I do not think Instagram Live entered into my radar or flourished into arguably my new ‘go to’ broadcaster of choice, until lockdown. Thinking back to the height of lockdown 1.0, I found myself planning around the different lives of the day from getting my daily dose of fitness perspiration, lunchtime news roundup, afternoon celebrity insight and then my culinary inspiration from the IG lives of the day. A resource which provided unrivalled access to people usually aloof and impenetrable in an online setting. Access to those individuals and organisations usually reserved to ticket holders or events unreachable in city locations. The humble Live seems to have democratised information and allows the opportunity for education from the comfort of your bedroom or chosen spot for leisure.

This week I found myself watching Late Night Fashion Tales with @shopedelano by On Loan which discussed “Girl boss culture, ambition in a post pandemic world and ... jumpsuits!”. The Live was between co-founder of On Loan Natalie Hasseck and Brand Marketing consultant and Founder of Kind Regards, Shope Delano.

The discussion started off with how Shope has navigated the lockdown experience adopting a mentality of one day at a time and trying not to think too far ahead. The reason for this condensing of time is the lack of control we have over our external environment, something that Shope eloquently describes as a lapse in personal power and the adjustment needed to surrender to this change. As we now have a roadmap ahead on how we will navigate our emergence towards our ‘new normal’ there is an acceptance which will need to happen, to process what we have all been through and the necessity for personal healing. This is an interesting point when we think about careers and coming to terms with the start of our career journeys not being how we planned them, and it is okay to resent this. However, just because it is different does not mean it is wrong.

The conversation evolved to look at Kind Regards, a modern woman’s workwear fashion brand which has been a concept evolving in Shope’s mind for a number of years. The distinction and a refreshing take on a fashion brand is the story behind the project. Kind Regards is a work brand for modern working women and the impetus behind the brand links to the ‘women in work’ conversation, which seems to blanket cover a definition of all working women. An image that a working woman is the ultimate #Girlboss who can quite literally do it all. A version of superhero which apparently seems bequeathed to a few mere mortals who then get the title of Girl Boss and everyone else pails into insignificance against. Shope highlights the deficit in the conversation around working women, in failing to celebrate the different ways women choose to work. This harmful projection of success makes women thrust onto a pedestal seem untouchable and yet as humans if one thing goes slightly awry there is culture in the media which tears these women down. Secondly to this, Shope’s motivation for founding Kind Regards comes from just noticing a gap in the market or women’s workwear. In producing clothes which are dynamic, creative and are increasingly reflective of the new progressive working environment we operate in. A move away from the stark, static and dry corporate image which stifles women’s capabilities. I found this approach to the image of success to be both freeing and refreshing – that it is okay to recognise the flaws in the mainstream perceptions of success.

One of the first steps for Shope launching her brand was penning an open letter, which puts a stake in the ground as a manifesto – a cry for all women to appreciate that women have become victims of not meeting up to the standards of what we have now classified a working women to be. The Girl Boss image is a caricature of success, which leads those who fit in some way to be set up for failure and those striving for success to be left in a state of anxiety when this unrealistic and unattainable standard is not met. The conclusion to be drawn here is that Girl Boss culture is a false paradigm and a narrative which is failing to meet the needs of anyone. This letter was penned in physical form, infiltrating the stream of bills and reminders commanding us to do pay or think something. Shope notes of this choice having something offline in physical form, makes it more transient, rich, purposeful and escapes the fickle nature of time. After watching this live I thought about the art of physically writing something down and the permanency of doing so. I spend 90% writing on a computer and the other 10% is a scribble in a notebook to remind myself to write something else on my laptop. However, I decided to write down goals and the purpose behind my career goals. Similar to Kind Regards, what is my story and why am I writing and striving to write?

This was a challenge Shope had and to combat this she noted the ability to be charitable with yourself. To make sure your own personal goals are authentic to yourself and are not feeding into burn out culture or centred around aims which have been stridently set out before you, by those who have followed the path previously walked to you. Be fed and nourished through curiosity and your own personal inquisitiveness. This all comes from an active avoidance of feeling inadequate and choosing to fall into the silenced standards impressed on us through Girl Boss Culture. For me this looks like setting realistic goals of what I can achieve in a week and a month, taking into consideration my responsibilities, friendships, work commitments and self-nourishment. A big part of this is writing for pleasure and for fun, not just when I need to. To enjoy the art of putting pen to paper without an agenda, other than because I love the freedom of expressing my mind through words. In doing this I found my passion for writing again and put myself in better mindset and headspace for work.

Takeaways from conversation:

· Watch at least one new IGTV live a week, you never know what you might learn

· It is okay to unplug and turn to the physical

· The story and purpose behind your action is the post important thing

· You do not need to be a #GirlBoss to be successful

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