I’ve been wondering lately whether not wanting Nasty Gal’s problematic #GirlBoss founder to be mythologised in a new Netflix show makes me a bad feminist.
I remember the first time I came across Nasty Gal.
I was late to the game in 2014, but a couple of months living on my parents’ couch in America while I waited for my new visa to come through had sent me down an online shopping wormhole.
While I didn’t love all of the styles sold on the site — a lot of it (most of it?) was targeted at the thin, tall, impossibly pretty market — there were a couple items I really liked, and because it was run by, at first glance, a girl-power-fuelled founder, Nasty Gal seemed alright.
Smash cut to present day. We know that Nasty Gal, and its founder Sophia Amoruso, was not alright. I’m not talking about the bankruptcy; businesses are allowed to fail, but that doesn’t automatically make the people behind them failures.
What instead bothers me, and so many people, about Amoruso, is her use of superficial feminism — she coined the semi-viral #GirlBoss — while she allegedly enforced a toxic workplace environment that actually hurt more employees than empowered. Nasty Gal came under heavy fire for selling poorly-made clothes that ripped off bigger brands. A spate of 2015 lawsuits alleging that Nasty Gal fired four pregnant women and one soon-to-be dad were settled out of court. Jezebel quoted employees that same year calling Amoruso petty, vindictive and surrounded by ‘yes-women’.
Despite all this, Amoruso successfully branded herself as the cool, alternative, fashion-y feminist. And almost on cue, Netflix swooped in to make her story into a trendy new series, ‘Girl Boss’, which debuted yesterday on the platform.
Look, I’m not here to say there’s any one way to be a feminist. We all know that’s bullshit and that there are thousands of ways to empower ourselves and women around the world.
But forgive me for saying that I don’t think we need a rose-coloured series about a woman who really, really did not practice what she preached. Sophia Amoruso’s feminism makes me feel icky because her brand of ‘Girl Boss’ is white, skinny, conventionally good-looking and makes a ton of money selling cheap crap.
Netflix has cashed in on Amoruso specifically because she is an easy sell. She’s a spiky white woman with a fantastic fringe, and she looks great in the clothes she’s flogging. But her superficial empowerment is a slap in the face to women who are working hard, day in and day out, but are being held at the bottom of the ladder by women and men like Amoruso.
I’m all for complicated female characters, but we should reject mythologising the origin stories of people who are really not doing society any favours. We all deserve better than a show about a feminist false prophet who peddled her cheap wares, preached about #GirlBoss and screwed her employees over one at a time.