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The “Girl Boss” survived in the form of “That Girl”

How the viral That Girl trend replaced the problematic Girl Boss narrative, becoming the new trojan horse for misogyny

Scroll through TikTok and you’ll likely come across the “That Girl” trend. It’ll feature a woman waking up at the crack of dawn, meditating as the sun shines through her minimalist apartment. She’ll then blend up a green smoothie and eat a nourishing breakfast while journalling.

As someone who wakes up to a jolt from her alarm at the latest possible time, stumbles out of bed in an oversized boyfriend tee and consumes a strong coffee for breakfast, the “That Girl” lifestyle did seem appealing, albeit a little unachievable. Then it struck me; was the That Girl fad just another way that women were being told to live, consume, and work? Was it the Girl Boss prototype disguised behind mindfulness and self-care?

The hashtag “thatgirl” has 4 billion views, many of which are encouraging women to become THAT girl; what videos to watch, apps to download, and items to purchase.

The That Girl trend is perfectionism, toxic positivity, and hustle culture on steroids. Disguising itself under the guise of self-care and self-help. What’s worse? It has fallen into the laps of younger women who will likely be negatively affected by it. It is the new Girl Boss narrative.

Replacing the Girl Boss

The faux empowerment doctrine branded as “Girl Boss” was one that swept the internet. Girl Boss was coined by Sophia Amoruso, founder of Nasty Gal. In her book, Girl Boss, she emphasised the importance of hustle culture, female wealth, and ambition. Ultimately, Amoruso’s so-called activism was evidently avaricious; in her pursuit of power and wealth, she rebranded feminism into a corporate cog; one that would keep capitalism alive under the false pretences that female executives would empower all women.

The truth? Nasty Gal had an extremely high turnover with claims of abuse, exploitation, and discrimination. This is indicative of the Girl Boss culture as a whole. Billionaire Beyonce made waves standing in front of a sign saying “Feminist” while Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie spoke about gender issues. All while paying her female Ivy Park workers in Sri Lanken sweatshops a pathetic 64cents an hour.

Rachel Hollis was also a big name that would heavily manipulate the phrase Girl Boss. A self-help guru, motivational speaker, and author — who was constantly called out for plagiarism, scams, and classism.

However, considering that the Girl Boss brand was so profitable, it is really no surprise that it got rebranded, this time in the form of wellness.

The commodification of wellness

Rachel Cargle, an influencer, wrote on Facebook that “wellness is being commodified”.

Whether it be because of politics, the pandemic, climate change, or social issues — people are waking up to the idea that “hustling” is a farce. Younger generations began placing a lot more emphasis on experiences, travel, and friendships than work, career, and money. Capitalism found a way around this.

By disguising overt consumeristic values under a self-care cover, you have the perfect recipe for a capitalistic takeover which targets young women.

Telling women that bath bombs, a retreat to Bali, and 10 different types of skincare will help them become happy is, truly, egregious nonsense. Advising young girls to buy overpriced planners, download various apps, and purchase gadgets to help them become more productive is subtle advertising.

By masking these commodities as advice, it creates a dangerous sentiment for women — one based on the mainstream, capitalistic take on wellness. The internet, in general, has turned wellness into an ideology, argues Carl Cederström, co-author of The Wellness Syndrome. The wellness culture, as we know it today, has no purpose — there is no benefit to waking up at 5 am, downing a green smoothie, and answering emails — it’s just something we have been told to do because of the aesthetic videos on TikTok.

Capitalism has made our lives into 24/7 work — not only do we have careers to consider, but we now see our own personal lives as corporations. We have to look a certain way, eat a certain way, and act a certain way. These societal pressures have only been magnified by social media, too.

Wellness and self-care, ultimately, should be something that we do for ourselves for good reasons. It shouldn’t be something we feel we have to do for social media likes and more career aspirations.

When the stress of becoming a healthier person is affecting your life, are you really doing it for the right reasons?

Girl Boss promoted the idea of over-working, while That Girl promotes the idea of over-consuming and working out.

That Girl is a product of benevolent sexism

Benevolent sexism is considered to be an unpretentious form of sexism. It comes across in a much more positive way, emphasising patriarchal trends such as men protecting women, and women being the caregivers. It promotes a protective, idealised, and affectionate response to women in society — but these things are just as harmful as hostile sexism.

An example of benevolent sexism would be basing a woman’s value on her relation to a man — mother, daughter, wife, or girlfriend. Praising women for their appearance and not any other attributes.

Hostile and Benevolent Sexism are not mutually exclusive concepts. The two combined are called Ambivalent Sexism which stems from two types of power: structural and dyadic. In other words, the same society that protected women in an authoritarian, paternal manner also burned women at the stake. It is equally as damaging for men to dislike women as it is for them to venerate them — in fact, these types of sexism go hand in hand with each other.

The That Girl trend absolutely succeeded because of benevolent sexism. The excessive beauty products focus on weight loss and the idea that feminism is women becoming “successful” in a capitalistic society.

A sexist Trojan Horse

Both the Girl Boss and the That Girl trend appear to raise women up — pushing us to be the most successful version of ourselves. In reality, they deny women any kind of agency to make decisions for themselves.

We are constantly following handbooks on how to navigate a patriarchal society as if more female CEOs will magically treat the ills in our culture.

Telling working-class young girls that a green smoothie in the morning and meditation at noon will miraculously change their life is a dangerous sentiment to push.

Constantly striving to achieve unrealistic ideals and treating ourselves as corporational projects only falls into the hands of a capitalistic society, that is pushing us towards individualism.

Here’s to being a mediocre women

Why do women have to be exceptional? Late-stage capitalism has made individualism the norm — we have to constantly work on ourselves to make our own lives better, to be more successful, and to be the best. While marketing itself as a win for all women — from patterns in society it is easy to see that a woman CEO doesn’t make the lives of the female workers any better. Likewise, a female prime minister does not uplift other women.

It is okay to be a “mediocre” woman. One that values her wine nights with her friends over overtime at work. One that sleeps through her alarms and doesn’t apply for promotions. One that chooses to be a stay-at-home mum. Averageness is a man-made concept that is used to keep people chained to the capitalistic ideology. The notion of being successful and rich is arbitrary when you consider both success and money are conceptualised and have evolved to become a tool to oppress us.

That Girl will inevitably come to its demise, but the shallow marketing of this kind of feminism will prevail. A recessed form of empowerment that doesn’t highlight the less palatable aspects of being a prosperous woman — no work-life balance, unaffordable childcare, working through periods, sexual harassment, and gender discrimination.

Policy change is the trend that should sweep over our phones, not a minimalistic morning routine and aspirational quotes.

Of course, self-care is important — it should be a priority in all genders’ lives. This care should be without pressure or structure. It should also include uplifting our communities and caring for those around us.

That Girl is an idealised vision that doesn’t exist. Wake up late, have one too many pints, forget to take off your makeup, and munch down on unhealthy food — you are still that girl, just your own version of that.

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