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Why are we not as harsh with the male equivalent of the girlboss, the boyboss?

By Bianca Borissova

Jun 15, 2021

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Girlboss, bossbabe, sheEO, fempreneur, she-wolf of Wall Street, ladyboss—by now, you’ve heard them all. For better or for worse, girlboss culture has turned into somewhat of a joke. But have you ever wondered if the male equivalent of a girlboss even exists?

The answer is yes, he does. Unofficially, he is known as the ‘hustle bro’, ‘bropreneur’ or the ‘boyboss’. Just like his girlboss counterpart, he is the epitome of the rise and grind, hustle, ‘get that bread’ culture. Both engage in very similar activities—but, somehow, all of our society’s criticism is yet again directed towards women. Which really makes me think, isn’t making fun of girlbosses, and girlbosses only, kind of sexist?

Who is a girlboss and why do people on the internet make fun of her?

What started as an attempt to empower and inspire female success in the workspace, quickly (and rightfully) became scrutinised and backfired. The term ‘girlboss’ boomed ever since the 2014 #GirlBoss memoir of entrepreneur and Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso, as she encouraged women to get out there and claim power in the corporate world.

Many criticise the term as patronising and condescending, since it immediately draws attention to a person’s gender, rather than their hard work or abilities—you don’t see the term boyboss coined as a symbol of male empowerment.

The whole culture was established as a response to the patriarchal workplace structures, in place for hundreds of years, that have been affecting most women existing in male-dominated spaces. But somehow, this pursuit towards female liberation turned into a disguise for capitalist and commercial success.

You’ve seen #girlboss or #bossbabe plastered all over inspirational social media posts and Pinterest boards. You’ve seen it printed on mugs, t-shirts, and tote bags. It is the epitome of lazy, commercial, and white feminism, co-opting the fight towards equality for profit. Over the recent years, many wealthy and powerful women who have built their brand off of the girlboss trope have come under fire for allegations of workplace bullying, underpaying their staff, and contributing to a toxic environment in the workplace.

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A girlboss in the making aspires to have it all—she is chasing the bag and building an empire. She hustles and is unapologetic about it, all in the name of feminism. You can find her unironically reposting quotes like ‘One day sweetie, these 5am starts are gonna make you a legend’ or ‘One day? Or day one. You decide’. Of course, there is never any harm in a little bit of motivation. But where do you draw the line between hard work and having aspirations, to accidentally basing your entire self-worth off of your career and financial success?

What is a boyboss?

The hustler/boyboss/bropreneur is not that different from your typical girlboss. Arguably, he’s even worse.

The boyboss is everywhere. He is in those YouTube ads you see before your video finally loads, shouting at you that if you have a 9 to 5 job, you are doing it all wrong (all while trying to sell you his online course or book on how to become successful). He often idolises other men like Elon Musk, Jordan Belfort, or Jordan Peterson. His favourite movie is The Wolf of Wall Street, obviously. He won’t shut up about stocks.

On social media, you will often find them posing next to expensive cars, wearing expensive watches, and holding bottles of Dom Pérignon. He unironically uses phrases like ‘work hard, play harder’, or flexes that he only sleeps four hours a night, all in the name of his “empire.”

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A recurring and friendly motto within the girlboss culture is that ‘girls support girls’ (whether it’s true or not is a whole other topic). Boybosses, on the other hand, like to shut others out—they grind non-stop, do not allow themselves to get vulnerable, and do not believe in any type of human relationships that come in the way between them and money. On top of all this, you will find some boybosses express misogynistic views that all women are gold diggers who only want them for their money. Ironic, isn’t it?

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Pick a side (or don’t)

So, what is the common connection between the two? Both are a byproduct of hustle culture, and both base their entire personalities and livelihoods off of their career and monetary success. Both display questionable and cringy behaviour. But here is the thing—the memes and jokes are mainly directed at girlbosses, not their male counterparts.

Yes, girlboss-ism is outdated and sexist in itself as it is built on stereotypes. It’s not helpful, and it is the perfect example of white and toxic feminism. But what we cannot ignore is its origins—the fact is, when it comes to work, women have had it much harder than men for a very long time. The wage gap still exists. And sure, adding glitter and a few inspiration slogans will not fix it, but how is it that women are the ones to get the short end to the stick yet again? Why do we not question why some people seek or need motivation in the form of girlboss-ism in the first place?

The memes are funny, no doubt. But perhaps we should also seek to try and understand the systems that created a need for girlboss-ism in the first place.