The girlboss has had a bit of a reputation problem in the last couple of years. Previously thought to be a ‘successful’ woman, people have been calling BS on the concept altogether. The problem is: a girlboss is defined as someone who uses ‘hard-work’ to get past the constraints placed on her by the patriarchy. And yes - it is hard work! But with girlboss-ism, hard work was equated with ‘hustling’ and making money, instead of actually addressing the systems that are holding women back. Girlbosses are also easily digestible for everyone else, because they are only concerned with their personal ‘resilience’, and not disturbing the status quo.
On the auspicious occasion of Women’s Day, I want to warn you of girlbossy tropes in the onslaught of Indian ads that will come your way - you know, the pregnant woman who can do it all (because she doesn’t get maternity leave)? The resourceful domestic worker (who probably makes less than minimum wage)? Or the cheeky teen (who is only allowed to be so until her parents stop finding it cute)?
Here are the four main types of Women’s Day girlbosses, according to me:
The One Who Loves Her Family
This girlboss can pack a tiffin with the efficiency of a Formula One pitstop. She lives for her children, she tolerates her husband, and she treats her in-laws with godlike respect. She manages her household without a single complaint - the mark of a true girlboss. In return, she is given - maybe a new pressure cooker. We admire her strength so much that the Women’s Day ad about her is almost a Mother’s Day ad. But they’re all kind of the same, anyway.
The One Who Is Brave To Believe She’s Beautiful
This girlboss could not be cast in this ad the rest of the year round, because no one cares about diverse bodies on a random October 5th. These girlbosses cannot look into a mirror without sombre, sad music playing from somewhere. She is not ‘conventionally beautiful’ - and *gasp* - a twist — she owns it! People are awful to her, but just you wait - the fatphobia will evaporate as soon as she’s confident in her body. That’s the secret to hacking deeply entrenched beauty standards. That, and some anti-stretch marks cream, of course.
The One Who Is Trying To Balance It All
If you’re not sure who she is, you’ll find her in a boardroom, closing ~deals or some such thing, while her phone rings in a corner with her child’s face on it - ignored. Everyone’s scared of her and she regularly snaps at the staff. But there’s a reason for her bad mood — she wants to have it all, and unfortunately, she can’t. We have to be kind to this girlboss, because she is struggling. Her office HR is probably going to tie balloons to her desk on Women’s Day to cheer her up, instead of mandating humane work hours.
The original girlboss — the man in the Women’s Day ads. The father who allows his daughter to go out late. The husband who makes his wife tea, instead of the other way around. The son, who puts up a feeble protest when his sister is treated unfairly. You know how some ads glorify women who can ‘do it all’? This one has a man that can ‘do it all’. You know it’s a truly experimental Women’s Day ad when you finish it and you’re left with the thought that “that guy was damn nice”.
All jokes aside, I do like some Women’s Day ads, and not all of them are cringey. And even if they are, they tell the stories of ordinary lives and how small successes can feel big to us. But Women’s Day is also a good time to figure out what people think defines women - it’s often their families, their bodies, or their ability to work like men do. And through these ads it’s clear that often women don’t choose the girlboss life - it is foisted upon them, to be an example of strength.
I’m just here to tell you that you can reject that, if you want to.