It's a name that is immediately confrontational, exceedingly direct, owning the ways men talk down to and infantilize women and the constant charge of "bossiness" leveled at any woman with the gall to be commanding. Girlboss has the ring of defiance, yes, but also of solidarity; it is the act of declaring that, yes, I am like other girls. I am not interested in whether you think I can hang, and you can't expect me to chuckle at your jokes about women. A girl, in short, is the boss, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.
So it's a good name for Sophia Amoruso – the founder of Nasty Gal and the author of an autobiography called, in fact, #Girlboss – to use for her new social media platform. Girlboss (the website) aims to take on LinkedIn's monopoly on professional networking, but is less interested in destroying it than specializing. You see, Girlboss is LinkedIn for millennial women, and it carries with it the attitude of the almost brash rebellion its name demands. And I think it's exactly what we need.
No matter how much we may wish we lived in a meritocracy, we don't; that's not how humans are wired, and I suspect it never will be. Instead, success in almost any enterprise is as much a matter of who as what you know, which makes professional networks both vertical and horizontal critical to any career. And that often means social time apart from work. But the stock images of sucking up to the boss are a bunch of rich old men taking a young upstart golfing or a bunch of hooting, suited men at a strip club, and that communicates something vital: professional networking has historically been about membership in a boy's club. And that's something to which women simply do not have the same level of access.
So something like Girlboss excites me for the same reason I get excited about speaking at women's professional development and networking conferences; it gets around that problem by letting women meet and interact with their colleagues in a space where nobody is making them feel like their presence is a courtesy, where no one is hitting on you, where no one will assume you have a junior role to your male counterparts. It's invigorating in ways I can't readily describe, the sense of liberty of movement these spaces have. But the ad-hoc networks that result simply aren't the same; they don't offer that critical component of access.
So something like Girlboss excites me for the same reason I get excited about speaking at women's professional development and networking conferences
Social media, however, is the great leveler: everyone is a face on a screen with a keyboard, and everyone gets a say. For better or for worse, it has enabled the creation of vast networks of human beings, working for common goals and in common service – and which usually have the exact same marginalizing effect on woman as those out in meatspace, with all the requisite problems: shutting women out of conversation, denying our achievements, valuing us based on perceived sex appeal, and on and on. So the rise of a women's professional social network – if indeed it ends up being a rise – is thrilling, because it does something nobody has tried yet: giving women the ability to network as a class on a massive scale, bypassing male gatekeeping authorities entirely. To me, that feels both downright revolutionary and stultifyingly obvious. Where has this been?
Because, as has been the case for seemingly all of human history, men and women tend to exist in parallel societies, where male societies control power and money; as such, women who cross that boundary tend to be seen as, on some level, interlopers. Just look at the ongoing question of whether the United States is "ready" for a woman president, whatever the hell that means. So the creation of what I've taken to calling alternative structures for women who are operating in male-dominated spaces is fundamentally of prime importance. Consider that in 2017, women founders received only 2% of venture capital funding, a number that would certainly have been lower were it not for the existence of women-focused VC groups specifically looking for women founders to fund. That's a harsh fact to contemplate: even with such groups, we only broached 2%. That's because we're navigating unrelentingly hostile territory; we, simply put, are not welcome.
That means we have to stand together and lift each other up, and the existence of a space like Girlboss to assist with that excites me in a powerful way, because of what it may presage: an expansion of professional opportunity for women through the creation of robust, industry-spanning networks, allowing women to discover new careers, new mentors, and strategies for existing in a man's world. That's the sort of thing that's been difficult to create on anything larger than a local scale, so it's my hope that all of that is about to change, and women will finally be able to do something that's long needed doing: changing the world.
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Starting with a little background, I am an anti-bullying advocate and have recently graduated from The Parent Leadership Training Institute, where as part of our studies we were asked to come up with a community project close to our hearts and put it into action. My cause was bullying, and I began a blog and Facebook page to address issues pertaining to all forms of bullying. Implementing this project was followed by a thre- minute speech to my peers, and, after all this, here is what I have learned about bullying.
Bullying makes people feel bad about themselves, leading to feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem and even physical symptoms. The repercussions of bullying can cause people to miss school or work as well as countless other negative side effects.
I have been bullied both at school and at work, and I know of others who have suffered the same plight. It is not fun!
My first bullying experience was in seventh grade as a young teen. There was a group of three "mean girls" who harassed me and, I later found out, several of my friends; they thought it was funny to pick on others about their clothes, their looks or whatever else they could come up with (who knows). It felt awful at the time. Supposedly, I was chosen to get picked on because they claimed I bought my clothes at the Goodwill. That wasn't true, but really who cares? Why they were picking on me was never really the point. Luckily, after a while, the meanies went on to the next victim(s) like a never-ending cycle. I tend to think once a bully, always a bully, which goes to show how good a lifestyle that is, because those "mean girls" never amounted to much. In hindsight, I feel sorry for them. Watch the movie The Gift if you're really curious about what happens to bullies when they grow up.
And bullying was not just an issue when I was a teen, since then nothing much has changed. My own nephew was bullied in eighth grade, and he recently talked to me in depth about of how the bullying took a toll on him. Especially because I had the same experience, I could relate to him in ways that some others couldn't. Like reliving my own memories, I was incredibly broken up to hear how it made him feel.
Even worse than that, bullying does not end in the school yard. Employees are being bullied on the job at an alarming rate. When you are bullied on the job as an adult, it taken an even bigger toll. Further it doesn't just go away like those middle school "mean girls." Unless you can quit your job, you might just be stuck. There are all kinds of physical symptoms, stomach pains, migraines and even panic attacks. Beyond the physical, people's mental and emotional state is extremely sensitive to bullying, and as a result work performance might suffer. Furthermore, it might feel like there is no recourse, no one to believe you. You can hope that the HR Department is willing to listen and do something about it, but the whole process can be so disheartening. And in the hierarchical corporate environment, sometimes the bully seems to get ahead and you are left lagging behind in a subservient position. This is what happened to me as a victim of workplace bullying. It started with me being told by a co-worker that my boss was following me to the bathroom, staring down the hall whenever I left my desk to make sure I came right back to my seat. Then it was standing over me as I typed, ordering me to get in a car with them, not allowing me to sit somewhere if it wasn't within their sight. The list of offenses could go on endlessly. There were times I felt like I couldn't breathe. And then, the bully torturing me got a promotion. Like the character of Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, the classic bully is revered by her peers, despite the fact that all of her employees are terrified of her. Yet, she is in a role of high stature and praised as a bully. We live in a culture that is not only complacent in the existence of bullies, but one that actively allows them to thrive.
It makes you realize how unfair life can be. Of course, no one said that life would be fair; maybe you just assumed that bad people would not get ahead. But, they do. Even now, I cannot help but to shake my head in disbelief. I often wonder what makes a person feel the need to laud their power over another. Are they insecure? Were they bullied themselves? They must feel bad about themselves in some way? Do they feel the need to do this to make themselves look good? Whatever the reason, it certainly isn't nice at all. I have found myself at different times in my life standing up for people who have been bullied around me. And I certainly do not allow anyone to treat me in any way that I find disrespectful. I truly believe in karma, and I tell myself that at some point in time, the bullies will get it back in some way. I have seen it happen, and in the meantime, I just say to myself "What goes around, comes around."
Bullying shows no sign of slowing down, and in this day and age, it's even worse than I have experienced in the past. Cyber bulling, rumors, fist fights, knifes, guns and other forms of both mental and physical cruelty, it truly sickens me. I know that I cannot save everyone, but I try to be an advocate as much as possible and encourage others to do so as well. NO ONE SHOULD BULLIED! It is disgraceful to say the least. You should always practice grace as much as you can. With every person who chooses to do so, the world gets a little bit better. I will be writing more on this topic on a regular basis; I feel it helps to talk about this subject aloud and spread the word. and, if nothing else, be kind.