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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For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."