#5: Let me wear my "#GIRLBOSS" t-shirt
How often do you think about what language to use?
I don't mean grammar and synonyms; I mean the words you use to describe yourself and others.
I think about it a lot. My junior and senior years of high school I was president of my high school's Civil Rights Team (shocker 😏 ), and our biggest campaigns were around eradicating language that degraded others – like using the word "retarded" in a derogatory context.
Fifteen years later, there are obvious words like that now that all of us avoid. Yet there are many we all critique, terms that others use in their own work and to describe themselves. Words like boss, hustle, badass, and more. These words are trending hashtags. They are on t-shirts. Heck, one of them is in the title of my friend's book (which you all should buy if you're remotely focused on branding a small service-based business). I’m going to put jargon in general aside for a moment, although I wrote a LinkedIn post on this that went a bit viral and had some interesting responses.
Here’s what I’d like to address: The responses to my LinkedIn post that I found most interesting were about what to call women, by both men and women.
Many women have penned powerful pieces against the use of terms like girlboss or entreprenHER. I get it; like Kim Kardashian and Beyonce’s scant clothing, these terms promote a vision of what it means to have power as a female that goes against what a lot of other women believe in. But is the critic’s vision necessarily right or better? I wonder how a successful woman (based on however she defines success) who has embraced terms like “girlboss” along her journey would feel reading critiques like this. Probably pretty crappy.
Is that our goal?
Do you know what really kills me a little inside? When people make other people feel crappy and diminish their self worth and identity . . . especially when women do this to other women. It can be straight up bullying, but more often, especially among adult women, it's self righteousness and intellectual superiority about the "correct" version of femininity and what it means to promote and celebrate our individual identities as women.
And yes, I would get pissed if a man called me or any other woman a "girlboss" or "boss babe," and I stand firmly that that is absolutely not a double standard. I'd also get pissed if a man – or other woman – told a woman to smile more or put on (or take off) makeup – a woman as herself can do what she damn well pleases, including naming herself and her work.
Do you know what words I do respond to vehemently? Words that I hear that sound something like this:
“Jews will not replace us.”
“Those illegals are stealing our jobs.”
“That b*tch was asking for it with that dress.”
So here are my goals when it comes to language I hear, see, and use:
1. Question whether or not this language causes, promotes, or celebrates harm to myself or others, either physically or in terms of identity and self worth.
2. If yes, do something: respond, engage, ask questions, and listen. Repeat.
3. If I’m unsure, seek out and hear from people who know more than I do. Not just people with opinions – people with experience and expertise.
I hope you do the same, and I welcome your thoughts and responses anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. Full transparency: I don't actually have a #GIRLBOSS t-shirt.