May 05, 2017 by Virginia Wardell
Women’s rights, and therefore feminist ideals are a central issue in society and politics. This is why the new Netflix series “Girlboss” has sparked recent controversy regarding the main character, Sophia, and her standing as feminist.
The show takes place in San Francisco and is based on Sophia Amoruso’s self-made millionaire status from her NastyGal clothing line.
The protagonist, Sophia, has a decidedly jerk-like persona based on her getting fired for eating her boss’ food, stealing multiple items throughout the series and general rudeness toward anyone who engages with her.
Nevertheless, her personality, while not exactly likable, makes the show entertaining and funny. It gives the viewer substance and a sense of realness from the character.
Some critics of the show have pointed out that Sophia’s behavior, while they allowed her to become a successful business woman, are not in fact feminist in nature due to her antisocial tendencies.
While it is true that Sophia tends to have some pretty messed up habits and terrible social skills, she still avoids social mores and often addresses authority specifically through assertion of power and confidence. That is feminism; just because Sophia is not a perfect person doesn’t mean she can’t be a feminist as well.
The word “feminist” is beginning to be easier to identify with and less radical in nature. Now, it is somewhat popular to be a feminist as opposed to being taboo, as it used to be.
Feminism should no longer be perceived as “man-hating,” it is about empowerment and total equality. So again, Sophia never even talks about or addresses feminism throughout the series; the show simply encapsulates the modern day empowerment model where a woman can be economically successful.
As a 20-year-old college student, is it empowering to watch another 20-something-year-old gain momentum and status while addressing authority from the perspective of an underestimated individual.
While the show is clearly making a feminist statement by sharing the perspective of a real (not ideal) feminist who made millions, one theme that seems to be overlooked is the statement of ageism.
“Girlboss” is one of the first shows I’ve watched that consistently addresses Sophia’s struggle with trying to enter the workforce as someone who appears to have less experience or is less trustworthy.
An entire episode is focused on Sophia not being able to lease office space due to her landlord who requires a cosigner with good credit. I think most college students and people in the 18 to 25-year-old age group have undergone similar situations regarding judgement from authority based on age. It was nice and relatable to finally have this acknowledged in a series.
This is why the critiques that “Girlboss” is only about feminism and misrepresents the ideal feminist are hollow. Yes, the show has commentary on feminism and women’s empowerment, but the show is also a story about a realistic person. I mean that there are multiple themes intertwined in the series including feminism, ageism, relationships and education.
So then we come to the ultimate question: is Girlboss a feminist or just unlikeable? Sophia is expected to encapsulate not an ideal feminist, but a real person who is struggling and learning to succeed in her position. She is rude and jerkish, and overall disliked throughout the show, but that doesn’t take away her ability to encapsulate an feminist. She is still an boisterous force that is empowering and influential.