In addition to writing about feminism and fashion I also curate my social media feed and groups to serve those same ideas. I am drawn to accounts and sites that address me as a whole woman: mind and body, personal and professional, and of course, style; where I can read about sustainable menstrual products and get suggestions for female fantasy authors.
The biggest downside to my inspiring girl-power bubble is when the patriarchy pops it with another negative media narrative regarding a successful woman. She was somehow too successful, too talented – she needed to be brought down a few pegs. She failed, why won’t she just go away quietly? We’ve already got one successful woman, wouldn’t two be gratuitous?
Sophia Amoruso, founder of Nasty Gal, is trying to change this bad media habit with her new media company Girlboss Media. Her experience with her fashion brand has undoubtedly helped in building a new business, but I would also argue her experience of reading her story bent around these tropes also informed the ethos of her new brand.
The Rise and Fall…
If you’ve got a Netflix subscription you should be loosely familiar with the story of how Amoruso started her eBay shop and went independent in 2008 with nastygalvintage.com. By 2013 she was a business and fashion media darling for building a fashion company worth over one-hundred million dollars:
Inc. Magazine’s 30 under 30, with the headline Unselfconsiously Sexy Style.
The New York Times called her “the Cinderella of tech” in Naughty in Name Only.
Business Insider included her, mentioning in the headline that she is a college drop-out, in their Sexiest CEOs compilation.
(The headlines alone are a hallmarks of a time before #metoo and of the most consistent, problematic way women are reduced to our appearance and sexuality.)
In 2014 she published her autobiography/girl’s guide to business #GIRLBOSS, and in 2016 Netflix adapted the book into a series.
Amoruso did make some mistakes – as a first-time CEO might be expected to – and within a year of stepping down from her executive role Nasty Gal had to file for bankruptcy. There are also reports of three employees being fired after having announced pregnancies. She was not a flawless businesswoman.
But this situation created the perfect media trope storm. The articles analysing the bankruptcy and Amoruso herself revoked her feminist card, and sources around her blamed the publication of #GIRLBOSS for heralding the end of Nasty Gal.
It was about time for the fall in the classic rise-and-fall story we put women through because when an attractive and successful woman gets too popular she becomes too much and must be reminded of their proper seen-and-not-heard place.
No More Tropes Left
If you read #GIRLBOSS – I did – you can guess that Amoruso was aware of the narratives surrounding her, and you can guess she did her best to ignore the noise and get on with her next project. Girlboss Media consists of the website, a newsletter, a podcast she began during the Nasty Gal era, and something called Girlboss Rallies. I will confess that I am not an avid consumer of Girlboss media content but I am glad that Amoruso has begun again and in such a public manner.
When any woman takes a risk and fails it somehow proves that all women would make the same mistake, while men are able to mistakes-were-made their way through endless failures (ahem, Mark Zuckerberg).
Many women will never head million-dollar companies, but most women will be subject to out-dated narratives by the people in their lives. These occur on a much smaller scale than Amoruso’s story, but if she can come through the perfect storm of faux outrage at a woman who dared play around in the serious, manly world of business, then regular women have a decent chance of dismissing the hecklers and getting on with their lives.