Leigh Stein’s ‘Self Care’ and the Death of the Girlboss

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In 2014, an ecommerce entrepreneur named Sophia Amoruso printed #Girlboss, a mix of memoir and profession recommendation for ladies. While judging a guide by its cowl is frowned upon, the #Girlboss mud jacket—Millennial pink, aggressively hashtagged, its topic entrance and middle with a bit of black costume and a triumphant smirk—reveals the complete plot. It’s a couple of girl who will get wealthy by promoting a fast-fashion imaginative and prescient of what a girl on her method to getting wealthy needs to be like. It was a bestseller.

By 2017, Amoruso had expanded her #Girlboss universe to incorporate a digital media firm of the identical identify. “Girlboss is a feeling, a philosophy,” she mentioned at its launch social gathering. Like Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In,” the slogan yoked careerism to feminism. Never thoughts that Amoruso’s enterprise ventures weren’t wildly profitable. (Her on-line retailer Nasty Gal filed for chapter in 2016.) While she struggled in the retail world, Amoruso discovered longer-lasting success publicizing this new archetype. Her potent private branding? That was scalable. The Girlboss was all over the place in the 2010s. She was hawking baggage (Stephanie Korey, founder of Away) or make-up (Emily Weiss, founder of Glossier) or exercise gear (Tyler Haney, founder of Outdoor Voices). She was virtually at all times white, skinny, and charming. She was at all times Instagrammable. She understood what the fashionable girl wished, and methods to promote it to her. She would break the glass ceiling, and the shards would fly into the eyes of her haters.

If anybody was probably to out-girlboss all of them, it was Audrey Gelman, a gamine public relations whiz who’d already reached a sure tier of New York–centric fame for her friendship with Lena Dunham. In 2016, she based The Wing, a meticulously stylish girls’s social membership with devoted members and fastidiously cultivated movie star endorsements. (Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s reward was splashed on its web site; fellow area of interest celebrities like Tavi Gevinson and Hari Nef had been members.) Perhaps greater than every other girl in the startup world, Gelman excelled at commodifying feminism as a way of life. She expertly offered the concept that becoming a member of an upscale coworking neighborhood was a progressive, empowering political selection. Media protection of The Wing was largely optimistic and often glowing, and Gelman hustled to win over her detractors.

For a number of years, it labored fantastically. The 2016 election imbued Gelman’s fledgling firm with resistance-tinted patina. “The Wing was conceived amid great expectations for the Hillary Clinton presidency, but it was her defeat that sharpened the company’s sense of mission,” cultural critic and reporter Amanda Hess wrote in a New York Times Magazine story from earlier this 12 months. What had initially been pitched as a resting place for girls on the go turned recast as membership-as-direct-action. “Gelman began to speak about a Wing membership as analogous to political agitation,” Hess continued. The Wing raised over $100 million in funding. It expanded from its authentic Flatiron location to a handful of equally lavish spots in Manhattan and Brooklyn, then nationally and internationally, opening areas from Los Angeles to Paris, taking its bougie womb aesthetic international. Gelman was the first visibly pregnant CEO to seem on the cowl of a enterprise journal. Girlboss 2.zero had arrived.

Leigh Stein, a author who herself cofounded an internet neighborhood and occasion collection for ladies throughout the 2010s, has written a delightfully tart literary satire of the Girlboss along with her new guide, Self Care. The novel, out this week, arrives at an opportune second, as the world Stein skewers goes via the identical type of upheaval she creates inside her fictional universe, a lot in order that some of the passages seem almost clairvoyant.

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