Why the right is all wrong about ‘girlbosses’

People on the left and right use the term “girlboss” in wildly different ways. On the left, it’s a term of empowerment to praise women who have a take-charge attitude and successful careers. On the right, it serves as a derogatory term, suggesting that modern women pursue careers and materialism at the expense of what is considered the most important role — marriage and family.

The right uses “girlboss” as a pejorative to push young women into family life. But what if the right’s premise is off? What if women’s drive to become “girlbosses” stems not from undervaluing family life but rather from placing a high value on it? That for the single woman, working actually represents the best option she has amid the vacuum of spiritually, financially, emotionally, and physically fit modern men?

The right admits the average modern person is in very poor shape spiritually, physically, and otherwise, while yelling at women that they just need to get married already.

The online trad movement in the years roughly between 2020 and 2023 told women that girlbossing will leave them void of fulfillment and sad and alone in old age. It encouraged women to get out of the workforce, get married, focus on the home, make babies, and reduce their “masculine energy” — personality traits like assertiveness that, the right said, make one succeed in the workforce but sacrifice your feminine essence and sabotage your home life, relationships, and ultimate sense of fulfillment.

Many formerly left-wing, now right-wing women did get married and have children. But a curious thing happened. They didn’t give up their “girlbossiness.” Many of them have podcasts, produce online content where they assert their opinions and dominance in the intellectual realm, and essentially run small media platforms. They exhibit the high executive functioning needed to both manage their online platforms and take care of their children and families. They are visibly productive, goal-oriented, and creative in and outside the home.

So, what gives? Are they not still “girlbosses”? Does having a husband and child automatically make you not a girlboss? What even is a girlboss, anyway, if trads simultaneously decry and embody it? What should a woman be, anyway?

Surveying the ruined landscape

There are multiple things going on here. First, in the modern world, young women have few options except to move into the workforce. And second, even women with children seem to enjoy productive pursuits outside the purely domestic realm.

We are a society devoid of masculinity rituals that test and shape men, and older generations have taken little interest in issuing guardrails on behavior that shape virtue. From porn to drugs to hookup culture, everywhere we are bombarded with a culture that says, “Live and let live.”

As a result, the average man today is in bad shape, and women are outcompeting them in school and career. Young men are watching porn, underemployed, and wasting a lot of time in the digital realm on video games and s**tposting. Young women rightly intuit that working is often the lower-risk option to marriage.

In my own life, my girlfriends and I have explored relationships with and subsequently left men who exhibited the following behaviors: sat in the basement for months on end refusing to get a job, consumed in excess of seven drinks a day, used porn to argue for an open relationship, punished us when we said no to premarital sex, and asked us to go to sex clubs. Lest you think women’s “picker is broken,” ask any woman around you, and she will also have stories of men exhibiting similarly foul behavior — including those who claim to be Christians.

Through this, women work to pay their bills. The right would call such a woman a heartless girlboss, vilifying her for keeping herself sheltered, safe, and fed in a world in which she cannot rely on the virtue of men. In some cases, the girlboss’ restraint in forming a family may be a virtue, as she is refusing to form families with untrustworthy men.

Good men are hard to find

The entire right-wing take on this — that women seek materialist careerism over family life — is not, in my experience, aligned with reality. Careers are something women do while they wait for a good man. When those good men fail to materialize, the right yells at them for being “girlbosses.”

But women are boy crazy from a young age. From the time we are teens, we are always looking for a good one. As the relationship-oriented sex, the idea that women just wholesale don’t prioritize men and family does not track with reality.

The reason marriage rates are low is that men are not marriage material — not the other way around. In addition, even women who have managed to get married to a good man and form a family have intellectual, productive, and social needs outside of childrearing and housekeeping alone.

Female sexual selectivity gives women the power to demand that men meet a high standard before they’re given access to our lives and reproductive capacity. That means a properly oriented woman in the modern landscape may just end up being single. She finds herself in this state not because she desires it or cares too much about her career (except in very rare cases) but because marriage is a high-risk endeavor, and she has not met a man who meets the standards for a virtuous family life.

The right simultaneously admits the average modern person is in very poor shape spiritually, physically, and otherwise, while yelling at women that they just need to get married already. While not every woman is a pinnacle of virtue — indeed, many are astray with liberal ideas — plenty of smart, hardworking, family-oriented women are being simultaneously bullied for taking care of themselves while swimming in a sea of rotten fish.

In a society where old virtues are not mainstream, and there are no masculinity rituals to test and shape men, there will be single, working women. Conservatives wanting to win young women over need to drop the message that women are inherently lacking in virtue for merely taking care of themselves.

And the right must recognize that even women who do marry still enjoy participating in the public sphere. Few conservative women want to enter marriages with men who expect them to close off all other paths to intellectual, social, and creative fulfillment. Young women are also not apt to join a movement carrying a message that essentially communicates, “Your productive and intellectual energy will be vilified by us, except when applied to one narrow sphere.”

If conservatives want to win culture, perhaps it is time to point our eyes to what makes the “girlboss” and learn to shape a generation of virtuous men.

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