A #GIRLBOSS is someone who’s in charge of her own life. She gets what she wants because she works for it. As a #GIRLBOSS, you take control and accept responsibility. You’re a fighter–you know when to throw punches and when to roll with them. Sometimes you break the rules, sometimes you follow them, but always on your own terms. You know where you’re going, but can’t do it without having some fun along the way. You value honesty over perfection. You ask questions. You take your life seriously, but you don’t take yourself too seriously. You’re going to take over the world, and change it in the process. You’re a badass.
And so begins #GIRLBOSS, a story of how an eBay seller went from being totally broke to becoming the CEO of a multimillion-dollar international fashion retailer, Nasty Gal. Author Sophia Amoruso has a strange life story. She went from a high-school drop-out to anarchist shoplifter to eBay seller to CEO, the last transition happening in just eight short years. The big question is: Is her success repeatable? By shelling out over 1000 rupees (like I did), can the reader also become a #GIRLBOSS? (Clarification: This is how the phrase “girl boss” appears in the book. Every. Single. Time.)
Sadly, the answer is that it’s very improbable. While the book gives a fairly comprehensive account of how Nasty Gal came to be, it is severely lacking in genuinely thoughtful advice on how to become a #GIRLBOSS. For someone who got her retail experience from shoplifting bestsellers from bookstores and reselling them on Amazon while hitchhiking, dumpster-diving and reading anarchist literature, I expected a lot more analysis of her transition from freegan to CEO. What it boiled down to was that she got sick of “agonizing over the political implications” of her lifestyle and realized that she liked “nice things“.
That’s fine. Amoruso might not have an answer to the big philosophical questions in life but since she has portrayed herself as a no-nonsense leader, you’d think she has some solid tips on how to run a successful business or be a good manager. Again, the “advice” in this book is full of cliches like “work hard” and “be yourself”. None of it is specifically directed at girls, which makes the unfortunate title of the book redundant. Instead, there is a chapter called “On Hiring, Staying Employed and Firing” which focusses on how to get an entry-level job. And like many successful people, Amoruso likes to emphasize her own attributes and discount the lucky breaks she caught along the way. She got off with a warning when caught shoplifting. She didn’t face familial pressure to go to college or get a steady job. She sold clothes on eBay in its heyday as an alternative marketplace. My problem with bootstrapping narratives like this one is that it implicitly rebukes anyone who didn’t “make it”, as if it shows that they simply didn’t want it enough.
There were also two big issues that the book also failed to address. First, nowhere did it mention the unique challenges that women face on their journey to becoming #BOSSes, like balancing work and family, negotiating salary and walking the fine line between being persuasive and powerful and being perceived as “pushy” harridans. On the contrary, she equates bringing in a baby with you to an interview to bringing in a beverage or a pet and calls them both “Interview No-No’s That May Doom You To Unemployment“. Second, the book said next to nothing about fashion considering the author is the CEO of a multimillion-dollar fashion brand. From what I gathered, Amoruso doesn’t seem to have a very high opinion of fashion and compares the New York Fashion Week to a “high-school outfit contest“.
I appreciate Amoruso’s attempt to empower her readers and the life experiences she shared were unique and entertaining, but I didn’t enjoy reading the book. I wasn’t inspired by her personal message as I was by her story, if you know what I mean. Make no mistake, I honestly and deeply respect: her work ethic, her persistence and perseverance, creativity, resourcefulness and entrepreneurial success in creating a highly profitable business without having the advantages afforded by a formal education or financial backing.
Sophia Amoruso seems to be an amazing woman and what she has done for herself is inspiring. But is #GIRLBOSS also inspiring and amazing? I didn’t think so. I would still recommend it to others my age because it might motivate them and they might get more out of it than I did. Speaking for myself, I’d just say…meh.