“Girl bosses” must redefine what they think feminism is and acknowledge the intersectional and political aspects of the movement.
( Rowdy Magazine )
The following article first appeared in Rowdy's Vol. 4 Print Magazine: The Event Horizon. The print magazine is available for purchase here.
My existence as an Indian-American woman defines most of who I am. For that reason, I find myself being drawn to publications and companies that are led by womxn.
In 2018, Lindsay Peoples Wagner became the youngest editor-in-chief and the third Black editor of Condé Nast. As a dark-skinned Black woman, it was hard for her to push open the gates, but once she did, she powered through and used her platform to give opportunities to her young BIPOC, LGTBQ+ peers as well as up-and-coming artists.
Peoples Wagner did what I dream of doing.
She has never called herself a “girl boss,” though she exemplifies the true meaning of the term. But while digging into the editorial industry, I discovered that a lot of the white women who lead editorial companies do. Though they pride themselves on uplifting women, they only ever tell stories or promote the existence of cis-gendered, straight white women.
According to a 2019 Bustle article, more than half of management positions were held by women, most being white. Additionally, white people make up 86% of the publishing workforce.
Readers and employees have called out “girl boss” exclusionary tactics in the past, but it took this year’s Black Lives Matter protests to compel Man Repeller’s Leandra Cohen and The Wing’s Audrey Gelman to step down and encourage their positions be taken by womxn of color.
Girl bosses didn’t make any previous efforts to correct the system built by their male counterparts. They used their privilege to excel, and rather than break down barriers, they mimicked the behavior of those who built them.
Unfortunately, they also echoed the abuse of power that results in vile, exclusionary behavior towards BIPOC.
As a woman of color who dreams of making it past the shiny glass doors of the publishing world, it’s a slap in the face. This led me to question: What constitutes whiteness? While seeking an answer, I began to reckon with how racism seeps into every corner, poisoning everything in its path –– including myself.
My internalized desire towards whiteness manifested itself in the smallest ways. I remember looking in the mirror as a child and hating my ethnic features and cultural background. The scariest part was how natural it felt.
But recognizing the racism within ourselves is the first step in fighting it.
We need to cultivate environments that promote a greater sense of self-worth –– something that young BIPOC like me have struggled to find. “Girl bosses” must redefine what they think feminism is and acknowledge the intersectional and political aspects of the movement.
They need to redistribute their power to uplift marginalized communities.
Womxn of color have stated their demands time and time again — eliminate double standards, biases and microaggressions. For years, their calls for substantial change have been swept under the rug, That is, until now.
Recurring instances of police brutality have caused people to recognize all types of violence towards BIPOC — including when white “girl bosses” gaslight their employees. Notes app apologies and taking time off social media to “reflect” doesn’t equate to substantial change.
Why did Black people have to be murdered for us to finally talk about our fucked up systems?
Oppressors in the workplace aren’t responding with plans to accomplish equity in their companies. Privileged people have power, and they can either use it to uplift those that don’t or fend for themselves and those who look like them. In most industries, it’s always the latter.
The abuse of their privilege has made me think about my own.
I have non-Black privilege; I am more likely to receive opportunities in every facet of society. The power I do have is my voice and how I can continue to elevate other marginalized voices. I want to use that to fight for gender and racial equity. Embracing my culture and upbringing in the face of the systems that perpetuate whiteness requires breaking the current mold and creating free and all-encompassing spaces for my peers, especially Black womxn.
Lindsay Peoples Wagner leads by example. She didn’t just open doors; she shattered the locks so others could share in her success. I strive to do the same — to infiltrate the editorial industry and tear it all down. I’ll create something inclusive in its place so we can all share the wealth.
Anushka Dakshit is a Staff Writer turned Copy Editor at Rowdy Magazine. She likes to read, watch really long films, listen to old Bollywood, and listen to sad music when it rains. She wants to use her writing to discuss the nuances of womxnhood and culture and is passionate about social justice, femininity, and words that bring her catharsis. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org