Yesterday was a landmark day in the New York Times: it was the first time the word "girlbossified" was used in the newspaper. This got me thinking about how I've been seeing girlboss pop up a lot more recently (generally used to describe a "feminist icon", although according to Urban Dictionary this can sometimes have negative connotations), so I did a little dive into the history. Turns out it was coined in 2014 by American businesswoman Sophia Amoruso in the title of her autobiography, #Girlboss. This set off a hashtag trend on social media and a subsequent 2017 Netflix series - by that point it was fairly established. At a certain point around that time, it began being used pejoratively to describe media or advertising situations where were women were portrayed with more attention focused on their gender than their other qualities. In January 2021, the phrase gaslight, gatekeep, girlboss began being used as a parody of live, laugh, love, and that gave the word a kind of meme quality that allowed it to return on a meta-ironic level.
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Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.