Book review: Sophia Amoruso, ‘#GIRLBOSS’

girlboss

Photo courtesy of Portfolio/Penguin.

Sophia Amoruso has a really impressive story. She chose hitch-hiking and shoplifting instead of college and still managed to turn her eBay shop into a multi-million dollar online business. As the founder and CEO of Nasty Gal (a well-known fashion retailer), she grew the business to its current success without ever even borrowing money. That’s amazing. I’m awed and jealous.

But her book, “#GIRLBOSS,” which purports to teach young women about succeeding in business, says a whole lot of nothing. It’s neither truly a memoir nor a self-help book. She touches on many things briefly and delves deeply into none of them. With such an interesting life story, I was expecting Sophia to give useful, thorough advice from her personal experiences, but I was super let down.

Here’s where Sophia first lost me: it’s on page 14, where she writes, “#GIRLBOSS is a feminist book, and Nasty Gal is a feminist company in the sense that I encourage you, as a girl, to be who you want and do what you want. But I’m not here calling us ‘womyn’ and blaming men for any of my struggles along the way.” She goes on to ask, “Is 2014 a new era of feminism where we don’t have to talk about it? I don’t know, but I want to pretend that it is.”

Noooo. It’s so, so exhausting to have successful women with the opportunity to reach a large audience of young people continue to perpetuate the idea that feminism is about sitting around blaming men for your struggles. Misogyny, sexism and patriarchy are real problems that exist in the world and impact so many aspects of our lives — especially in business. And Sophia really doesn’t talk about this at all in the book, despite making a clear distinction between “girlbosses” and plain ol’ “bosses” right off the bat.

Sophia goes on to touch on her pro-anarchy, anti-capitalism phase (hence the shoplifting) that has long passed, as she now specifically mentions cruising around in a Porsche wearing Prada shoes. It would have been interesting to see her write more critically on capitalism now that it’s working in her favor, or at least to have a more detailed explanation of her shift in morals. She sidesteps this topic with a measly parenthetical, writing, “I believed that capitalism was the source of all greed, inequality, and destruction in the world. I thought that big corporations were running the world (which I now know they do) and by supporting them, I was condoning their evil ways (which is true, but a girl’s gotta put gas in her car).”

In addition to a lack of detail regarding her personal philosophies, Sophia’s business advice also comes up short.

I, personally, suck at networking. This was one of the topics I was most eager to see addressed by a self-made female CEO. Sophia addresses networking in a half-page endorsement for connecting with others on LinkedIn and, on the very last page, acknowledges her father for “teaching me to negotiate like a monster” without sharing any of this negotiating expertise anywhere within the book.

I was sincerely hoping for some useful tips on making a deal or establishing business contacts or calling in a favor or drawing up a contract. Instead, Sophia devotes the majority of this chapter to giving advice on interviewing for entry-level positions like, “We can’t all be Shakespeare, but spend some time on your cover letter and have someone else look it over to make sure it reads well… Spell-check exists for a reason; use it, but don’t rely on it.” Yeah, Sophia, we know.

As evidenced by the book’s Twitter-ready title and Sophia’s tendency to directly address the readers as hashtag-girlbosses throughout, she was clearly unconcerned about the book’s longevity. It’s more of a marketing tool for her clothing business; she didn’t really care at all to give any substantial advice to women in the workplace or female business-leaders. Certainly nothing that could hold up over time or be used for reference in the future.

She did, however, provide pages upon pages of pseudo-inspirational one-liners in less than 140 characters each: “Compete with yourself, not with others. Judge yourself on what is your personal best and you’ll accomplish more than you could ever have imagined. Life stops for no one, so keep moving. Stay awake and stay alive. There’s no AutoCorrect in life — think before texting the universe.”

The paragraph just keeps going like that! What the hell is that last one even supposed to mean?

Altogether, “#GIRLBOSS” was such an overwhelming disappointment with very little to take away from it. Sophia’s remarkable accomplishments speak for themselves. She should have let them.

‘#GIRLBOSS’
Sophia Amoruso
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Genre: Nonfiction, Business
Pages: 256
Grade: D

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