The “Girlboss” Guise of Women in Power


Within the last decade, we have seen a notable increase in the number of female leaders and politicians, from Hillary Clinton to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Kamala Harris, but is this increase truly a progressive step towards gender equality? 

When asked about far-right politician Giorgia Meloni becoming Italy’s first female prime minister, former U.S. Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton stated, “the election of the first woman prime minister in a country always represents a break with the past, and that is certainly a good thing” (Privitera). The harsh reality is that the election of a female leader is not inherently a break with the past and is not “certainly a good thing,” especially when that woman’s policies revolve around a far-right ideology that advocates against the progress made towards gender equality. As women increasingly take on leadership roles across the globe, it is important to evaluate whether these women are truly helping other women or simply serving to present a guise of “Girlboss” women in power. 

One prominent example of the guise of women in power is when male politicians will choose to work with women and place them in positions of power as a PR move to appear in favor of gender equality, but in reality they are simply promoting their existing views with a woman at their side. The majority of politicians seem to prioritize their, and their corporate backers’ best interests. While politicians won’t make impactful decisions that go against their platform, it is increasingly common for politicians to work with women to appear as if they support equality or other issues that go against their personal interests. Working with women doesn’t inherently help women or promote gender equality, it simply serves to improve the public image of politicians. Donald Trump, notorious for his many public, dehumanizing remarks towards women (Filipovic), nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, but both Trump and Barrett’s views make it clear that this wasn’t an attempt to promote gender equality in the U.S., but a decision that allowed their harmful beliefs to receive less attention in the media due to the media focusing on praising the nomination of a female justice. Allowing women to simply be used as PR moves by politicians only prolongs the struggle for gender inequality, and contributes to the disparity in success between women of different classes, races, religions, and sexualities. 

Even when women in power are not directly chosen for positions of power by a man, they should not be praised simply for their female identity. Women, even acting on their own interests, can still promote harmful views. Margaret Thatcher was the United Kingdom’s first female prime minister, and while her election sparked excitement about a woman in power across British news publications, her conservative policies were harmful and her being a woman doesn’t make them better. Thatcher was strongly against trade unions, groups which advocate for workers’ interests and better working conditions, and these trade unions tend to be most beneficial to workers of the lower to middle classes (Travis). Thatcher’s opposition to these groups serves as an example of how women in power often only care about women if they are of the same bourgeoisie class status as them. Additionally, Thatcher supported strongly anti-LGBT legislation (Sommerlad), meaning her praised “feminism” was selective and exclusionary. Despite Thatcher’s policies and views, often harming other women, her policies and actions still received minimized criticism as publications instead blindly celebrated the fact that a woman was in power. 

While many women in power certainly have held harmful views and acted against women’s rights, there are also women in power who truly seek to help and empower other women. The most popular example is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives who holds left-leaning, socialist beliefs, comes from a working-class background, and is very open about how being a woman affects her life, specifically in speaking out about sexual assault (Glueck). Sanna Marin, the current prime minister of Finland and a member of the Social Democratic Party, also uses her position to empower women by doing a controversial magazine photoshoot in which she was only wearing a blazer and pants (Young), showing that women’s appearances and bodies do not correlate with their intelligence or ability to lead despite the common sexist view that they do. Ocasio-Cortez’s and Marin’s examples of empowering women and advocating for beneficial policies do not mean that they should be immune to criticism either or that they are good people simply because they are women in power. They show how women in power can help other women rather than harming them for personal benefit. 

The increasingly popular phenomenon of women in power being used to disguise harmful views emphasizes the importance of being educated in political matters and the politicians you support rather than simply basing your decisions on appearances. While doing independent research on politicians from a variety of sources and perspectives is the best way to be informed, many websites can provide a summarized look at politicians’ beliefs, such as which shows recent legislation voted upon in the House of Representatives and how each member voted, which allows you to search your local politicians’ interaction with local legislation, and which provides a simplified look at politicians’ biography, views, and important policy votes. Educating yourself on political matters helps ensure that the women in power are those that will do the right thing and will truly empower women and make beneficial progress in our society.


Filipovic, Jill. “Our President Has Always Degraded Women – And We’ve Always Let Him.” Time, 5 Dec. 2017,

Glueck, Katie. “Ocasio-Cortez Says She Is a Sexual Assault Survivor.” New York Times, 1 Feb, 2021,

Privitera, Greta. “Hillary Clinton: «Putin è un bullo. Meloni? Una donna è una rottura col passato, poi andrà guidicata dai fatti»” [Hillary Clinton: “Putin is a bully. Meloni? A woman is a break from the past, then she will be judged by the facts”]. Corriere della Sera, 2 Sept. 2022,

Sommerlad, Joe. “Section 28: What was Margaret Thatcher’s controversial law and how did it affect the lives of LGBT+ people?” Independent, 25 May 2018,

Travis, Alan. “National archives: Margaret Thatcher wanted to crush power of trade unions.” The Guardian, 31 Jul. 2013,

Young, Sarah. “#ImWithSanna: Sexism row over photo of Finnish prime minister in plunging blazer inspires social media movement.” Independent, 16 Oct. 2020,