Social media is now saturated with the “snail girl,” trend where women prioritise their health, their happiness, and refuse to entertain a toxic, all-consuming career-oriented model for their lives. It is a trend that proudly proclaims that ‘lo behold, the girl boss is dead!
In the original article by Sienna Ludeby, “Snail girl era: Why I’m choosing to be happy rather than busy,” Ludeby, owner of HelloSisi, writes that “the snail girl goes slow, retreats when she needs and follows the path at her own pace.” This perspective gives many young women a refreshing break from the girlboss trend that, portraying herself as a feminist aspiration had many women in its chokehold.
Who is the girl boss?
The girl boss hustles, rules the world with her hard work, and never stops setting the goalpost just a few miles ahead of where she stands. She is an inspiration that is to remain always slightly out of one’s reach.
Michelle P. King, author of “How Work Works,” compared the girl boss to Sherryl Sandberg’s “Lean In,” concept in an email to Isider. King writes, “Both are built on the idea that women need to change or fix themselves to align and compete with men.”
Perhaps, the rise of girlboss was mainly a response to the harmful gender stereotypes that are imposed on women, encouraging them to forsake their careers to become financially dependent homemakers who would take care of the family. The girlboss is successful and glorious in her achievement.
Why gen Z rejects the girl boss and embraces the snail girl
Yet, in the last few years, there has been a steep decline in the girl boss’s popularity among Gen Z. The girl boss no longer seems appealing to them because she is burnt out and behind the glamorous lifestyle, she probably has an ever-increasing therapy invoice which helps her deal with stress and anxiety.
Maybe it is time to ask, if the girlboss has it all, why does she need more? Perhaps, she needs more because the girlboss is a capitalist projection of the career-oriented woman who is primarily characterised by a ‘lack,’ or a ‘deficiency.’ The idea of the girlboss is a patriarchy-engineered hologram, meant to reaffirm the age-old conception of women as inadequate to their male counterparts, by setting them up for imminent burnout and failure.
Ever since Ludeby came out with her Snail Girl article, it became very popular on social media. People started posting their snail girl era by making tiktoks about their relaxing walks in nature, enjoying their first cup of morning tea, and regular skincare routines. ‘Lazy girl jobs,’ started trending on the internet which encouraged women to take low-effort jobs with decent pay while finding meaning and joys of life outside of their work.
The snail girl prioritises herself first and allows herself to say no. It is not that she gives up on her career entirely but she no longer feels the pressure to climb the ladder faster than everybody else. In the fast-paced world of instant productivity, the snail girl works slowly. The journey of her life is a marathon and not a race.
This idea appeals to Gen Z, especially because standing at the last leg of late-stage capitalism, this generation staunchly rejects workplace exploitation and toxic work culture. They understand now that every worker is replaceable to the boss and thus, every job is also replaceable to them. They reject bad management, and stressful work environments, and are not afraid to quit if their work no longer aligns with their interest.
Projection of the girl boss as an exploitative figure
The media projection of the girl boss made us believe that either the girl gives up on her career or she goes all out, working twice as hard compared to her male colleagues, to become the girl boss and to prove that she is worthy of it. It sets an unrealistic standard for working women because it allows no moderation. She is meant to climb the corporate ladders tirelessly and make the rich guys of Wall Street richer while she manages to get some for herself. Or she becomes the boss by assuming the patriarchal role of an exploitative leader who steps down on others to get ahead.
The win of the girl boss is rarely a win for all working women. If the patriarchal structure of corporate culture admits a woman as a leader into their tightly-knit community of those who run the world, it is conditioned upon her detachment and isolation from the feminist movement and withdrawal of any solidarity with fellow working women.
Once we all perceived the hollowness of the girlboss image, the cracks and faultlines became more apparent. Thus rose the snail girl from the ashes of the burnt-out girl’s boss’ corpse. For many, she even became a model of resistance to the capitalist culture of hustle and grind.
Is privilege inherent in adopting the snail girl mode of life?
However, the ability to resist and say ‘no,’ reject a toxic work environment, and put pause on the hustle culture often stems from the assurance of financial stability. It is a safety net that many lack and thus, become vulnerable to exploitation.
Ludeby writes, “I’m aware my ability to slow down and take a step back comes from a place of financial privilege – not everyone can just ‘hit pause’ on their professional lives. In saying that, you can incorporate a little snail girl into your life without stopping the cash flow. Instead, think of it as a time to put yourself first, set personal and professional boundaries, and protect your peace.”
The snail girl is not without ambitions, nor is she indifferent to career opportunities. Rather, she knows how to strike a balance and prioritise her happiness above all.
How the snail girl redefines success and happiness
The snail girl too has aspirations but that does not always lead to the same place where the girlboss is racing towards. Maybe, her aspiration leads her to enjoy a night-in with her partner, regular visits to her parents, extra hours in the morning with her pet, regular brunch with friends, and relaxing weekends to pamper herself with the money she has earned from her work.
The ideas of the snail girl and the girlboss are not exclusively opposed to each other. The snail girl respects and admires the girlboss for all that she has achieved. When the girl boss has had her fun and inevitably feels burnt out, the snail girl mode of life would be there for her to offer support and community.
Until then, the snail girl wishes the girl boss ‘good luck’ if she is still running, while the snail continues to stay steady in her track, unbothered, moisturised, focused on what matters to her, and flourishing.