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Published in Summer 2021 at the height of the pandemic, this is a letter that I (Shope) wrote in response to the unnuanced conversation around work and women happening at the time. It circulated widely - instagram, whatsapp groups, email threads, dinner parties - and led to the birth of kind regards. This is how it all started.
Work can feel overwhelming.
We’re monetising just about everything - our hobbies, our opinions, our pets - and are side hustling ourselves into a mental health crisis.
You can’t turn a corner without seeing your peers sign book deals, raise funding, or announce dream-come-true partnerships. Which is equal parts inspiring and overwhelming. Starting your 'own thing' feels more like an expectation than it does a choice.
And forget boundaries. Personal brands trump those. We can go from laughing at a meme, to promoting our latest project in less than a few scrolls.
And, according to (social) media there's only one way to be a 'successful' working woman.
She's usually young, beautiful and can bounce from mother, to mentor to founder with ease. She’s amassed a loyal online following, in part, thanks to her frequent - almost deifying - features in the media. And lest we forget! Work, for her, is a passionate, purpose-filled love nest at all times.
Professional women have been chopped, screwed and flattened into a single, clickable #ad-worthy archetype.
News flash. Everyone loses under girl boss culture.
The tiny proportion of women who fit the girlboss bill, are idolised by the media, and in the process stripped of their ability to make mistakes.
Consciously or not, they'll wear their #girlboss badge with pride. In an age of marketable feminism, it helps drive sales, and we'd likely do the same in their shoes.
The catch? Girlbosses become empty vessels for our collective hopes, dreams and expectations. It's only a matter of time before these women fall from a pedestal they didn't ask to be put on, and the rest of us crumble into a heap of anxiety trying to achieve a glossy rendition of 'success'. Work is more gritty than it is glossy.
At some point during our working lives, we'll likely encounter burnout, sexism, racism, and/or the challenge of wanting to both raise a family and maintain your career in a country (UK) that only gives you 6 weeks of decent maternity pay.
And what about domestic work, emotional work, and all of the other forms of labour women contend with outside of a professional realm?
All of this is omitted from the 'women in work' conversation. Unfortunately, there’s no Forbes 30 Under 30 for domestic goddesses or accidental therapists.
Work extends beyond the professional. Success extends beyond the listicles.
All work is valid, interesting, and worthy of celebration. Be it the money-making kind or the pick-up-screaming-baby-without-losing-your-mind kind.
Some of the most impressive women in our society are starved of mainstream accolades.
And oftentimes success has nothing to do with accolades whatsoever.
So, we want to start a different conversation.
One that opts out of the rat race, burnout culture, and other limiting concepts of success and professionalism.
One that puts personal, domestic and emotional work on the same level as money-making work.
One that is informed, honest, and as gritty as it is glossy.
One that steers away from recycled, click-baity insights.
One where productivity and 'hard work' includes making space for down time, friends and family.
One that explores all of the wonderful ways that women are *actually* working.