Gaslight, gatekeep, girlboss: the trend summing up how Gen Z feel about millennials

Posted by Chloe James in Comment

1 month ago

If you had to pick one, would you gaslight, gatekeep or girlboss? That’s the question posed by Twitter users right now and it’s quickly become Gen Z’s tongue-in-cheek version of the overused Millennial trope “live, laugh, love”.

The joke started in the same place as 99% of the internet’s humour – Tumblr – where in January a user posted “today’s agenda: gaslight, gatekeep and, most importantly, girlboss”. The mantra stuck. Not only is there merch and quizzes promising to tell you which of the three values you are (apparently I’m gaslight), but the phrase has since been applied to everything from movies to coronavirus vaccines.

Just as how “live, laugh, love” before it came to define what the younger set of millennials mocked about the older half, “gaslight, gatekeep, girlboss” encapsulates the things Gen Z claim separate them from the previous generation. 

In particular, attitudes to “girlbossing” – the designated term for an entrepreneurial woman who “got shit done” and “smashed” it, 365 days a year – are something that really set the two apart. There was a time when publications compiled roundups hailing their favourite girlbosses of the year. We even had a Netflix series of the same name celebrating the meteoric rise of Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso, the first person to call herself such a thing. Nowadays you’re more likely to catch the term “girlboss” in Gen Z debates like “did Margaret Thatcher effectively utilise girl power by funnelling money into illegal paramilitary death camps in Northern Ireland?”. Which really says it all.

But not everything is about millennials. The generation has an online tendency to pit themselves against anyone born later than 1996 – remember when older TikTokkers were ready to go to war in the name of skinny jeans and Eminem? The mild hint of intergenerational criticism via “gaslight, gatekeep, girlboss” has certainly triggered a response. As one millennial Twitter user put it, “Gen Z grew up with too many words IMO. Now they don’t know what any of them mean.”

For Gen Z however, it really isn’t that deep. Sure, these are the traits they find annoying about the preceding generation, but it’s more to do with their feelings about the internet millennials created which Gen Z subsequently grew up using. They’re poking fun at years of fake news, faux-motivational feminist graphics on Instagram and 1990s kids gatekeeping everything and anything made before the millennium. In this case, Gen Z isn’t trying to change the internet. They just want to laugh at it.

By Chloe James, fashion and beauty editor of CORQ.