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Life Coaches and the White Women Who Pay Them

From Prosper Bonhomme: “This isn’t the Catholic Church ladies, you can’t just buy your way out of your entitlement and suck your thumb until the mean, scary intersectional people go away.”

“Who the fuck even listens to these people?”

Day after day, watching this mountain of war crimes climb in front of me, what was once an incredulous question posed with a half-laugh and an eye roll has now turned into a seething catch phrase. I had hoped this bubble would burst. I had hoped this was a simple flash in the pan that would meet its end in a spectacularly quiet fashion, but oh no, this conflict of attrition continues to wage on. I would say that I fear myself succumbing to exhaustion, but in reality, that would be too swift a social media death, too kind for my liking. Instead, I endure, and in doing so I watch this enemy grow stronger, gaining power in the form of keystrokes and page views:

Life Coaches.

But no, not just any life coaches, kids. They are the Spiritual White Woman. They believe in Law of Attraction. They can help you do that same, provided you pay them enough. But let me break down this beast for you so you know what you’re looking at: I’m talking about bleach blonde white women, all of whom craft their social media battlements with eerily similar headshots of themselves in business casual suit jackets as their waving flags. Their banner men hoist their colors in the form of quickly edited stock photos of sunsets and misty forests with inspirational quotes slapped in the foreground. (And if they’re misattributed, who cares? After 500 shares, the truth of anything is relative.)

It isn’t hard to find them, as they want to be found, they build their fortresses with open gates, all the more eager to shepherd in their waiting flocks to become their armies. Their swords are honed from the contracts of their upcoming book deals, their shields are the hundreds of women in their Facebook groups who are glad to serve, much like worker bees for a queen. They are even willing to do the heavy lifting.

They are third wave feminists who sit at the top of the social hierarchy, they’ll hawk “intersectional” feminism like carnival barkers while simultaneously using the emotional labor of women of color to build their foundations even higher. They will do anything in order to make hand over fist in profits for themselves, building their clientele through thinly veiled lies and crafted deceptions. They care only for feminist thought so long as it means they don’t exclude anybody that might be willing to hand them money, which means their morals are circumspect at best. They preach love and tolerance while quietly accepting and preening TERFs, and nursing the emotionally stunted women who can’t seem to handle the mere notion of “white guilt” being something that applies to them.

Now, there’s a part of me that watches this miasma of bullshit with a skeptical laugh and a hearty sip of cider, and there’s another part of me, a part that grows larger every day, that simply squints, hard, at this cycle of battling across social media that I’ve become privy to, all while the same question twists, reforms, and burns in my mouth:

“Who the fuck even pays these people?”

But, the truth is, I know exactly the sort of people that would.

When I was younger, in a desperate attempt to get out of a small Midwestern town I despised, I packed my things and I moved to a house in Dayton, Ohio—which, unsurprisingly, turning into another place I despised, because it is Dayton, Ohio—but I lived under the watchful gaze of a thirty-something blonde woman named Nicole, who sold Mary Kay and also managed a pop culture convention. Living in her house was, in a word, the most hellish experience I’ve ever had in my life, for a multitude of reasons, but up until recently, while I was watching this fantastic shitshow of blonde life coach after blonde life coach come under fire from the privacy of my Facebook scrolling, I never could put my thumb on why I hated living with Nicole so much.

But now, now I understand.

See, Nicole was not a life coach herself, but instead was involved with a much broader, well-known pyramid scheme: the multi-level marketing hellscape known as Mary Kay. Her most poignant tactic in running her business was to hold “fishbowl contests” in order to draw in customers; she would leave glass bowls at local businesses for women to put in their contact information, hoping to win a prize, and she would call them to let them know they won a “free” consult (even though consults were always free) and she would call every single person who left their name and number. It was a scam, pure and simple. Lure them in with a prize that was already free, and hook some money out of them with overpriced facial scrubbing products that didn’t work.

When she would bring clients into the house, I would make myself scarce under threat of death (or worse, eviction) and slink into the shadows to listen in on whatever she told her clients. Every honey drizzled word out of her mouth was sickeningly complimentary, with a hint of up-sell in every syllable. She would worm her way into the personal lives of her clients, asking about their kids, their work, their dreams, all with the intent to utilize her feigned interest as a way to market herself as “believable”, because the person who cared about your personal life would never scam you out of your money.

Pair this, then, with the sickening way she treated her housemates, examples of terrible behavior which included extorting me and another young roommate who shared a prison-cell sized room for outrageous amounts of rent, treating her ex-husband like a dog that deserved to be kicked, and even forcing another roommate to sleep on the floor when there wasn’t enough room in the house for her, and it wasn’t hard to see how duplicitous she was.

We were not allowed to inhabit any more space in her house than was absolutely necessary. We were not allowed to make the house our home, because it would encroach upon her space, and she would feel cheated. It was clear by these behaviors that she was, and still is, a woman that only is interested in her own well-being, and will gladly step on anybody in her way to make herself come out on top. She is a woman who thrives in drama and chaos, because she knows how to connive her way to the top of the heap.

And this, I realize, would make her an excellent life coach. It is not a thought I care to dwell on overmuch.

I see the same behaviors in the life coaches and spiritual guides and religious teachers and “culture makers” that I find scattered across my social media feeds. They all bear the same whitened teeth and flashing smiles that I’ve seen in card sharks and Mary Kay consultants, disingenuous and capricious. They care for intersectional feminism only insofar as how much money it puts in their pocket, and while they preach self-acceptance and self-tolerance, they refuse to allot space for those who may even dream of encroaching on what they see as rightfully theirs. Worse yet, they carve out any sign of negativity in the same vein that I would be carved out of my place of residence if I even dared to show my face during a Mary Kay consulting session—it’s bad for their image if their empowerment branding doesn’t work.

Look now to the life coaches who claim that those who participated in the #metoo solidarity were simply “manifesting” what happened to them, and that in order to be “freed” from it, they had to “forgive” instead. Let that sink in—a culture of entitled, middle aged white women telling people that their abuse, their rape, their pain was merely “manifested” and victim blaming the flocks of women they cater to.

Let me shout it louder, for the women in the back:

“Who the fuck even pays these people?!”

At the risk of sounding like Buzzfeed, the answer may surprise you:

White women.

This isn’t news to me, as a romany. I saw these women when they were still in their infantile stages, hastily picking up the culture of the dead in order to market a “free, bohemian lifestyle” to those who possessed “a gypsy soul” before making a face—heel revolving door a couple years later with a newly minted “woke” hashtag to admonish those who use “that ugly g-word.” (Myself included, which makes me shake my head in disbelief that they can’t even keep track of their own word politics long enough to understand reclamation, but that’s an article in of itself.) They were marketing minority subculture as a lifestyle long before Hillary Clinton took feminism to a more mainstream audience. But bohemia was too confining for them, and it only looked good when they could gentrify a high end production of RENT, so naturally they latched on to a much more marketable “feminist” model instead, and now, shock and awe, they’re running themselves aground.

See, with their former choice of stolen culture, there was no unified voice to tell them to fuck off. Now, as a disclaimer, I’m no scholar on modern romany culture—and guess what, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone within the romany community who is, anymore—but in my experience, we’re still infighting over who actually belongs in our culture and who doesn’t, much less what we think of outsiders using certain words about us. Some say yes, some say no, and without a unified opinion, well, we end up just fighting ourselves while somebody stamps the word “gypsy” on yet another clothing shop selling belly dancing costumes at the Renaissance Faire.

But the fragility of white women continues to hold in the same pattern I’ve seen before, which is why this has blown up far more spectacularly in the last few months than it has in the past. If you want some colorful examples, my suggestion is to simply look at the comment section of any trending status in Pantsuit Nation and watch in horror and revulsion as women of color have to fight for every fucking inch of space they can even hope to claim in a conversation. Do you want an example of something a little closer to home, something a little more personal? Perhaps you should follow the saga of Kelly Diels, and watch that particularly foul shitshow. The group was titled “Culture Makers.” Ha. That has that same “Gypsy Soul” reek to it that I’ve been smelling since my middle school years.

And yet, you keep feeding them. The drama escalates, the mountain rises taller and taller. How many clapbacks are we going to call for? How many calls for kept receipts are going to go up? Is it truly such a desperate time that we’re paying these women to ease us of our privilege? Is this the point where we have to make like Martin Luther and say “enough is enough” to frantic white feminists trying to pay their way out of white guilt? This isn’t the Catholic Church ladies, you can’t just buy your way out of your entitlement and suck your thumb until the mean, scary intersectional people go away.

Is it that it’s just not being taught? I was introduced to the theory of intersectional feminism first and foremost, above all other theories. It was ingrained within my first women’s studies class, within the first week. I was taught to unpack my baggage and see it laid at my feet, to accept it, to utilize it. Why is it that I look around, and the only other truly intersectional feminists that I ever see are all under thirty? Why are these legions of white women flocking to the banner of insincere pyramid scheme bullshit? Is it just a hard concept to grasp, or are we the only generation that bothered to pay attention to the lesson? Are we really the only generation that’s learned that throwing money at somebody else isn’t going to make the problem go away? I’m romany and my ass still finds time to unpack my whiteness. It’s about time you started unpacking yours.

I’ll ask again, and I will keep on asking:

Who the fuck is paying these people?

Because it certainly isn’t my generation.


Prosper Bonhomme

Conjured from the detritus of the Great Black Swamp, Prosper Bonhomme is a nonbinary, egoist anarcho-queer witch. Their writing can be found on Gods & Radicals and Bonhomme Rouler. Bon is also on twitter.


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6 Comments »

  1. I remember when I first heard of ‘intersectionality,’ it actually kind of appealed to me. The idea that oppression is multifaced, varies from person to person and, therefore, cannot be quantified or measured intuitively made a lot of sense. To my understanding, the sorts of feminists who typically go around waving a sanctimonious finger in other people’s faces about how they need to “unpack their privilege” were usually the ones who cling to the all-encompassing category of ‘Woman’ as a collective political identity in search of ‘representation’ at the table of Power. However, since I first started reading Gods and Radicals a few months ago, I have encountered a couple of “intersectional feminists” who engage in these very same moralistic guilt trips.

    As for the subject of “life coaches,” it just seems like a really random thing to get this worked up about. Alright, so new-agey gurus who peddle “spiritual enlightenment” to make a buck are kinda lame. True enough. But, beyond that, having someone start ranting at me at length about how much they hate life coaches is a lot like approaching me out of the blue and saying, “You know what really pisses me off!? Cyclists who wear spandex!” It just sort of leaves me scratching my head thinking to myself, “Um… okay then. I’m just going to… uh… go over here now.” Of all the things in this world to provoke my righteous indignation, life coaches and their non-privilege-unpacking ways are pretty low on my list of priorities. To each their own, I suppose, but it just strikes me as a bizarre non sequitur that doesn’t warrant this much attention.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hello there, Frederich Stirnerius von Deleuzenstein
      We meet again under the subject of Intersectionality and Identity..
      None of the Intersectional feminists I read want a “seat at the table”, in fact people like Angela Davis openly advocate for the exact opposite.
      It’s ironic that you are getting a little worked up about someone getting worked up about something you think is not worth getting worked up about.
      These so-called “moralistic guilt trips” have lead to significant positive changes in disfranchised women’s lives and we still have a long way to go- beware- these “scary Intersectional people” won’t go away…

      Awesome article and perfect picture 😀

      Like

      • “We meet again under the subject of Intersectionality and Identity..”

        Yes indeed we do. 🙂

        “None of the Intersectional feminists I read want a “seat at the table”, in fact people like Angela Davis openly advocate for the exact opposite.”

        Nor did I assert otherwise. If you’ll take a closer look at my comment, you’ll notice that I was speaking in the past tense about my former understanding of the sorts of feminists that typically engage in “privilege-checking” call-outs – which I then went on to differentiate from “intersectional feminists.” Luckily, however, I have you to thank for educating me on the fact that my initial impression was misplaced.

        “It’s ironic that you are getting a little worked up about someone getting worked up about something you think is not worth getting worked up about.”

        Let’s all get worked up together, shall we? It’ll be great! We should all just get a bunch of Nerf guns and shoot foam rubber balls at each other. We could even rent a big PA system and blast Bikini Kill in the background. 😛

        “These so-called “moralistic guilt trips” have lead to significant positive changes in disfranchised women’s lives…”

        If holing up in your insulated subcultural bubble and ostracizing anyone who doesn’t share your ideology counts as “positive change” in your mind, then more power to you. Just don’t expect me to participate in your projects anytime soon.

        “these “scary Intersectional people” won’t go away…”

        Fine by me. I don’t frequent your narrow little social scene, so it really makes no difference to me how long you stick around.

        Like

    • Agreed. Parts read to me like “You know who really pisses me off? Women trying to supplement the pay gap and survive capitalism with the 10s of dollars they might make in a multi-level-marketing group.”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. ““Who the fuck even listens to these people?””

    You could have ended it right there, and the article would have been complete. That you did us the favor of writing more is truly a gift. I even learned a new word reading one of the embedded links. Kiariarchy. Fascinating, thank you.

    Like

  3. Great call-out Prosper and very necessary right now on the phenomena of “coaching” and how the “spiritual supermarket” gives privileged women “training” that they never needed in the first place, and/or drop for the next trendy thing! Yet I would argue if it is generational – I have seen countless younger women in their 20’s on up, jumping on the coaching bandwagon in Goddess Spirituality spaces. It is so blatant that I have witnessed conversations whereby 2nd wave Goddess Feminists are openly expressing dismay at the wholesale commercialization and packaging of self-help knowledge & teachings that emphasize one-on-one “coaching.” The older women in Paganism, New Age and Goddess Spirituality also monetized their offerings to be sure, but it seemed to be more dignified somehow, or give deeper meaning. (?)

    Like

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