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.


Support our work at this link. And thanks!

 

Skunk cabbage

The Value of Joy

Skunk cabbage

By Fjothr Odinsdottir Lokakvan

Don’t put off till tomorrow what can be enjoyed today.
― Josh Billings

 

My basic ethical values were well in place when I became a polytheist, and the various gods and other Powers in my life now haven’t really caused any drastic changes in what I’ve held to be guiding values for “right action.” I have some new vocabulary as result of becoming more familiar with my Norse gods’ historic associations, and I’ve become more certain that my previous values are heading me in the right direction, but my religious conversion didn’t come with a sweeping overhaul of my general approach to life.

Recently I realized that perhaps I was defining “values” a little too narrowly in some respects, because there is something that many of Them have emphasized repeatedly, and that is, essentially, that joy is important and I ought to pay more attention to it.

Not that I’ve ever been opposed to joy; it’s more that since They’ve kept bringing it up, and I’ve seen it come up in other contexts as a thing to pay attention to, it has become something I have thought about more, both for very personal reasons as well as in the context of a bigger picture. The bigger picture is seeing it as a form of resistance against the dominant culture, and a vital part of being resilient to what that culture does to us.

I read a lot of environmental news, and I’m well enough aware of other major problems in the world, so it is a real struggle at times to not feel overwhelmed by how awful things are, to say nothing of understanding that some of those awful things are going to get worse before there is a chance for them to get better, because “we” have to stop emitting so much carbon, destroying so much habitat, etc., etc., before things have a chance to heal. The problems are very large and very upsetting.

On a personal level, I was depressed for several years, and it was nearly impossible during that time to find anything that brought me more than a temporary bit of joy; it was hard to even remember what that feeling was like previously – surely I had felt that once? . . . Maybe not. While the worst of that is gone now, I know I’m not that far from the edge of that pit, and some things make the ground tilt towards it. In addition, I have a bad habit of seeing something bad, or potentially bad, and working it up in my head into something that will be absolutely terribly awful, and then there’s the ground pitching towards the void again.

I am pretty sure this is one of the reasons that, when I’ve been in distress and sought advice for how to handle the situation, the People Upstairs have advised me to focus on things I have in my life right now that bring me joy. It has been a good way to keep away from ground-tilting thoughts, or to pull away from them.

But it hasn’t only come up as advice for how to handle my own issues. Several months ago, I asked for advice on how to help a certain group of land spirits I have responsibilities to; the response was to bring them joy. That was unexpected, and I have only the smallest grasp on what that entails at the moment, but it was another reminder that joy is an important thing.

They heard me singing and they told me to stop
Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock

— Arcade Fire, Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)

I’ve also found the concept of joy as an important, powerful thing outside of my personal life. From a wide variety of political-related things I’ve read, I’ve started to see it as a sometimes transgressive act. Expressing joy doesn’t really seem to be encouraged, for one (my cultural context is a white American from a basically WASP background). Acting “positive” is, of course, but spontaneous expressions of delight – not so much, though you’re probably okay expressing delight about something among like-minded enthusiasts, or friends. But generally, it really isn’t the mature adult thing to do, is it? Unless you present it just right, dress it up in the right toned-down language, so it shows you know how to present emotions in a socially-acceptable manner. In addition, there’s a nasty strain running through the culture that says if you’re enjoying something, you’re doing something wrong, not working hard enough, or you’re merely getting your earned time away from “real life.” Because real life isn’t supposed to be enjoyable, I guess, unless you earn your pleasure through drudgery or pain first. (Why there is this notion that pleasure must be earned instead of being a birthright is a good question.)

I’ve seen similar things come up from time to time in discussions of pagan/polytheist practices, since they are embedded within this same context. If you write too much about being happy about what’s going on in your spiritual life, you’ll undoubtedly get someone coming along to “helpfully” point out to you that this is hard, and eventually you’ll find out. It isn’t all fun and games you know! With the implied “Why aren’t you suffering or struggling more?” and the messages that if you don’t find the hard painful parts, then you’re not getting deep enough into your practice, you won’t get out of it what you ought to, etc., etc.; the basic message I’ve gotten is that you risk being met with all kinds of skepticism, criticism, and outright scorn if you express happiness without also expressing enough of the right kind of “hard work” and experience of pain.

I am absolutely in favor of people having an understanding that life, work, spiritual practices, relationships, etc., will have their ups and downs, and what those might look like in order to be prepared, but the kindest thing I can say to the people who feel obligated to respond to an expression of joy by squashing it is, “Please shut up. Come back later, in a different context, with your helpful advice about how things can be hard.”

Listen: Joy is life affirming.

Lots of things in life hurt and suck. People know this. It is thoughtless if not cruel to respond to expressions of joy with what amounts to the message, “It is wrong for you to feel that, and to make sure you understand it’s wrong to feel that, I’m going to hurt you for admitting you feel that way.” Everyone must toe the cultural party line, or be brought to heel.

In the face of bureaucratic authority, the expression of joy can be both powerful and subversive, partly because it is so unexpected. It disarms those in power through an absolute refusal to be provoked or humbled, and it provides great inner strength for the struggles that lie ahead.

— Michael Edwards, “To remain in prison for the rest of my life is the greatest honor you could give me: the story of Sister Megan Rice

In addition, the dominant culture, the kyriarchy, all the -isms that keep people down, they tell you/us: “You are wrong for being [that], and you are most definitely wrong for feeling joy or pride in being [that] or doing those stereotype-denying things. By the way, you’ll also get put down for enjoying the things associated with the stereotypes.” And so finding joy in life while being [that], in being alive as you are, defining for yourself who you are and what you enjoy, refutes the dominant culture and its abuses – and make no mistake, it is abusive to tell someone, “You are wrong to feel that way.”

The ability to feel joy-at-living again was one of the first gifts I received after converting, and I find it precious beyond words. I thought I had lost that. Around the time I converted, I had gotten out of the worst depression – I felt real motivation and positivity for my future – but I still had no idea how to find that spark, that particular kind of easy delight-of-being again. Finding small moments of joy now feels so much more important as a result. And where I live now, it is so, so easy – it is so beautiful, and I am so glad to be here, it is almost impossible to look outside and not find delight in what I see; and if I pause for a moment and think about the basic material reality of my life now, yes, there is plenty to be joyful about.

Feeling joy in my life, and being really mindful and aware of it, feels like a prayer of thanks – and sometimes turns into an actual spontaneous, directed, “Thank You for helping me get here.” I appreciate what I have now, immensely, and allowing myself to really feel that as not just a staid appreciation, but delight, happiness, joy feels like the least I can do. It is a thanks for helping me find that ability again, thanks for the aid I received in getting here, getting my life more settled, and just simply thanks – to Who/Whatever – that I am alive, here and now, to experience the beauty of the amazing world around me.

Joy is life affirming.

We are surrounded by so many life-denying forces.

Joy can be an antidote to their poisons and a reminder that there is more to existence than what they offer.

“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happened better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb. (Don’t Hesitate)”
― Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems


Support our work by buying our books & stickers here.