White privilege, racism and spiritual bypassing amongst business coaches/ self-help entrepreneurs/female empowerment influencers has been brought to the surface.
These are people who profile themselves as authentic, relatable, caring and want you (and your business) to do well – but are actually privileged and rich themselves. They have been proven to be uninterested in helping people and really just want to profit from women’s desire to create a more sustainable life.
What has been noted, is that in some cases, these big (white) social media profiles have played ignorantly about racism and abuse of power from within their own ranks, and in other cases, have not distanced themselves from (and even supported) QAnon and rapists.
This is so as not to lose customers, followers and ultimately revenue.
These people present themselves as ethical entrepreneurs who want to empower women. Women who are still project managers at home, who are paid less, who get burned out to a much greater extent than men, and who are drawn in by these grand messages about how (if they just buy this course…) they can finally get the freedom they’ve longed for. And if they work really hard, they can be as successful as these profiles – it’s just a matter of putting their mind to it and finding their niche!
In reality, it is a very inaccessible lifestyle that is achieved only by few and far between. These profiles simply exploit women and their behaviour supports racist and misogynistic structures.
It’s not about you.
I’d like to start by saying that this conversation isn’t about shaming any of you who like any of these profiles. I’ve personally followed several of them and consumed their products. We are not stupid and haven’t done wrong because we like them or their message – their marketing is designed to appeal to our desire for a deeper meaning and more present life.
Watch my IG LIVE or listen to PODCAST
If you want to hear me and Jazmine delve deeper into the topic, you can see us
here on Instagram or listen the Kalibrera din inre kompass-podcast episode (in Swedish)
White Privilege – you cannot dismiss social structures
Let us start with context: What is White Privilege?
White privilege is a concept that refers to the privileges white people receive in society compared to people of colour. It is also important to remember that different people can have privilege in one context, and not have it in another.
For example, women as a group are often underprivileged compared to men as a group. But there may be situations where a woman is more privileged than a man.
White women as a group, on the other hand, are more privileged than women of colour – it is so-called intersectionalised feminism: realising that there are more factors than gender that lead to a person being subjected to oppression or discrimination.
Spiritual Bypassing and How It Does Harm (Toxic Positivity)
What is Spiritual Bypassing?
Spiritual Bypassing is a term coined by John Welwood which involves using spiritual ideas, theories and techniques to bypass or avoid unresolved emotion, uncomfortable situations, or emotional wounds.
In this kind of context, it can mean telling people of colour that their questioning/ frustration/ anger/ annoyance is negative energy that attracts them to be treated in a certain way, i.e. victim blaming: that it is their own fault that they are subjected to racism. That they ”with a better attitude” would reach higher vibrations and then not end up in that kind of situation or feel anger if they did.
How White Privilege and Spiritual Bypassing Contribute to, and Enable, Racism
White people like to position themselves as individuals and not as part of a structure, or context – and say they have fought their way to their position. It is, in itself, white privilege to be able to choose to do so and believe oneself to be free of structures.
By turning a blind eye to the social structures that exist and how they bring certain benefits to some while discriminating against others, they continue to contribute to the maintenance of these structures.
It is not compatible to profile yourself as a person who wants to empower women, create social change, self-help or personal development and at the same time to not stand up for all women regardless of colour, socio-economic status or disability.
Coaches we talk about in the IG live/podcast episode
Rachel Hollis – caught several times plagiarising direct quotes but also being questioned for fat-shaming and tone deafness for her “hey gurrrl” style appropriated by black culture.
She profiles herself as accessible and as wanting to ”empower women”, but when the question of taking acctual action or issues such as economic, racist and structural problems come up, replies that she does not want to talk politics. She also claims that she worked hard to get to where she is and that no one should claim that it is because of her contacts (or the fact that her husband was a famous coach) that she has achieved success. She is the only one who created her life, and you are the only one who creates yours (and so you can’t blame anyone else).
This is Spiritual Bypassing, which at best only makes someone feel they must stop being sad, and at worst creates or strains mental illness. This is directly harmful and helps to maintain the racist, misogynistic, and oppressive structures that exist today.
She has also been criticized for her promotion of MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) or pyramid schemes. So that criticism is what I highlighted above: that it is aimed at women and promises economic freedom and great success – if you invest in courses or join networks, but result in getting women in debt.
Gwyneth Paltrow – has received personal criticism for both white privilege and spiritual bypassing, but also through her company GOOP which has claimed, among other things, that the use of bras can lead to breast cancer, that trauma and pain can be cured/relieved by manipulating one’s energy field and much more.
Gwyneth/GOOP has been convicted and fined for false marketing, including for claiming that their products can be used to treat Covid.
JP Sears – the redhead youtuber became known for his videos in which he made fun of spirituality, yogis, and that kind of circuitry. Today, he himself is an energy coach who sells supplements, and while there may be a lack of self-awareness, hypocrisy is not the biggest criticism of him. It is that he supports QAnon, spreads
propaganda that the US election was stolen and believes that Covid is a scam to limit his rights.
Being critical of how the state has handled Covid or questioning whether the vaccines that have been developed are safe are reasonable reactions and healthy in a democratic state – we should not just swallow the information we are given. But the antivaxx propaganda JP is involved in spreading, does not encouragethinking itself, but is directly harmful.
Marie Forleo – the BLM movement caused a storm for Marie. Partly because she and her team, instead of responding to racism and attacks in her FB group, shut down those conversations. It wasn’t until Rachel, one of the members of the group created this IGTV video, and confronted Marie on her IG page that they responded to the criticism (and posted a black box with a polished apology).
It also emerged that Marie not only turned a blind eye to racism, but allowed a racist culture within the company – which led to many resigning.
Amy Porterfield – has received the same criticism as most white self-help/business coaches: that she only has white guests, lifts white people, and does not take a stand on uncomfortable issues so as not to risk losing followers or money.
During the BLM movement, specific criticism was directed at her and she responded after several voices were raised. Again, better late than never, we all make mistakes and are blind to our bias, etc, but when I read this post about how she reacted, it feels so calculated and dishonest.
First, she writes an email ”sorry I screwed up,” which is good. Then: ”you can make a difference by joining our mailing list” ?!?! so she tries to take the opportunity to promote her business while ”apologising”. For me that is proof that everything is a strategy.
You might think this isn’t a big deal and you do not have to share my opinion on this. From my perspective, racism in the United States is a major problem, and I believe that it is Amy’s responsibility as a leader to clearly distance herself from this. Partly to make her clients feel safe, but also her in her responsibility not to hand over the fight against racism to the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour).
Many people who read cheered aloud and nodded in agreement when they saw Bianca Kronlöf’s Letter to Soran, urging you to check your brother before backing your brother – this is the same thing! We need to check the ones we follow and not let them get away with vague, half-hearted excuses that they do not follow up on.
Again, you cannot claim to want to empower women and be an ethical company but not actually act on it.
Amy has also been criticised for painting a picture of being friends with other influencers (such as Marie Forleo, Rachel Hollis, Jenna Kutcher and others) in order to be able to sell more of her own products but also through affiliate work and MLM that I raised with Hollis.
Amy is currently being criticised for not taking a position on Rachel Hollis’ behaviour, as well as why Amy chose to step down from Rachel’s RISE event. In addition to this, Amy has previously worked with self-help guru Tony Robbins and is still refering to her time there, lifting him up. Tony Robbins is now accused of multiple
sexual assault cases.
Hay House – the founder Louise has made claims like “you get sick from negative thoughts” which falls under the spiritual bypassing headline. Her publisher Hay House is a mecca for self-help books and spiritual prefaces and their register is mainly made up of white women. One of their biggest profiles is Christiane Northrup, another Gabrielle Bernstein.
As Christiane began making both implicit and explicit statements about COVID, QAnon and Trump, some of the coloured writers at Hay House asked Hay House to take a stand on the issue. Especially Rebekah Borucki, who parted ways with Hay House because they did not want to act. In the video below you can see her sharing her side of the story, or listen as she narrates in the podcast Conspirituality. P.S – check out Rebekah’s newly started Row House Publishing
The video also gives examples of how Gabrielle Bernstein contributes to continued poorer treatment of people of colour. Danielle Laporte is also mentioned, including how she used ”black imagery” and here you can read more about how Danielle has not embraced the criticism.
Dr. Christiane Northrup – as mentioned in the section for Hay House, she talks openly about QAnon and spreads that there is DNA from dead children in the Covid vaccine, claiming that people who has gotten the vaccine can sweat (and breathe) the spike protein and ”infect” others with it.
Sanna Edhin – has, among other things, been criticised for spreading fears about the vaccine and reducing the risks of the COVID virus.
The podcast Conspirituality, mentioned above, has listed Sanna Ehdin among people who spread misinformation, and they refer to a post that Sanna deleted.
She has also written a blog post in which she claims that Dr Sanna’s products can prevent viral infections, including coronaviruses such as COVID-19.
In my blog post ”foil hats and sheep” I linked to a petition she had encouraging her to refuse to take the COVID vaccine and made several claims that lacked sources. She has also deleted that post.
She has also claimed that miscarriage rates have increased by 700% after the swine flu vaccine and that it is not a vaccine, but a changed lifestyle, that has caused measles to disappear.
How can we make a difference?
As I wrote at the beginning, we should not be ashamed that we are looking for something with greater meaning, we should not be ashamed that we want to deepen our self-knowledge or spiritual contact, we should not be ashamed that we trusted these people when they promised to show us this, and we should not be ashamed when it has come to light that it was not what we initially believed.
But we also cannot turn a blind eye to inconvenient truths.
What we can do is influence – maybe not their behaviour, but at least who gets authority, space and influence by questioning when something feels wrong by following profiles that don’t act in line with our own values and by actively lifting people who contribute to a better world.
- Sell the transformation
- Hayla Wong
- Rebekah Borucki
- Rachael Kay Albers
- Nedra Glover Tawwab
- Lisa Olivera
- Kindred Leaders
- Kallie Schut
- Traumaanpassad Yoga
- Tova Olsson
P.s. Thank you Christina and Jennie for helping me with the translation of this post