June 29, 2020

MASTER CLEANSE: Why social justice feels like self-help to privileged women.

Self-help has always been a woman’s game. Not that men don’t also seek to improve themselves, but the books targeted to them tend to assume an existing state of self-confidence: You’re great as you are, you could just be a little better. Men learn optimization, life hacks, the power of thinking without thinking: four-hour work weeks and other highly effective habits that are meant to help them build upon their innate perfection, like a software upgrade. Women, on the other hand, have faulty wiring that needs ripping out. Our most beloved self-help books are all about fixing something that came broken, delving into the psyche and excavating everything that’s wrong with you: Women are exhorted to work on themselves the way a weekend warrior might work on a vintage TransAm, tinkering endlessly, replacing parts, fixing one flaw only to find that the engine still won’t turn over, the real problem still buried somewhere under the hood. That you might actually get behind the wheel and drive out of the garage someday is a possibility so distant that it’s hardly worth thinking about. What matters is that whatever is wrong—with the engine, your life, the world—it’s definitely all your fault. (“YOU have to DO the work.”)

Is it socialization? Evolution? A bit of both, nature and nurture at once? Whatever the reason, women’s feelings of inadequacy have always been a gold mine for savvy salespeople, with entire industries springing up around the insecurity du jour. The trappings change as attitudes do; notice how the publications that used to sell spot-reduction techniques or cellulite creams pivoted to “wellness” in the early aughts. At the peak of its relevancy, the Gawker empire even launched its own version of the women’s lifestyle magazine with Jezebel, a supposed game changer that would deliver all the sex-celebrity-fashion fun of a Marie Claire or a Cosmopolitan, “without airbrushing.”

Ten years later, it’s clear that the game did not, in fact, change. Female self-loathing is still a major moneymaker, the only difference being that the relentless focus on women’s flaws has moved under the skin. Your problem areas are now your problematic areas; it’s your soul, not your cellulite, that needs smoothing.

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Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility seminars—at which the attendees are overwhelmingly white, female, and highly educated—cost as much as $165 per person. Her keynote speaking fee is $40,000. Whatever is being sold, be it a jade vagina egg or a ticket to an anti-racist workshop, there’s a great deal of money to be made off the guilt, anxiety, and insecurities of financially secure white women.

Read the whole thing. As Glenn noted after the 2012 election, billionaire GOP supporters might want to “Buy some women’s magazines. No, really. Or at least some women’s Web sites,” since their then-current message (before DNC-MSM women’s publications added racialism into the mix) was: “There’s one way that women should think; people who don’t think that way are bad and stupid — and if you think the wrong way, women won’t like you. For $150 million, you could buy or start a lot of women’s Web sites. And I’d hardly change a thing in the formula. The nine articles on sex, shopping and exercise could stay the same. The 10th would just be the reverse of what’s there now.”

Related: Matt Taibbi: On “White Fragility.”

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