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Letter to the editor: Rachel Hollis is not the embodiment of female empowerment

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Rachel Hollis, self-help author and speaker, announced the title of her 2018 book ‘Girl, Wash Your Face’ in a YouTube video. — video still

An open letter to Women Lead Change, by Heather Bachman

Women lead change.

That’s an empowering statement and one I can believe in.

Women Lead Change (WLC) is also the name of a non-profit organization headquartered in Cedar Rapids with the stated goals of advancing, developing and promoting women.

I like the goals. The mission statement is solid. The concept sounds great. But for WLC, what does it look like in practice?

Last week, WLC announced that Rachel Hollis will give a keynote address as part of the upcoming Women Lead Change 2019 Corridor Conference in Cedar Rapids. Hollis is a popular blogger, motivational speaker and author of the New York Times’ number one bestseller Girl, Wash Your Face.

Now, there are multiple speakers at the event, but Hollis is the featured presenter. She’s the person who got the publicized press release announcing her participation. It would benefit us to learn a little about Hollis….

Pull a quick Google search for Rachel Hollis and you’ll find countless articles about her selling out events and rallying crowds to get on their feet and lose their inhibitions. There’s no doubt Hollis is a social-media force, but troubling questions have recently arisen concerning plagiarism and the underpinnings of her message. And, while Girl, Wash Your Face is a New York Times’ bestseller, Entertainment Weekly also named it one of the worst books of the year.

There are many troubling aspects of Hollis and her philosophy, but here are just a few of the more concerning ones:

Hollis’ message of personal responsibility and self-guided well-being seem empowering on the surface, but don’t take into account the outside forces that impact a person’s social and economic mobility, like systemic racism, sexual-orientation bias or working-class poverty. Hollis’ credo seems to boil down to a mix of religious faith and tough love. Hollis’ brand of tough love can also take on some dark tones, like in the form of body shaming. In Girl, Wash Your Face, Hollis states that “humans were not made to be out of shape and severely overweight” while also urging people to keep their commitments around diets, even though diets have shown to be statistically ineffective at weight loss.

Hollis’ close association with multi-level marketing is also troubling. In a recent Instagram post, Hollis mentioned MLMs and encouraged women in MLMs to tell their fellow team members to read her book. If you’re not familiar with MLMs, they’re a modern form of a pyramid scheme in which an emphasis is put on recruiting new members in order to boost your commission. According to a [2011] report [by the Consumer Awareness Institute] on the Federal Trade Commission’s website, 99 percent of people who join MLM companies lose money. Not exactly an agent of empowerment or upward mobility for women, right?

Last but not least is Hollis’ idea of success. Hollis essentially pushes a prosperity gospel, combining monetary gain and Christianity to make an appeal that equates financial success and status-symbol purchases as the path to self-awareness and self-actualization.

In a world now consumed with personal branding, Hollis has centered her brand on white privilege and affluence. As someone who theoretically fits Mrs. Hollis’ target demographic, I feel even more of a duty to speak out. I wonder why WLC is choosing to promote her message. Is Hollis the dream? Is this what women should aspire to?

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WLC presents the goal of empowering all women, but it doesn’t appear they give priority to diversity nor does it seem they want anyone from a socioeconomic group that couldn’t swing a $500 registration fee to attend the conference.

Women lead change.

That statement is true, but I’d ask the Women Lead Change organization if Rachel Hollis is the embodiment of that ideal, and also what they’re telling women everywhere by featuring her as their keynote speaker.

This letter is featured in Little Village issue 258.


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Comments:

  1. …even though diets have shown to be statistically ineffective at weight loss.

    What kind of statement is this? I can’t get behind any faith based motivation as it’s simply a childish hack for the weak minded but to say that diets are ineffective in lowering body mass? Are you high?

    Society’s issues are real and you likely have a positive reason for trying to out a motivational speaker but a statement as ridiculous as this gives you zero clout to an educated audience. Sorry but it’s true. I just changed the channel.

    Just another idealogical victim mindset.
    Good luck soldier. You’ll need it with that kind of logic.

      1. Depends on how you define diet. The only way to loose weight is to consume fewer calories than you use. Doing that can be called a diet. If you say diets never work then you essentially say that there is no way for people to ever loose weight. The point the articles want to make is about fad diets as opposed to a sustainable life style change. If you read Hollis’ book she talks about lifestyle changes rather than fad diets

  2. Pyramid schemes are illegal. Most are governed by the Direct Selling Association. Also in most companies you can pass the individual who brought you into it, therefore they are not ‘earning’ off of you. She empowers women to build dreams for themselves, instead of building someone else’s.

    Also if you have read her book and listened to her podcasts, she has gone through some terrible things—finding her brother after committing suicide, growing up with parents who argued all of the time, moving to CA with no idea how she was going to make it. If that’s ‘white privelege’ I think we need a new definition.

    I applaud the WLC for having her as a keynote speaker. She gives tangible advice to women to create a better life. Can’t wait to attend!

    1. Your defense of MLMs reads right out of the Herbalife handbook. MLMs are pyramid schemes, full stop. Just look at the business model of any one of them. Please stop perpetuating the myth that they’re a legitimate enterprise.

      Secondly, I’m not sure if you the linked articles in the letter (the blue highlighted text), but they address Hollis’ upbringing. Having a tough childhood doesn’t grant one the right to peddle bullshit under the guise of self-empowerment. There are so many other women worthy of attention and praise. People like Hollis steal their spotlight and use it for monetary gain. That’s not only wrong; it’s shameful.

      1. You lost me at the MLM’s being pyramid schemes. Look at the traditional structure of a business (and I am a business owner). CEO at the top, management in the middle and then employees at the bottom…. Sure looks like a pyramid. Pyramid, or Ponzi schemes, don’t sell anything…seriously, just hit a Webster’s for the definition and then write your apology. I am not saying I believe in MLM’s but I DO believe educated information. You need to get educated. Writing an article does not make you such. In addition, you have a responsibility to your readers to be so. I will definitely not be reading anything on your platform again.

        1. Doris, for one, this is a letter to the editor, so it doesn’t necessarily reflect the viewpoints of LV. Second, comparing an MLM structure to traditional corporate is a false equivalency. My corporate employer doesn’t require me to buy products to try and then flip, nor do they mandate that I recruit others to join.

      1. At 17, by yourself? From a small town toLA. I’d say that would be a challenge, but at 17, a really big one.

  3. Have you ever worked in corporate? That’s basically a pyramid scheme. MLM’s are what helped me break financial freedom. If it was a pyramid scheme 1) why are so many MLM’s successful and still around 2) why am I able to continue to 4x grow my income year after year and 3) explain to me why I’m no longer stuck in the same low paying position as the girl who brought me into said MLM? This was a poorly written article and you should be ashamed of yourself for writing this.

    1. I didn’t write it. And as the article cites, the FTC report finds that 99 percent of people who join MLMs lose money. If you’ve generated income, cool, but your personal experience isn’t representative of all people. John Oliver recently did an entire segment on MLMs, and confirmed, once again, they’re a racket.

      1. Chad if you didn’t write it why are you always responding? Let’s hear it from Heather… or is she a writer that hides when confirmation is brought upon her articles?

        1. Also, “when confirmation is brought upon her articles.”

          So we both agree with the article? Cool. Nice talking with you.

    2. The way a real (corporate) business differs from an MLM is that in a normal job, you don’t recruit people under you, and then make commission off the sales the people under you make. Also there is no ‘upline’ to make a percentage of the sales you make. That’s why these are pyramid schemes.

      To answer your questions:
      1) MLMs are successful because of their predatory model: they are successful because of all of the little people who join up, pour money in, and then eventually leave or are kicked out due to low sales. Pyramid schemes always work as long as there are a steady number of new people joining and adding more money to the bottom of the pyramid. And the earlier you are in, and the more you recruit and shill, the better you will do.
      2) Probably because you have signed up a bunch of poor saps under you, it’s how a pyramid works. I’m sure you sell lots too, with whatever overpriced crap you are flogging.
      3) Not sure what you are asking.

  4. Where to begin…

    Let’s start with the fact that operating, or even participating in, a pyramid scheme is a felony. So, unconditionally declaring an entire 80 year old, $193 billion (and growing) industry made up of over 4,000 companies in over 100 countries who, last year alone, paid over $78 billion in commissions and bonuses to their participants, who the FTC, all US courts, and every other federal and state legal authority has deemed legal, to be made up entirely of pyramid schemes is, at best, nonsensical and an ignorance of the facts.

    For the sake of brevity, just one more…

    The “report” that you took from the “Federal Trade Commission website” which claims that 99% of those who join MLM lose money, which you apparently find credible, is nothing more than long discredited anti-MLM propaganda that was produced by a single person who called himself the “Consumer Awareness Institute”, that he included amongst the deluge of documents he sent to the FTC during the public comment phase of it’s rule making procedure (which explains why a sub-directory called “public_comments” can be found in the URL address you provided). In this case he was trying to convince the FTC to maintain the inclusion of MLMs in their “New Business Opportunity Rule”, which they finally enacted almost 13 years ago – after disregarding this report and ultimately deciding to exempt all MLMs.

      1. Chad, when someone rebuts your claim with a series of verifiable facts that legally, historically and logically refute it, simply repeating your original point is not a counter-argument.

        It’s actually hypocritical that you continue to accuse MLMs of being deliberately deceitful while you continue to make claims that you surely must know have been demonstrably proven to be false. Not just by what I presented, but most definitively by what presented (albeit inadvertently)! If you’re trying to make a case that virtually 100% of MLMs are illegal pyramid schemes rather than a “legitimate enterprises”, it’s probably best that you not direct attention to an “FTC report” regarding MLM lest readers may find the FTC’s position on MLM. Within this FTC report they clearly delineate between MLMs and pyramid schemes and offer detailed guidance as to the legal distinctions between the two.

        https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/business-guidance-concerning-multi-level-marketing

        Considering the “FTC report” you (and the article you linked to) claim so authoritatively “finds that 99% of people who join MLMs lose money” was not only produced by the FTC, nor anyone associated with them, and has nothing whatsoever to do with their thinking on the subject, but was by the FTC, your advice to Richard that he “research before commenting” is as ironic as this run-on-sentence is long.

        And the idea that John Oliver’s hit piece on MLM “confirmed” anything is about as funny as… well, Jon Oliver.

      2. Whelp. It appears this comment facility isn’t sophisticated enough to recognize Unicode (which is what users must resort to when a comment facility isn’t developed enough to even offer a simple italics function).

        So rather than anyone having to play “guess the missing word” I hope the moderator of this site will indulge my re-posting of a Unicode-free version (which is what users must resort to when a comment facility isn’t developed enough to even offer a simple edit function).

        By all means, please omit the old version (if there’s a delete function ;-)
        ==================================================================

        So, Chad… when someone rebuts your claim with a series of verifiable facts that legally, historically and logically refute it, simply repeating your original point is not a counter-argument.

        It’s actually hypocritical that you continue to accuse MLMs of being deliberately deceitful while you continue to make claims that you surely must know have been demonstrably proven to be false. Not just by what I presented, but most definitively by what you resented (albeit inadvertently). If you’re trying to make a case that virtually 100% of MLMs are illegal pyramid schemes rather than a “legitimate enterprises”, it’s probably best that you not direct attention to an “FTC report” regarding MLM lest readers may find the FTC’s *actual* (old school italics) position on MLM. Within this *real* FTC report they clearly delineate between MLMs and pyramid schemes and offers detailed guidance as to the legal distinctions between the two.

        https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/business-guidance-concerning-multi-level-marketing

        Considering the “FTC report” you, and the article you linked to, falsely claimed so authoritatively found “that 99% of people who join MLMs lose money” was not only *not* produced by the FTC, nor anyone associated with them, and has nothing whatsoever to do with their thinking on the subject, but was *utterly disregarded* by the FTC, your advice to Richard that he “research before commenting” is as ironic as this run-on-sentence is long.

        And the idea that John Oliver’s hit piece on MLM “confirmed” anything is about as funny as… well, Jon Oliver.

          1. You’re not on a time limit, Chad. You have all the time you need to investigate the claims I’ve made, and do the research required to debunk them – and *this* was the only comeback you could muster?

            Besides being impotent on its face, as far as defending any point you’ve made or refuting any of mine, you’ve just yet again exposed the ironic hypocrisy of your advice to “research before commenting”. Had you done so you would have easily discovered that I have not been an active MLM distributor since late last century – when I joined an almost two year old MLM company in 1996 that already had over 20,000 reps, where I was positioned “at the bottom” of a 112 level deep downline, and by 1998 was *netting* over $100k a year, and never lost a single friend in the process. You would also have learned that over most of the last 28 years I’ve been a compensation plan and regulatory compliance consultant to start up MLMs, and have served as an expert witness in over 30 cases, more than half of which in opposition to an MLM company.

            But, of course, you’re not embarrassed by your blundering assumption because you’re posting anonymously, so don’t have to be accountable for anything you write. That’s why I have to know what the Hell I’m talking about, and you don’t.

        1. Also, Len, there’s this excerpt from a recent Washington Post article about a study of MLMs:

          MagnifyMoney.com, a Web site that helps consumers compare financial products, recently surveyed 1,049 multilevel-marketing participants involved with at least one company over the past five years.

          “The survey found that most people were making less than 70 cents an hour in sales, and that was before deducting their business expenses.

          Nearly 60 percent of respondents said they earned less than $500 over the past five years.”

          1. And if you give a month supply of a pain medication to 1,049 people with specific instructions on how to take it, and 500 don’t follow the instructions and only take the medication sporadically for a week or two, 300 take it for one day, don’t like the taste, and quit, and 200 others never even break the safety seal on the bottle, leaving only 49 who do what they were suppose to do for as long as they were suppose to do it, and among them 20 experienced mild to no relief, 20 found moderate relief, and 9 had their pain fully resolved, then you surveyed *all 1,049 of them* to determine how well the medication worked – you’re be fired for conducting such a grossly incompetent and misleading survey.

        2. Len,

          You’re clearly on a crusade. See the other commenter’s post below about another article that exposes MLMs on their face.

          You don’t have to be an economics major to know any business that prioritizes membership over product sales is not financially stable long term. You’ve yet to link to ONE independent article that supports MLMs as a business practice. You’re an insider simply regurgitating MLM talking points. Good day, sir.

          1. One of the advantages of posting anonymously is that your ego is never in peril. One’s self esteem, and the esteem they seek from others, is a powerful self-auditor and emotional circuit breaker. It’s what keeps the large majority of us (present president precluded) from acting like a colossal douche when we interact with others. Also, more to the point, it motivates us to acquire at least some modicum of knowledge about those topics we publicly opine on (even more so if we intend to engage in a conversation or debate on the issue) for fear of being publicly perceived as ignorant and/or foolish. But, of course, those who cowardly hide behind an anonymous screen name are afforded the luxury not only to keep making the same arguments over and over just to have the last word, no matter how discredited they’ve become, but also to do what you’ve now resorted to. That is, just keep setting balls of crap on the tee hoping I’ll become board and eventually move on.

            And now that you’ve devolved your responses down to the level of throwing up negative articles by other critics as validation despite that they make the very same demonstrably false claims I’ve already rebutted, this is going to start getting really boring (I suspect to more than just me).

            But before I go, I just can’t drop the bat and let this turd just sit there… “You don’t have to be an economics major to know any business that prioritizes membership over product sales is not financially stable long term.” You mean like the 70+ MLM companies around the world that are over ten years old, at least 30 of which are in the US alone, the majority of which are still growing? And no, not just because they open other countries, and not just because the “market” in “market saturation” is essentially Earth, but because such senior companies like Amway, Herbalife, and Shaklee just grew, year over year, in the United States! I wonder, Chad, how many financially stable US based MLM companies would have to be over *50 years old* before you would acknowledge they can survive “long term”? Because apparently eight isn’t enough. But then, this generously assumes you even knew this.

            The last word is yours. Enjoy.

  5. Rachel Hollis has helped countless women with her message. She embraces diversity encouraging women to go out and create a group of friends who are dissimilar to themselves in beliefs, culture, religion etc. Only in doing that will you grow and learn as a person. You may not agree with her message but at least in this current cynical, destructive climate she is putting herself out there in a positive light and reaching a lot of women who really need that guidance.

  6. This is nothing but an ignorant, RACIST ARTICLE written by a white woman (Heather Bachman) who is clearly bouncing her own writing career off the recent popularity of Rachel Hollis. WHITE PRIVILEGE?? Rubbish! Hollis helps women deal with trauma (her own included) and mental health (her own included) that affect all women in general.
    What is Heather Bachman suggesting? That because someone is white that they therefore don’t deal with trauma or mental health issues because black people “by default of being black” have a harder life? Utter nonsense. Should then, by Heather Bachman’s standards, no white women ever help other women deal with problems because they are white and automatically privileged? Do white women not have real trauma or mental health issues because they are not black?? No, all women can have trauma and mental health issues -no matter the background -Hollis is NOT discriminating. Trauma is trauma, etc. Hollis welcomes all races and regions and her aim is to provide them with the “life tools” to operate successfully in life, whether that be successful in parenting, their career, their health, etc. It doesn’t cost money to do much of what Hollis is suggesting except the actual events themselves cost money. I find this article utterly contradicting too, there is Heather Bachman in this opinion piece calling out Hollis’ for her attempt to ‘empower women’, yet the only thing Heather Bachman has done to empower women is to write this crappy opinion piece —taking down another woman— to further her own writing career. Shame on Little Village Mag for even supporting this opinion. It’s my opinion that this article should be taken down. It’s one thing to have an opinion, and a whole other to publish a racist article that is also factually incorrect for more website views.

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