Whitewashed and Priced Out: The Spiritual Wellness Space
Identifying some of the inequality perpetuated in the industry and how to fix it.
In the last month we have seen a barrage of articles, comments, and critiques on the Rachel Hollis’s 4 April post. She is an “ inspirational” speaker in the wellness space, who built a million dollar life-style brand; and authored a book “Girl, Wash Your Face”. She uses her brand to teach women to garnish the power within to change their external lives.
Her video on 4 April was a response to someone calling her out for having privilege. This was their response to a previous Live TikTok video she made, where she made a comment alluding to having a housekeeper come in once or twice a week to “wash her toilets.”
In her video she completely sees through what a commentator was trying to point out to her. She is a white woman who was formerly married to a rich white men. That identity alone would come with a lot of privilege. Plus, she has access to a housekeeper who most certainly allows her to have access to time and energy; that she can most certainly put on building her empire further. Instead, in the video, she gets defensive and claims she has no privilege. She is simply unrelatable; and that “unrelatability” comes from getting up at 4 a.m. regularly, and having a basic level of resiliency.
Unfortunately, the lack of awareness doesn’t stop there. In the post’s description, she compares her “unrelatable” work ethic to women she considers equally “unrelatable.” Women, who had been born into bondage, who were attempted to be killed for getting an education, or who had to deal with the traumas of rape. (She lists Harriet Tubman, Malala Yousafza, and Oprah, to name a few).
This comparison is alarming, ridiculous, and frankly enraging. It was one thing for her to wilfully ignore or not acknowledge her white privilege. That has become such common practise, that it could almost be quickly batted away with an eye roll. I’m not diminishing this behaviour; because at the end of the day, acknowledgement is so important on the path to total equality. But, equating her personal choice to work early each morning, to that of a woman who escaped a life of bondage, and freed others from that same bondage, is just so triggering.
Particularly because I am in the wellness space. I am a tarot card reader and energy channeler. I have also completed my yoga and Theta Healing training. But, more importantly, I am a Black woman. The ongoing diminishing of our trauma in our society, by anyone, drastically minimising / erases the depths of our experiences, how they are being perceived, and acknowledged in our society. This is incredibly dangerous in the wellness space, since it diminishes and/or erases the need to acknowledge our path to healthiness and/or wellness.
Not to mention, as a practitioner and participator, I’m so tired of seeing people like Rachel in the space. It’s designed to be an industry that greatly promotes taking a level of personal responsibility, and empower. Yet, for people like Rachel, who takes no personal responsibility, it’s a place to make money whilst actively upholding systems set to disempower individuals based on a set of criteria.
It was her actions in her 4 April video, and the general cultural imperialism in her brand, that were the catalysts to me creating this piece. I’m not focusing more on Rachel. Frankly, she isn’t the main problem, she is just part of it. My main focus is to highlight some of the most pressing problems in the wellness space, and how people can do a better job of acknowledging and fixing them to create a more inclusive and accessible industry.
What is the problem:
The wellness industry is supposed to be a space one goes to, to learn how to change your outer reality through the: acknowledgement, consciousness, and understanding of one’s inner self. It is the adoption of healthy practices that are designed to improve and grow your life!
Seemingly then, this would be an industry designed in opposition to the isms and schisms that have been established by the powers at be. Those isms and schisms were designed to control, or even restrict a person’s growth because of their outer realities; either because of: the way they look, who they love, the money they have, etc.
The wellness industry is being infiltrated by teachers and coaches who uphold systems of inequality; whilst co-opting teachings that are fundamentally and philosophically, in opposition; all to benefit themselves financially.
They use the wellness industry as more of a money making scheme; whilst having no intention to include, support, give, or hold space to marginalised groups in the wellness communities they have cultivated.
This exclusion makes it harder for marginalised groups to progress in their wellness journeys. Either they are priced out of products and services that could contribute to their growth. Or, wellness coaches and teachers, co-opt teachings, most often associated with marginalised groups of colour; exploit and appropriate those teachings; whilst ignore those same people’s inequitable experiences, which play a major role in their wellness.
In order for the wellness industry to truly reflect a space where everyone can get well, it is necessary for teachers and coaches to: STOP perpetuating systems of oppression; and start catering and supporting everyone’s wellness.
The wellness industry was valued at $4.2 Billion in 2018 and it continues to grow. It is growing in popularity, mainly with younger generations, looking to find alternatives methods to reaching peace, happiness, and healthiness.
Demand is naturally going to grow the price tag of the products and services in the wellness space. And, I acknowledge people do have to make a living. But, wellness is becoming elitist and so expensive. Teachers and coaches are financially exploiting people who are just looking for better ways to live their lives.
That’s not wellness, it’s capitalism.
How do we fix this?
The wellness space is not going to become less pricey, or even less trendy in the coming years. With more demand, the price is going to naturally keep rising, unfortunately.
Fix: It may be a good idea to set aside products and services at reduced rates or even through donations to select folks, who can’t afford it.
You already see this with other industries, such as the health industry. Most western countries have free or reduced rate healthcare services for low income communities. Though the health industry, at large, is far from perfect and is still very inequitable; it, at least, gives low income communities access to health services.
Fix: If teachers and coaches cannot afford to offer reduced and/or donation based rates; at the very least, they could provide a bit more education on the process to a healthier, happier lifestyle.
This can be offered online, through social media, or even through talks at community centres and open forums. (Given not everyone has access to a phone or a computer). That way people can, at the very least, get a bit more informed on how they can start implementing some practices to improve their daily lives.
Lack of acknowledgement and exclusionary wellness
I’ve noticed that coaches and teachers in the wellness community offer monolith, one-size fits all products and services to their audience; without actually acknowledging that we don’t all live one-size fits all experiences. Let’s be honest, no amount of eating healthy, exercising, yoga retreating are going to cure all the ongoing traumas and pains from established systems of oppression.
Without recognition, awareness, and compassion to the roles these systems play in marginalised groups’ wellness journeys; teachers and coaches are diminishing their human experiences.
That’s not wellness, it’s: racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, or the intersection of all of these things.
How do we fix this?
Fix: Take time to acknowledge the traumas that effect and are particular to marginalised groups’ experiences.
Especially, during times of deep pain like: police brutality, the senseless killings of transwomen and men, femicide, and rape culture. Of course you don’t want to bombard people with fear, negativity, and low vibrational news all the time. But, marginalised groups are usually hurting in silence, or have been silenced; and their pain should no longer be totally ignored.
Fix: Instead of teachers and coaches pushing their products and services with “love and light” onto marginalised groups of people; it may be more effective to take the time to hear from those people on what they need.
Teachers and coaches would do well to listen to marginalised groups of people and highlight their experiences on their platform, in their own words. They should give space for marginalised folks to tell them how they are feeling; especially during times when the oppression gets to be just too much to handle. Maybe teachers and coaches could provide a product and service that could help them cope, in the process to living a better life. But, bombarding folks with advertisements on a particular product and service, exploiting their pain for a growth in sales, is NOT the way to go.
Fix: Teachers and coaches should always continue to do their own self study to educate themselves on marginalised groups of people’s experiences.
They should never rely on marginalised groups to educate them on their history and their experiences. There are so many books, resources, shows, outlets to find out what marginalised groups have experienced. If a teacher and/or coach is having trouble finding these resources there is: Google, books, social media, and there are a plethora of podcasts. (Some personal podcast favs are: Getting Grown, Friends Like Us, and Navigationship. These podcasts mainly cover personal journeys with healing and wellness within the Black woman and Black queer spaces.)
They should also ensure their products and services are constantly being tested and modified in a way that can benefit everyone. It is also important that they are receptive to constructive criticism; so, they can ensure they are providing the best resources and being the best teachers and coaches to everyone.
We all are not perfect. No matter how much work a person has done in the wellness space personally and/or professionally, no one is ever going to get it right 100% of the time. Sometimes teachers and coaches are going to reflect the systems that we have all been brainwashed to uphold. No one is asking for perfection. But it is about time the wellness industry be accessible, affordable, and equitable to all, instead of the elite few.