I’ve blawged about toxic positivity in the past (you can take a look-see at it here) and one of the top ‘guru’s’ regarding this movement
is was Rachel Hollis of the “Girl, Wash Your Face” and “Girl, Stop Apologizing” fame. Both of these books have been New York Times best sellers and yes, I’ve read them; I started thinking about these when one of my students in my Marriage and Family class chose “Girl, Wash Your Face” for her book review. She wrote how she was moved by Rachel’s advice and wants to live her life more like Hollis herself. I can understand that because when you first read books that contain mountains of toxic positivity, it’s easy to get caught up in the spirit. Then, you start to eventually understand that once you climb a mountain, you have to make your way back down. (Note: I hate the use of girl in her titles…I am not a girl! Saying ‘boy’ to a man is a slam…why is saying ‘girl’ to women OK?) 🤔
Anyhoot, why am I picking on Hollis? And, isn’t this bullying…something I absolutely abhor? Well…no. It’s not. Here’s why: Hollis has built a career on her positivity approach, no judgement stance, strong marriage example, etc. which have all come tumbling down. And she herself is the reason behind the fall.
First, Hollis is very well known for HER inspirational quotes on Instagram and come to find out, they aren’t even hers. The best example? In April, 2020, Hollis posted this:
I hope like hell y’all know this is NOT an original Hollis quote…in fact, it’s a Maya Angelou quote for which she was given no credit at all. So, Rachel ‘apologized’ for this blatant plagiarism by saying this: “This morning I found out that my social team posted a graphic on my Instagram yesterday that said, “Still… I Rise” and then she goes on to explain how there is no excuse for this oversight.” Well…gee. She says there is no excuse but quickly blamed her social media team. Yes, she said she was responsible since she’s leader of the team, but it still sounds like a way to get the blame off of herself. If she truly wants to take responsibility and apologize, she needs to NOT mention the team she apparently leads and simply say “I’m truly sorry for this post…”.
And, this isn’t the only quote Rachel has taken credit for…another example: “Ambition is not a Dirty Word” is actually Debra Condren’s self-help book (2008) of the same title. Hmmm. There are many others. Now, as a professor (🤓), I STRONGLY emphasize to my students the importance of citing sources and referencing quotes…to me, plagiarism is lying. Right? You are claiming someone elses work for your own. Isn’t that cheating? Lying? SO…it’s interesting to me how Rachel can have a chapter in her Wash Your Face book that says it’s a lie that you CAN’T tell the truth. Well, Rachel…maybe that’s not a lie after all…because you seem to not be telling the truth in this sense.
Then, there’s the toilet fiasco she has recently been embroiled in. Here’s what Rachel said just a month ago in a deleted TikTok post: “Someone commented and said ‘You are privileged AF, and I was like, ‘You’re right, I’m super freaking privileged. But also, I worked my a** off to have the money, to have someone come twice a week and clean my toilets’. And then she said ‘Well, you’re unrelatable.’ What is it about me that made you think I wanna be relatable?”
Okey dokey. In her books, she writes about how judgement has to stop among women, yet she is saying her housekeeper is a toilet cleaner. Really? That sounds pretty judgey to me. I have a feeling her housekeeper does more than scrub where she poops. And relatable? She doesn’t want to be relatable? Relatable means you’re approachable…empathic…cordial…responsive. I’m sorry, but those are things I want to be. Then, in the caption to the video, she lists other women: Harriet Tubman, RBG, Marie Curie, Oprah Winfrey, Amelia Earhart, Frida Khalo, Malala Yousafzai, Wu Zetian who she says are all “unrelatable AF”.
Heh? Rachel compares herself to Harriet Tubman? The hero who escaped from slavery, led 13 potentially fatal missions using the underground railroad, and freed up to 70 slaves in the process? And Malala Yousafzai? The youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate (2014) who is an educational activist for women and children in her native Pakistan? THEN, if these comparisons aren’t bad enough (regarding all she listed), she says they were all unrelatable AF. For those of you in ma’s age group (old and older 🧓👴), this means “as fuck”. I’m sorry, peeps, but saying the word ‘fuck’ when talking about these women is demeaning. Like when Justin Beiber said Anne Frank would have hopefully been a ‘belieber.’ OOOKKKAAAAYYYY!
And Rachel’s ignoring of societal constraints so many people find themselves in really pisses me off. “You and only you are responsible for who you become and how happy you are.” Well…not really. Name a female president. Name more than 3 female CEO’s. Name an African American President (President Obama is mixed race). Get my point? It’s not right…but it’s a reality: there are constraints in our society that affect who we become. Period. Further, you can’t force yourself into ‘happy.’ When the crux of the pandemic hit and small businesses closed with the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, it was hard for these people, who spent years and years building their businesses, to be ‘happy.’ And what about the Asian American community that is being targeted for COVID? People being spit on…harassed…set on fire…slashed with box cutters, etc. In some areas, the discrimination against Asian Americans has increased 9 fold over the course of the pandemic. This does not lead to ‘happiness’ for those being targeted…it leads to fear, anger, disillusionment and confusion. Right? So there ARE barriers in our way to who we become and how happy we are. If there weren’t, this would be a utopia and believe you me, grasshoppers we are not living in a perfect world.
Finally, Rachel has given us a front row seat to her marriage in which we found out these things: she was 19 and he was 27 when they met but he never asked her age (hello…she could have been underage); he used her as a booty-call (her words) during which he was emotionally abusive for the first couple years of their relationship which only started to change when she was on the road to becoming a success; and he told her he would only be a part of her company if he could be the CEO…if he wasn’t, he wouldn’t have anything to do with it and she capitulated to the ultimatum (what a dick-ish demand on his part…narcissism anyone?). They went on to have a “Rise Together” relationship podcast as well as live conferences where people could go and hear them wax on about their great marriage and how you can have one too…for the low low price of $1800 (not including the travel, hotel and food). Come to find out, they weren’t as happy as they made themselves out to be and have recently divorced after 15 years of marriage.
YES, I KNOW! I am the LAST one to gripe about someone’s divorce since I’ve had
12 3 myself (shutty the mouthies 🙄). But, I’m also the last one to say my relationships are perfect and were problem free. I’m also not purporting you should be someone’s ’emotionally abusive booty-call’ for a couple of years. Here’s some advice the Hollis’ shared at their conferences: “We feel like it’s possible—we know it’s possible—to have an exceptional relationship despite the stresses you have in your life.” And, “Don’t give notes. Give praise.” in which this goodie is telling women to not bring up anything negative about their sex-life. Apparently, his pleasure is the only one that matters. And if there are issues? Work through them with better communication and a therapist. But really, based on Rachel’s own advice: your happiness is up to you so if you want to be happy in your marriage, just be happy. Duh. Why didn’t my hubbies and I think of that? 🙄
Lastly, Rachel got a boob job after her kids were born. So what…right? No biggie…unless…you’ve said you have to accept yourself for being good enough. There’s nothing wrong with plastic surgery…unless…you’ve preached body positivity. C’mon, Rachel…actions speak louder than words.
Look, my point here isn’t to bash someone, but to let people know that so many of the influencers and self-help gurus out there are simply parroting platitudes, re-packaging what has already been sold, and giving advice that they themselves don’t follow in order to make money. Period. Yes, I want my students to read read read! But, I also want them to read smart. You can’t take things as gospel just because this person has a multi-million dollar company. You shouldn’t emulate someone who isn’t living their words themselves. You needn’t copy someone elses’ ‘perfect’ marriage which was actually created out of emotional abuse. You can’t blindly take the advice of someone without knowing what advice they actually live by. We all need to be smart consumers of self-help books and the people we follow and put our trust in. Because sometimes, they simply don’t deserve our support.
Here are 2 excellent videos that talk more about Hollis: