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nope, ‘Queen’ is not a feminist business model

welcome to your Sunday Love Letter. Before we get started, here’s what’s going on this week at www.kellydev.wpengine.com:

I’m teaching an online workshop on Saturday called Feminist Fix for Your About Page. If you can’t attend live, the replays will be available. Join me?

Onward!


Hello,

I am all about our community rising, building sustainable thriving livelihoods, and shifting this culture towards justice.

I believe we each should lift our voices, and listen, and grow & share our power and resources.

Sometimes, a lot of times, to keep doing that I need to channel other people’s badass energy to fortify myself. Sometimes, all the time, I need to witness examples of women IN CHARGE to keep me going.

Whenever there are films or documentaries or books about powerful women, I’m in. Because I’m hungry to witness their tactics, their experiences.

It’s more than that.

I want to feel it.

Don’t laugh, but it’s why I love watching Real Housewives. I love watching women have money and have leisure time. Growing up, it’s not something I *ever* saw in the lives of the women I knew.

So I intimately, viscerally understand why we might be inspired by the Queen archetype and want to channel her sovereign energy.

But then I get emails from Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brands telling me to literally run my business and life like a Queen.

Like this one:

“Every woman deserves to be the Queen of her life.For a long time, many of us have been taught to believe we have to do everything ourselves. But today’s successful women entrepreneurs are showing us that the path is totally supported – by assistants, team members, private chefs and personal trainers. If you haven’t started delegating in your business yet, it’s never too soon.”

My reaction to emails like this:

1. Yes, let’s unravel the conditioning that women have to overwork and overlabour. Let’s interrupt that. Let’s free ourselves and other women and marginalized people from overserving. YES.

2. Ummm, but what about the women who are assistants, team members, chefs and trainers? How do they get supported to become the Queen of their life? Where do they get the $$ to pay people to serve them? (Everyone critiquing Lean In wondered the same thing…)

3. This is exactly the problem with mainstream ‘financial empowerment’ narratives that conflates one woman’s wealth with collectively progressive politics. (They are not.the.same.thing; Jia Tolentino makes this point brilliantly in her book Trick Mirror.) In their individualist, privilege-seeking model, empowerment is for a few exceptional queens, not the rest of us peons. They’re preaching to the people who aspire to be at the top of the pyramid while leaving the pyramid in place (I call this position switching — and so much of contemporary, mainstream ‘feminism’ or ’empowerment’ is actually advice to switch positions in the oppressive system rather than CHANGE THE WHOLE SYSTEM). In fact, the pyramid has to exist in order for you to be a queen. Someone — lots of someones — needs to be at the bottom of it to serve you. So you’re leveraging the inequity to become queen. A queen requires inequity to reign.

4. No.

Sometimes we may want to channel that queenly energy so we can feel powerful and sovereign as we navigate a society in which we are “constantly culturally de-legitimized” (Lissa Boles) but let’s remember that a queen is someone who’s born into a UNEARNED position of privilege.

So yes, feeling like a “Queen” might be useful energy to fuel us; but no, “Queen” is not a feminist business model to practice…

…and we may need to carefully evaluate and reject the business practices of our “Queens”.

  • A queen is someone who has staff and possibly indentured servants taking care of all of her basic needs.
  • A queen has chef. A queen has a personal assistant (and, and, and).
  • A queen can issue commands and doesn’t need to listen to ‘haters’ aka critics or anyone who thinks she might be fallible.
  • A queen can be completely unjust.
  • A queen can have people killed.
  • A queen can be horrible, violent and exploitative with no hopes for redress or accountability from her.
  • A queen profits has the right to extract money and resources from all the people in her domain, even if doesn’t she deliver fairly on her responsibilities.

Queenly energy, yes; queenly business practices, no.

Often — and this is no coincidence — the Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brands encouraging us to be Queens also have ‘queenly’ business practices like using uncompensated (female) interns to create their content for their million dollar launches and charging 25% interest (or more!) to access payment plans.

The person who sent the ‘Queen’ email, for example, teaches other women entrepreneurs to charge a 25% fee for payment programs and has charged more than that rate, herself; she also advises gathering hiring of unpaid women interns as ‘support’ for launches that generate more than a million dollars. From her, other women entrepreneurs are learning that these are both standard and ’empowering’ business practices. This is how business is done.

This is how exploitative norms get created and reinforced in supposedly ’empowering’ spaces.

I have been writing about this for a while (YEARS):

So no, we do not need yet another formula teaching us how exploiting women leads to profit and pleasure — even it if that advice comes from an Entrepreneurial Queen we otherwise admire. We’re already familiar with that recipe: it’s called white supremacist patriarchy. And yes, a Queen can be a patriarch.

A queen is the top of the pyramid and aren’t we about getting rid of the pyramid?

To rise, and make an impact, we do not need to aspire to be queens. We do not need to emulate their practices.

Instead, we need to aspire to be feminist entrepreneurs and feminist leaders and CULTURE MAKERS who take care of each other rather than exploit and prey on each other.

We can get free of overwhelm and overwork and systemic discrimination without reproducing inequity or requiring other people’s deference and servitude.

That’s what culture makers do with their power and their lives.

And we are the culture makers.

love + justice,

Kelly

I write, work and live on land that is the unceded territory of the Stó:lō.

Important to note: just ‘cuz I mention someone’s work does not mean we know each other. It doesn’t mean they even know I exist nor does it mean that they like me or approve of my work. Nor does it mean I endorse them unequivocally or that they endorse me. It means that there’s a particular cultural thing that I’m trying to talk about and an idea or project of their’s is relevant and I want to give credit where credit is due.

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Every week, I send you a

Sunday Love Letter

I write them so that…

  1. You remember your culture-making power
  2. You have the inspiration + tools you need to grow a future in which we all flourish
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