The ‘Mind-Body-Spirit’ Industry Has Lobotomised a Generation of Women
By T M Murray –
In July Google released its new ‘Inner Strength’ App under the rubric of MINDBODY, alongside a zillion similar “time saving” Apps with titles like ‘Calamababy’, ‘Lipstick Lounge’ ‘Waxing Hub’ and ‘Relax at Home Massage’. The irony is that the more women obsess on inner strength, the more docile and dumbed-down they become in the outer world. The ever-expanding galaxy of commercialised Mind-Body-Spirit products and propaganda has created the most depoliticised and politically disengaged generation of women in human history. Half of the West’s human population is so preoccupied with self-obsessed ‘personal growth’ and physical appearance that they’re neglecting their education and civic responsibility. In so doing they collaborate in their own exclusion from the outward-looking social sphere where the decisions that affect them and their families are being made. The fatuous world of adult colouring books, ‘mindfulness’, yoga and ‘personal growth’ has all but eclipsed womens’ participation in the technical and political spheres.
Look at the insulting ‘womens interest’ section of any magazine rack and the depressing array of titles directing women towards infantilizing preoccupations that they are expected to find ‘interesting’: relaxing fragrances, napkin folding techniques or (literally) naval-gazing yoga poses. These body-obsessive, mind-numbing activities serve to normalise womens’ political marginalisation and domestication. The gendered assumption that women and men have separate ‘interests’ – not just separate genitals – is being promoted and expressed through retailer’s divisions of everything from children’s toys to adult magazines, apparently without consumers’ recognition that these assumptions about men and women are producing the separation of men and women into two different species in the first place, not merely catering to a pre-existing division.
The commodification of women’s minds, bodies, and spirits (i.e. their wills and desires) has epitomised an advertising industry that promotes female insecurity and conformity, and then sells women back their self-esteem at the price of a whole range of unnecessary “feminine” products that keep women as poor as they are dumb. The relegation of women to the inward-looking, domestic realm is not an expression of women’s “inner nature” but of cultural conditioning by this industry of insulting “feminine” hogwash, and so far women have been so gullible that they are literally “buying” it, both with their wallets and with whatever mental capacities they still possess.
Mind-Body-Spirit is an industry that functions very much like religion. It offers women (as a culturally and politically disenfranchised class of citizens) false hope and a sense of belonging as substitutes for actual power. It provides them the semantics with which to articulate a purely mythological feeling of “spiritual empowerment”, and membership in an inner group of like-minded “enlightened” women who share similar lifestyles revolving around physical beauty, fashion, reproduction, child-rearing and the home, which only produces a sense (belief) of being virtuous or ‘empowered’ while simultaneously offering no substantial benefits at all in the real world. This empty ‘spirituality’ makes women complacent with the patriarchal status quo and its sexist division of labour.
Alongside this passive embrace of their own false consciousness, women also take a Panglossian view of actual religious male chauvinism. Women from oppressive Islamic religious cultures are regarded with the utmost respect for their submission to Islamic sharia law, which gives a woman’s testimony half of the validity of a man’s and favours men across the board on all family matters, from child custody to male polygamy and inheritance ‘rights’.
Western women see their Muslim “sisters” (and their male superiors) not as “others” but as kindred spirits. They harbour a well-meaning but utterly naïve fantasy that people whose culture and religion are opposed to Western womens’ liberation and equality will be forever malleable if only shown sufficient love.
The Polyanna fantasy of joining hands and singing ‘Kumbaya’ with religious fundamentalists who would sooner kill women than offer them equal rights or even reproductive control over their own fertility makes European women blind to the real plight of Muslim women living under sharia law.
Western women have been deluded into embracing a phoney “tolerance” for everything – even the most abusive and irrational sexism – when they should be responding with righteous anger, like the women at the vanguard of 1960’s feminism and the 1970’s womens’ liberation movement. Real tolerance does not require ‘being nice’ – it entails all manner of satire and objection to things you disagree with, short of censorship or violence.
The “just be nice” approach is grounded in the belief that women from other cultures are basically the same as them, and that peaceful coexistence is inevitable. They overlook the possibility that the reason cultural mixing between European and religiously conservative Muslim women is not actually happening is that religious Muslim women either do not really possess much social autonomy or disapprove of them, view their lifestyles as ‘haram’ and look forward to the day when all women will be dressing ‘modestly’ and obeying sharia law. Western women are failing to act in solidarity with Muslim feminists and secularists in the obtuse belief that doing so would make them xenophobic, a myth that conservative Islamists love to stoke with their victim narratives about how all Muslim women are under constant attack by xenophobic Europeans, when a great many Muslim women would argue that they face far more danger from religiously conservative Muslim men!
The saddest part of this narcissistic culture of “inner strength” and outer powerlessness is that the luxury of enjoying the freedom to choose this self-immolation voluntarily has come at such a huge cost to strong, courageous women of past generations. Womens’ liberation is a privilege that many Muslim women today risk their lives to achieve under threat of death. Despite this, many European and American women think they are following in the footsteps of great feminists of past generations when they defend regressive religions or merely post slogans on social media, or wear a “this is what a feminist looks like” T-Shirt – yet another symbol of the way that all attempts at resistance to the dominant culture have been commodified and sold to them so that consumerism and empty gestures become the only responses to real-world problems.
Even when women do actually step out of their interior bubbles to do something active in their real, three-dimensional communities, this is instantly transformed, on social media, into a virtue-signalling advertisement about the act. Time spent advertising one’s virtues to a virtual community of like-minded cheerleaders for the cause replaces time spent in the actual world doing things that might bring about real change. One starts to wonder whether the motive of all activism is really to change aspects of the real world, or merely to change one’s status update on FaceBook. Real-world actions have ceased to be ends-in-themselves and must constantly be made into opportunities for narcissism and self-image improvement, in a virtual world that consumes the would-be activist’s energies as she fixates on her image as “activist” as yet another aspect of her personal appearance.
Until women wake up, smell the coffee and disengage from this nexus of consumerism and false consciousness, the real world will continue to be both a dangerous and hostile place for women.