I, Too, Was A Fan Of Rachel Hollis…Until I Learned This
After watching an interview on The Impact Theory between Rachel and host, Tom Bilyeu, I immediately hopped on my laptop and order her latest book, “Girl, Stop Apologizing.” I was enthralled with the knowledge and insight she provided and knew this book (if it were anything like the interview) would offer tremendous usability in my life. I even paid for next day delivery!
I would be taking a trip overseas the following week and knew this book would be the perfect read to help make the combined 13 hours of flying feel a little more productive and inspiring. Shortly after cracking open the book, I realized it was essentially a ‘no-nonsense’ pep talk for moms everywhere.
Hollis, a motivational speaker, and lifestyle influencer soon became a best-selling author after carefully curating a life story that reflects a strong faith complemented with the power of hustle. Being a mom of four, the question Hollis often received was, “How do I pursue my goal and be a good mom?” This question eventually became the catalyst for the book, “Girl, Stop Apologizing.”
Oddly enough, after reading her first book (“Girl, Wash Your Face”), I decided it would behoove me to read her first to see if the second was a one-off to what I had anticipated. Spoiler: It wasn’t.
Now don’t get me wrong, I loved the fact that Hollis was so candid about her not-so-perfect moments as a mom and I admired her devotion to empowering women; however, I couldn’t shake some of the verbiages she chose to use when doing so.
Let’s observe a few points made by Hollis between the two books:
Hollis doesn’t mention child care at all in the book until the acknowledgments (when she thanks her nanny). “People ask me how I do it all, and the honest truth is, I absolutely don’t,” she writes. “Behind the scenes is an incredible, loving friend and sister who takes care of my kiddos when work or travel takes me away from them.”
The problem with this (in case it isn’t obvious) is the misleading message that you can do it all and then adding the footnote, ‘except I am just simply telling you this without living it for myself.’ Now, I don’t mean to knock anyone for being privileged in a way that allows for outsourced child care; however, to create an entire book catered to the working mom and then to fail in coming from a place of resonance is hardly admirable and entirely frustrating.
In one anecdote about the power of setting goals, Hollis recounts her obsession with buying a Louis Vuitton Speedy bag, which costs a thousand dollars. “I wanted it because it represented the kind of woman I dreamed of becoming,” she wrote. She then goes on to share that the day she got her first $10,000 consulting check, she drove to the Louis Vuitton store at the Beverly Center and made the purchase previously mentioned.
Hollis makes no attempt to interrogate her desire for an expensive designer bag here, just as there is no effort to interrogate her desire to own a vacation home in Hawaii by the time she’s 40. Much of the points Hollis makes around this ideology scream ‘corporate feminism’ as she equates having ‘made it’ with the moment you are able to drop a lot of cash on a bag that is essentially a symbol of status and ultimately, using purchasing power as a path to self-realization. “I’m a big fan of displaying visuals inside my closet door to remind me every single day of what my aim is. Currently taped to my door: the cover of Forbes featuring self-made female CEOs, a vacation house in Hawaii . . . and a picture of Beyoncé, obvi.” Hollis later marries this form of feminism with Christianity.
In reflection of the difficult time she and her husband had before adopting their daughter, Noah, in 2017, Hollis talks about the wrenching experience with the adoption process. It was during this tumultuous time that Hollis found herself drinking more. She writes, “Vodka was my copilot, and I was grateful for its presence in my life.” Though this isn’t where the issue lies; the issue is with the blatant lack of empathy she demonstrates towards the birth parents or the family of the children she and her husband believed they would permanently adopt.
“How do you keep taking babies to see parents who aren’t parenting? How do you give up half a Saturday to wait in a McDonald’s playland for addicts who may or may not show up, then hand over an innocent baby and watch them erase whatever progress you’ve made with their daughter? How do you do all of this KNOWING that they’ll be reunited at the end of it all, and there’s nothing you can do about it? If you’re like me, you find a way. But at night, when no one is looking, you drink, and when it gets really bad, you take Xanax too.”
This in conjunction with her racially inflammatory remarks throughout the book begs the question: When two people have similar struggles but one is white and one is not, one is wealthy and one is not, one writes books and blog posts and hosts conferences, and the other goes to McDonald’s hoping to see their child for an hour a week — who gets to be the good mom?
In a chapter of Girl, Wash Your Face, Hollis touches on her struggle with ‘emotional eating’ and her desire to lose weight. Hollis warns, “This is where I should tell you that I am worthy and loved as I am. This is absolutely true, but that’s not where I’m headed with this chapter.” For the next several pages, she continues to shame fat people: “Humans were not made to be out of shape and severely overweight. You can choose to continue to abuse your body because it’s all you know … You can choose to settle for a half-lived life because you don’t even know there’s another way … But please, please stop making excuses for the whys.”
Hollis spends a lot of time on body image in Girl, Wash Your Face, but perhaps nowhere is it as harmful and ignorant as when she is berating people who do not “keep their commitments,” especially when using the example of dieting. Hollis goes as far as to offer the implication that we shouldn’t respect women who don’t stick with their diets because we cannot rely on them to keep their word. I’m sorry, WHAT? This assumption itself screams privilege and completely ignores the real possibility that a woman is going through the loss of a loved one, a new medical diagnosis, mental illness, etc. that has made it nearly impossible to get this aspect of their life under control.
She asks you to imagine a friend named Pam who has started several diets, only to fail two weeks in and gain back all the weight she lost. She writes, “Y’all, would you respect her? Would you count on Pam or the friend who keeps blowing you off for stupid reasons? Would you trust them when they committed to something? Would you believe them when they committed to you? No.”
She imbues fatness with the shame of moral failure and demeans women who struggle to (or do not want to) lose weight. This is perhaps the clearest encapsulation of the cruelty baked into Hollis’s philosophy.
I was struck by how liberally Hollis interpreted Bible verses to suit her message, like in a chapter about sex where she quotes Hebrews 13:4 (“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the bed be undefiled”) and says, “what I take away when I read that line is that the things that happen in my bed with my husband cannot be weird or bad or wrong.” No Biblical scholar on Earth would read that passage and make such a suggestion. However, to Hollis, traditional theology doesn’t seem to matter as much as finding Bible verses that seem to prop up the message she is communicating. You will notice she does this almost constantly throughout her writing.
Perhaps one of the most dangerous topics Hollis addresses in her books is that of her mentally and emotionally abusive relationship. This is a part of many women’s stories and it is one that is important to share so the fact she chose to do so is not where the concern lies; it is in the detail that this man is now her husband. As a woman who has built a career centered around empowering women and helping each find their independence, it seems like this is just another example of her not following her own advice. If you are in a relationship where you are experiencing abuse in any facet, you do not have to stay. In fact, suggesting that you should and implying that things will become as ‘peaches and cream’ as her life has is incredibly detrimental and the reality that millions of women have read those words while simultaneously experiencing some variance of abuse and choosing to apply the same excuses Hollis offers in her book is terrifying.
While I won’t discredit the work Hollis has done and the achievements she has in her toolbox, it is important that we do not read her words with rose-colored glasses. Take from these books what is applicable to your life and never ignore the messages your gut is trying to send you.