If you have a desire to become a business leader, or even a household name in your industry… everything you do while marketing your offers will be under scrutiny.
And if you’re a person who cares?
You’re going to question yourself.
Now, don’t get me wrong.
Questioning your practices is necessary.
I do it all the time.
And I often joke that most of the time, I disagree with myself from a couple of weeks ago.
But there’s been a concerning trend of more business leaders/owners making it their focus to discredit, and shame others, and offering themselves up as the better, more ethical alternative.
I know, the irony!
I’m pointing the finger at the finger pointers.
I’m calling out the people that call people out.
And I’m tempted to say, “but someone has to stand up against these bullies!”, but that’s exactly what the bullies do, so…
I’m writing this for me, and other people who feel torn between “what’s right” and “what’s profitable”, and are maybe wondering if they’re not mutually exclusive (they’re not).
I’m also writing this article because the militant side of what is presented as “ethical marketing”, has affected me to the extent that I needed therapy for anxiety, insomnia, and passive suicidal ideation.
So, yes, let’s do the very best we can to replace practices that are colonialist, extractionary, racist, ableist, ageist (and all the other ism’s) with ones that honor all of humanity.
Let’s make sure that we don’t tear down fences to build new ones in the same breath, creating new “rules” to follow, and new, inventive ways for women to fall out of grace and be threatened with shunning for their transgressions.
Here are 5 reasons why sometimes, what’s referred to as ethical marketing is purity culture in disguise…
How can we become business leaders if we’re still being dictated what we can and can’t do
A while back, I took a pause in my business to ponder… where was I complicit to systems of oppression…. where could I do better… what is my role as a privileged woman in my space?
So I started following a lot of people who were co-pondering with me.
And loved learning from them.
But in my process of implementing some of their strategies, I noticed I started censoring myself. Afraid to say the wrong thing. Terrified of harming people with my words or tactics.
I completely and utterly froze up.
And what I realized is that there was a lot of throwing out babies with the bathwater.
Pay in full incentives aren’t bad.
… as long as you have lower-ticket options, scholarships and create a community that’s profoundly welcoming and inclusive.
Urgency isn’t bad.
… as long as you’re willing to support community members who have chronic health issues, or all-consuming caretaker responsibilities (or something else) and make sure they don’t miss the boat.
Pain points aren’t bad.
… as long as you weave in desire and hope, and never make them feel bad for being in pain. You’re helping them diagnose what isn’t working, not shaming them.
Just don’t be an asshole about it.
The bottom line?
I felt I had to choose between making money, or being a good person.
Like so many other times in history, when women are either given no choice, or a “Sophie’s choice”. In this case, a choice between keeping my kids fed, dressed, and warm (I’m the sole financial provider), or being a good…. Girl?
Looking like a good girl?
See where this one is going?
P.S. I find that the banishing of “pain” (and therefore pain points), sets a dangerous precedent. Some days, life is painful. To deny that, and completely omit that in the language that we use, feels like the erasure of lived experience. Big no for me.
I get people’s concerns, because often they’re badly done, and cause people to feel inferior, but trust this conversion copywriter by trade that you can do them with deep compassion and love. You don’t need to remove them entirely.
“Ethical”, unfortunately, often means ineffective (creating financial struggle for business leaders)
I’m going to say it… a lot of what’s labeled as “ethical marketing” resonates with women who care, but because it’s often ineffective… (almost all tools that make for a successful sales campaign are frowned upon).
It creates a financial struggle for the exact people our world needs to succeed.
Good question to ask yourself, if you see yourself in what I just described?
Who benefits from your decline in financial power?
WHO BENEFITS FROM YOUR DECLINE IN FINANCIAL POWER?
In summary… if you feel you have to choose between being a good person and being financially solvent you’re listening to the wrong narratives.
You shouldn’t have to choose.
The reality of being an entrepreneur is that effective marketing messages call in certain kinds of people (and not other kinds of people). This isn’t discrimination. It’s differentiation. And if you do it thoughtfully, your audience will sense the difference.
It places women on a pedestal
Ok, so hear me out…
I have a thing about this.
As a Women’s Wealth Advocate, you’d **THINK** that statements like, “the world will be a better place if more women become business leaders”, and “the world will be a better place when women make more money” would come out of my mouth every single day.
No, they don’t
Because, maybe the world would be a better place… but maybe not?
The glorification of certain groups of people, just because they have a certain background or identity can be as damaging as any other biases.
And if you’ve ever felt that because of your [fill in the blank] you ** MUST ** be a better leader, more ethical, more responsible, more caring…?
Please give yourself permission to be YOU, a complete human being.
Not “one of the good ones”, until you make a (perceived) mistake, and then… chop chop.
It’s time to take the pressure off and make space for our full humanity.
The punishment for disobedience is a classic
If you’re not “ethical” enough?
The punishment is public defamation, resulting in the imploding of the reputation you’ve built with blood, sweat, and tears, a disappearance of financial power, leaving you…
… and with no power whatsoever.
The scary thing is that it can happen to anyone, at any time (the threat is always there), and that often, women do it to each other.
All I can say?
Refuse to become a part of this dynamic.
Because if you play a big enough game, it’s just a matter of time (and a numbers game) until a disgruntled ex-client, a disappointed fan, or a resentful business partner tries to engage you in a public and forced “accountability process”.
You don’t even have to be a bad person anymore!
It’s for everyone!
Again, this isn’t a case for “let’s just do away with accountability”.
But when accountability turns into shaming and the destroying of livelihoods, creating a deep-seated fear of visibility and success in all of us?
Ask the question…
WHO DOES THAT SERVE?
And this leads me to my final reason for today…
It effectively shuts women up in business
Like I shared before… I stopped saying what I felt like saying.
Making my normally ON FIRE content become as gray-beige-y as my chain-smoking grandmother’s aura. Giving up my voice, to be silent but good, seemed the better (be it subconscious) option.
Yep, this is why you might be struggling with staying consistent with your content plan.
You’ve run out of things you didn’t really want to say in the first place!
Absolutely… if you’re realizing that what comes out of your mouth is racist (for example), take a break, get educated and do better.
But if you start to feel unable to speak your mind, period?
You’ve run into purity culture.
Run the other way!
Ironically, it was my women of color friends who snapped me out of my self-flagellatory censorship haze. Making me take my first, tentative little steps towards finding my voice again.
You know who you are, and I’m forever grateful.
Obviously the word ethical in this article has massive quotation marks around it.
Because I absolutely love the intention behind the Ethical Marketing movement. It’s deeply needed, and many business leaders within that space are curiously exploring, not dictating.
What I’m talking about is where “wanting to do better”, into a threat of “you better do better… or else”.
In the end…
What matters to me is that my masterclasses are filled with women who look and live differently than I do.
I care about the trans men in our community feeling deeply understood and loved. And that all feel welcomed to be who they are, and be visible being who they are in the communities we create as a company.
I care about making such an abundant amount of money that I can give generously from the overflow and directly support activists fighting for social, racial, and environmental justice.
I can always do better and will continue to make that my priority.
Let’s talk in the comments.
I’m here to learn and make a fuck ton of money, just like you.
(because remember, they’re not mutually exclusive).