TW: Rape-culture, capitalism
I have a confession to make to the world.
I WANT TO BE RICH AND FAMOUS.
And I want to do this through the radical work that I am doing.
Yikes. That was scary. I feel like I just uploaded a naked picture of myself to the internet.
It sure helps though that my friend and colleague, Carmen Spagnola already got me on record admitting to this truth of mine on her Numinous Podcast. Carmen was/is an accountability buddy from Turtle Tank (which I will shout-out to again), a radical entrepreneur incubator, so she was one of the few people in the world that knew my deep dark secret: that I basically want to be the social justice warrior version of Scrooge McDuck.
The day we recorded my episode (to be released very soon), I had already decided I wanted to admit to the world my ambitions for fortune and fame, but then she just asked me, “hey Tada, so I know you want to be rich and famous…” to my surprise. So thank you Carmen, I love you and hate you.
So this piece is about me explaining to you why it is important to me to publicly declare my longing for wealth and visibility. I hope it works!
Here it goes…
I believe that if we are to welcome the next era of change, we need to cultivate money-positivity as a core value in social justice work.
Because the greatest feat of capitalism is that it has made making money evil, thereby ensuring the concentrated flow of money into the hands of few businesses that are in fundamentally dysfunctional relationships with the world around them.
I believe capitalism is to money, as rape-culture is to sex. One of the most abhorrent ways in which capitalism violates us is by severing us from our natural desire for exchange by equating it with violence.
(NOTE: In speaking about rape-culture I focus on my own lived experience as a masculine person who is programmed with the idea that I must manipulate or coerce another into sex. I believe this is the authentic position I can learn and speak from. I also follow the lead of the many women and non-binary thinkers, coaches, and therapists who have supported me in my struggles with consent and intimacy.)
As a community, we activists have bought into the nobility of poverty and have contributed to a cultural environment where our movements will be impossible to sustain or grow. We have been manipulated into economic self-harm through money shaming and thereby maintaining power imbalances that are so destructive to us.
I also understand why this is. Just like how it is extremely challenging to have intimate and consensual sex within rape-culture, it can feel damn nearly impossible to build businesses aligned with our social justice values within a social context dominated by capitalism.
When I speak to (many non-cis-male and/or non-white) fellow business owners, facilitators, organizers, healers and other folks involved in social change work, I hear about the difficulties of this all the time. The majority of us, either as frazzled freelancers/entrepreneurs or disgruntled employees of organizations, hardly make an income that is even close to middle class. Yet, we regularly come up against questions around whether it is OK for us to make money from our work.
And the truth is that so many of us have experienced exile from our communities for having an interest in gaining financial wealth. Almost all of my close colleagues have more than once been ‘dumped’ by friends because they desired to make money.
And of course, I have experienced the same. My commitment to money-positivity has been a central factor in the disintegration of some of the most important relationships that I had.
The thing is, as our projects stumble and our nervous systems burn out, as we face our own internalized shame around desiring wealth and grieve the loss of our most cherished relationships, billion-dollar corporations chug along like mean machines that just don’t give a fuck.
The rub is that the bias we have towards money parallels the historically puritanical attitudes towards sex held by politicized patriarchal Christianity. And if we remember correctly, missionaries and merchants were often the ones leading the charge of colonization.
And just like how the puritanism of patriarchy disconnects us from our sexual power, capitalism disconnect us from our financial power.
Images: Bible quotes on money and sex
Capitalism and puritanism are collaborators. They both stigmatize desire by propagating an unhealthy and unethical attitude towards it. Together, they create a devastating effect that has us policing each other’s economic ambitions into failure.
By shaming financial desire, we are robbing ourselves of accessing an incredibly emotional powerful tool that can fuel change in an incredibly resilient way.
I am going to say this again very clear: if you shame money, you are not resisting capitalism, you are participating in it. Because capitalism isn’t really about ‘making more money’. It’s actually about equating money with violence, which in turn makes violence the foundation of financial transactions.
Because of this, I stand by the notion that business, as an exchange of money, is a pleasurable act that is naturally meant to be enacted from a place of mutual consent, curiosity, and desire. There is no need to justify the pleasures of business, of feeling seen/validated/powerful/satiated/free, with rationalizations, which appeal to our moralism programmed by the combination of puritanism and capitalism.
The truth is that justifications that are common in activist communities around the subject of money, such as “well we all need it to survive in a capitalist system until we dismantle it” or “At least I can make a living while helping others” actually serve to disempower us.
The logic of the above statements follows similar patterns to how toxified masculinity asks women to please men without a regard for their enjoyment. Both capitalism and rape-culture shame ‘the marginalized’ into disowning their right to experience pleasure.
What’s painful for me to watch is that not only are we fucked by corporate capitalism, we further victimize each other through puritanical shaming.
This is why, to me, re-claiming the pleasures of money is step-one to undoing the ideas and attitudes that capitalism represents, even if it might feel bad at first.
The film director John Waters has a quote: “I thank God I was raised Catholic, so sex will always be dirty.”
So if the pleasure of making a buck feels shameful, so be it. I invite the radical idea that we enjoy it, even relish it as such.
What really matters is how the pleasures of money are experienced, especially taking into consideration the systems of privilege that we are involved in.
This has brought me to the idea of re-thinking the landscape of radical work, especially with my learning experience at Turtle Tank, a radical entrepreneur incubator lead by QTWOC.
(The Turtle Tank program has been incredibly instrumental in the growth of my work as it gave me space to sit in my desire and honour it for what it is without shaming it. Through the work there I have developed a deeper understanding of how desire is what sustains resilience as QTPOC and other marginalized peoples. Did I also mention that they are great strategists? I highly recommend their work if you feel stuck! I also recommend the work of Bari Tessler in regards to working somatically with money shame.)
But first off, by radical work, I am not necessarily talking about ‘social entrepreneurship’, which is often partaken from positions of (white and/or male) privilege as ‘saviour AKA missionary work’. While I don’t see all social entrepreneurship to all fall under this frame, I do find that dominant discourse around social entrepreneurship is about justifying making money by saving the powerless.
And that makes me feel all kinds of yuck.
What I am talking about is a practice of converting our marginalized wisdom into wealth, as queers, as IBPOC, and as other oppressed identities into wealth AND not have it stolen by the dominant forces of white supremacy and patriarchy AND fucking loving money the money we make with a visceral “mmmmmmph!!!”.
To some, this may sound impossible, yet I believe in it completely – because this is what my projects are designed to do, and its working. And I have many other colleagues who are following a similar path.
(I also don’t forget that entrepreneurship has always been central to the survival and preservation of communities of colour. By nature we are less employable and creating our own businesses has always been a way for us to sustain our cultures. So money-shaming can also have white supremacist implications.)
What radical business is about is valuing the aspects of ourselves that usually make us feel powerless. Money speaks volumes about what we value. Being radical to me means changing how we value ourselves and others where we feel most vulnerable because of oppression.
In my own journey, the idea of launching a coaching group for white people as a POC was terrifying. First, there was the fear that my work will not be appreciated and paid for appropriately because of my race. Second, which still exists, is the fear that my work will be ripped off by a white business. History has proven my fears, time and time again after all.
But I am glad that I stepped into my fears (while acknowledging some of the privileges I have that made this process easier).
My work with white people has been incredibly healing for me.
I know that the work we are doing in the Authentic Allyship Coaching Group (AACG) is some of the most vulnerable and raw racism cessation work that is happening out there, thanks to the brave white folks who have shown up to it with the willingness to turn themselves inside out.
And how the project is set up in terms of money has been actually one of the most important features of it.
I offer the AACG through what I call Mindful Payment, a completely non-fixed pricing system, with no minimum or maximum price, where the subscriber is invited to” “come to a place of mindfulness and contribute an amount that nourishes you by filling you with hope, inspiration and other good stuff.”
I set up AACG this way because I wanted to know that my group members are not paying me out of obligation but their wholehearted desire.
Yes, it was an incredibly vulnerable thing to do. But I felt that, how I, as a POC, receive money from white people in exchange for my work was a critical piece to model what healthy allyship can actually look like. I wanted to feel naked as I could – trusting that I will be seen and paid for my work appropriately.
The first day payments arrived into my payment processor accounts, I wept and wept and wept.
That was also when I became sure that the un-shaming of money and business is one of the most important pieces within activism.
We need to reckon with the fact that activism is an industry and start advocating for it like it matters. Let’s co-create money-positive practices that are truly creative and breaks down capitalist conventions.
There is so much possibility.
Social justice is one of the largest possible growth industries right now. If you just take a look, the difference between need and supply is simply humungous.
The reason why I have finally decided to share all of this, especially my desire of wealth, with you, is that I want to be transparent.
I have seen first hand and heard about abuses of power within the social justice space, especially where it intersects with entrepreneurship, and I want to be clear with my intention – because I plan to grow my work till it feels right-sized.
This post is a way for me to declare my commitment to ethical business practices based on mutual consent, curiosity, and desire.
I believe that the above-mentioned abuses often happen because people in influential positions have disowned their deepest desires, which in turn manifests as coercion and manipulation.
I know that, as someone socially programmed as a man, my shame around my sexuality has often caused me to not be able to negotiate intimacy in a spacious and honest way. This has undermined my fundamental kindness and lead me to hurt people deeply – especially women and femmes.
Through sitting with my own sexual history, I have come to see how our shame around money propagates violence in a similar way.
This is why I feel that for me to pursue my work in a powerful and safe way, I need to take that scary step to be completely transparent to my community about the pleasures I derive from business. I want to exemplify money-positivity in the same way the many women and femmes have supported me on my journey around sex through modeling sex-positivity.
I hope this post clarifies to you my understandings about being an activist and an entrepreneur. I understand if some of the aspects of this post are confusing, even discomforting.
But I am sharing all of this because I trust that we are in a time where the paradigm of social change work is shifting.
And above all, I trust myself and my peers that embracing our desire for money can be a powerful engine to usher in the next phase of social change work. The world needs it.
Finally, here is a little list of values, informed by sex-positivity, that I would like to propose as money-positive values. I welcome everyone reading to explore what they may consider money-positive.
- Embracing the pleasures of ‘making’ and ‘spending’ money as natural and healthy.
- Committing to not shaming the amount of money yourself or anyone else may have or wish to have. Everyone has their own unique financial environment that fits them based on their temperament, life goals, and other unique factors.
- Striving to be in financial exchanges that are based on mutual consent, curiosity, and desire.
- Understanding how privilege may affect the ability of ourselves and others to be in financial exchanges that are based on mutual consent, curiosity, and desire.
- Valuing work produced by indigenous people, black * brown folks, women, queer and trans folks, people of colour, and other marginalized peoples by striving to compensate them appropriately, understanding it is one of the most authentic and healthy ways to make reparations without resorting to ‘saving’ behaviour.
- Taking time and space to consider the health (measured by factors such as consent and desire) of the monetary exchanges you are in.
“The Opposite of Rape Culture is Nurturance Culture” by Nora Samaran
“The Art of Money” by Bari Tessler
“What to do now as things fall apart” by Turtle Tank