|Photo by William Farlow.
If you've ever been a part of a spiritual community, or even just showed up for yoga class, you may have noticed a pretty specific demographic. Like... white people? White women? Specifically, white thin women, who are able-bodied and pretty? What's the deal with that?
Here is an article about this phenomenon that I recommend you read! Especially if you are involved in spiritual communities: Racism in Spiritual and Wellbeing Communities by Gabriella Evangeline.
"If I ask you to visualize a typical yoga teacher, or “spiritual woman” what image comes into your mind? I imagine a skinny, white, blonde woman in a crop top and colourful leggings, probably around 30 and definitely middle class. Why do I imagine that? Because that’s what I see around me."
"Spirituality is supposed to be about changing yourself and the world for better; so why were all these spaces excluding more than half of the population?"
What she comes down to is that it's a problematic side-effect of a spiritual practice being turned into a business. By trying to appeal to everyone and/or communicate their upper-class value (justifying hefty price tags), the promotional materials feature women who are young, thin, and white. Then to make the classes feel "authentic", other cultural and spiritual traditions are borrowed from without a lot of context or knowledge, which further alienates people of colour who may have shown up.
Further confirmation of the whiteness of spiritual spaces: stock photography. I use Unsplash a lot for images, and when I searched "spiritual", I mostly got a bunch of pictures of lilypads, rocks, streams of sunlight, and misty skies, plus a dreamcatcher described as "feathers hanging from a decorative hoop." (Did the photographer honestly not know what it was???)
When there were people in the pictures, what do you think they looked like?
To their credit, I suppose, the very first image was a pair of black hands, clasped in prayer, but after that? White, probably female, hands holding glitter, feathers, sand, candles, and flowers. A white woman meditating. A close up of a white woman's eye. A white woman holding peacock feathers in front of her face. A white woman looking pensive on a mountaintop. Lots and lots of white ladies.
Also, can we take a moment to appreciate that a hand holding sand and a woman holding peacock feathers in front of her face were tagged as "spiritual" in a stock photography library? The world is funny.
Sign up for my email newsletter for a weekly digest and BONUS CONTENT!