All The Pretty Avon Ladies

MLMs sell themselves using self-empowerment language and sparkly beauty products. They’re #girlboss mythology repacked for Christians and Mormons; entrepreneurialism for women brought up believing men should be the breadwinners; and a peppy dream for millennials who were told they could do anything…

If you haven’t yet, take a few minutes to read this excellent Quartz deep dive on Multilevel Marketing schemes (specifically LuLaRoe, the infamous shitty-leggings company). Many of us have noticed MLMs popping up in our Facebook feeds—I’ve seen several of my acquaintances pledging their allegiance to their #rodanandfields sales team of #bossbabes, and professing, “Is there anything you want to change about your skin? If you can dream it, R+F can do it!#lovetheskinyourin #randf #bestskinofmylife” in almost cult-like fervor. THAT’S BECAUSE THEY’RE LITERALLY USING CULT TACTICS! Check it:

Whether they realize it or not, consultant leaders often use time-honored cult tactics of denial and blame to keep women within their sorority. A famous series of experiments from the 1950s conducted by Soloman Asch in England showed that three out of four people will deny evidence right in front of them if the majority says it’s not true. In the study, individuals were placed in groups where they were constantly contradicted by other members. When this happened over a length of time, they would start to agree with the majority—even though it was clear that the opposite was true. In MLMs, “you’re trained to avoid people who question whether this is a viable business or not,” Brooks says. “Which is exactly the same technique that cults use—they try to isolate you from people who question your belief system. I’ve been contacted by a number of people who deal with cult survivors, and some of their clients are former MLM people.”

There are so many reasons why companies like LuLaRoe, while legally in a sort of gray area between pyramid scheme and legitimate business venture, should be avoided like the psychological and financial plague that they are. Here’s Brittany K. King last week on the same topic:

In the end, you’re left with a basement full of eyeshadow, a lot of time spent Facebook, and not a whole lot of dignity.

Image: Tara_St via Flickr