“Hey girl!!! How have you been? Your vacation pictures are CAAAA-YUTEEEE! Looks like you’re living your best life, you boss babe you. I noticed a post about your endometriosis & my company, Arbonne, makes these fizzy sticks that honestly cured my cramps. Can I send you a sample pack? PS Miss you! It’s been so long since our 8th grade English class where I bullied you for your acne, crimped hair, and two-toned braces bands. Xoxo.”
This is almost an exact text my sister, managing her chronic condition on a daily basis, received about a year ago. You know, minus the obvious statement at the end. That goes without saying. She was targeted by a woman who was equally targeted by a scam: an MLM.
What is an MLM, you may be asking? An MLM, or multi-level-marketing company, is a marketing strategy for the sale of goods and/or services where the revenue of the MLM company is derived from a non-salaried workforce. This workforce sells the company’s products and/or services, while the earnings of the participants are derived from a pyramid-shaped or binary compensation commission system. In Layman’s Terms, it is a fancy, new-age pyramid scheme- mostly targeting women.
One of the first MLMs, Tupperware, targeted 1950s housewives. In a 1959 magazine-ran ad (see below), we see a prim and proper housewife dreaming of plastic containers. The ad claims “every woman dreams of spending less time on housework and more time enjoying fun with her family.” The 19th amendment, allowing women to have the same voting rights as their male counterparts, was ratified on August 18, 1920. 39 years later, as evidenced by this ad, equality was still NOT prevalent. Women were still stereotyped and groomed to be “housewives,” who wanted nothing more than to please their families. I’m not here to give you a history lesson, so we’ll move on.
At this point, you may be asking “Anna, what are you trying to prove? I love selling my lab-made, chemical-free, gluten-free, organic, non-GMO wine. Why do you care so much?” To that I say, if it makes you happy- then go for it. However, I will not be supporting your MLM ventures. I care about you too much.
Women are paid less than men. According to a study by Leanin.org, women in the US make 18% less than men. Over the course of a year, the average woman loses $10,122 as a result of the gender pay gap.
In turn, the average MLM sales rep makes about $2,400 per year selling products (or $46.03 a week), according to an article from One Inc.com.
If women came together and demanded equal pay, we wouldn’t have to resort to selling non-certified, often self-damaging products to our network. To exploit our friends and “boss babe teams” is one of the most anti-feminist things we can do for pushing the female agenda along the road of equality.
Take a look around your network. Who is selling these products? How many many men are willingly sliding into your DMs and selling you pills, serums, meal supplements, and hair care products. I’m not quoting research on this one, but I’ll take a wild guess and say zero. MLMs are predatory. They target women- particularly stay-at-home moms, who are told they can have untapped income, flexible hours, and can tend to their kids and spouse. This fallacy alone makes MLM a feminist issue. A feminist nightmare, really.
According to a poll from JobsInMarketing.io, 74% of MLM consultants are women between the ages of 35–45. 42% of low-income MLM representatives consider it to be their second income. One study by AARP found that 73% of MLM participants either don’t make money or lose money. This statistic could be as high as 99%. This is problematic.
Marketing for some MLMs promotes INSANE prizes for their top performers: exotic vacations, luxury vehicles, and made-up titles to plaster on your LinkedIn- to name a few.
Arbonne offers its top performers a free white Mercedes. According to a previous top-performer, when she went to pick up her free vehicle (with Arbonne stamped in two places), she was told she would actually be contributing financially toward her “prize.” She’d need to keep up her quota or risk falling behind on her new car payments. This is how financial slavery works.
Whenever I log onto Facebook to check friends’ birthdays (the now sole function in my life), I get sucked into scrolling. Friends from high school, now stay-at-home mothers, plaster the site with their advertisements. I’ve seen countless women from my past & present join Arbonne, Avon, Mary-Kay, Herbalife, Scout & Cellar, Rodan + Fields, Neora, & Monat.
The majority of these MLMs center around “beauty” and women’s health. We need to stop exploiting women’s insecurities to sell them products and recruit them. Women don’t need to be constantly told to lose weight, to improve their skins, or to get shinier hair by their own network. We can purchase products on our own time, from verified sellers, not someone who isn’t a licensed nutritionist telling us which supplements we should and should not be taking.
We’ve all been there. Virtually cornered online. The 87 compliments, buttering us up, with the final accolade not being an accolade at all. Instead, it’s a plea- “Buy my product. Join my team.” I’m a woman. My goal earlier in life was to be known as the “nice” girl. To never say no. To never refuse. To be agreeable. Sadly all anti-feminist goals, by definition, but I’ve progressed.
I’d like to speak frankly to my fellow women, who still want to be “nice.” Instead of buying the lash serum or the 19 part facial regime, do your research. Educate your fellow sisters that the problem is simple. Women rightfully feel they need extra cash because we are still being paid less than the average man who is doing the exact same job as us. By joining or supporting these MLMS, we aren’t eradicating this issue- we are slapping a bandaid on it.
I encourage you to think about the inevitable damage that being a “boss babe” has. We all need money in order to survive- that is a fact of life. Change is a long game. While it’s easier to jump aboard the S.S. MLM, it’s longevity isn’t realistic. We need more women to be champions for change. We need more women to fight for equal pay and hold their employers accountable. We need to ensure we’re in equal partnerships, where it’s not just assumed we’re going to stay home and support the family. We need to give our daughters the tools they need to become feminists. We need fewer hurdles to jump through and less quicksand to fall into. We need more women to stop supporting the MLMs that were designed to keep us in “our place.”