Opinion: After Waking Life scandal, women assess the damage done

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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Ashvegas: The City You Love. The News You Want.A  group of women involved in the Waking Life scandal gathered Saturday night for the first time since the scandal broke last week. What follows are some thoughts and observations by one of the attendees, who asked to remain anonymous.

Waking Life Unfolding: The Victim’s Perspective

By Anonymous

When the news broke a little over a week ago about the comments that Waking Life coffee shop owners Jared Rutledge and Jacob Owens had made, I was shocked and angry to read what was written about me and other women. I knew then that I had to reach out to them.

I connected with them through social media. I told them I was one of the women Jared had written about, and our bond began to form. I found about a dozen other women who came forward. We created a group for us to discuss, process and write about our own story. We also talked about what we thought we should do next.

There was ongoing discussion and an analysis of Jared and Jacob’s apologizes. We discussed what we thought their next steps should be. We decided to all meet up this past weekend to continue our processing and healing.

We joked to ease the pain: “I finally made it into Cosmo magazine, but unfortunately it was for a horrible description about myself.” One woman talked about how she will have trouble ever trusting anyone again, especially in dating. Another woman, who was playful, funny, and instantly everyone’s friend, described herself as a survivor of emotional and physical abuse from a former lover. We were all processing what had just happened. We were becoming friends.

We all mostly agreed that Jared and Jacob should reach out to us (which they have done in a few instances) and most felt we didn’t need to take the time to reach out to them unless we wanted to. One woman contacted them to start the conversation, but we all generally felt that it wasn’t our place to coddle them, and that in this day and age you can easily track someone down if you want to.

Another common theme was that we felt they used us by systematically recording and producing online posts, all of which fueled their agenda in the “red pill” world.  They created a marketing machine for themselves in the name of “Holistic Game,” as if using the word “holistic” somehow made what they did justifiable.

Most of us feel like their views haven’t really changed, and that their apologies and interviews are just aimed at saving their business. We also mostly agreed they need to be in therapy to better themselves, and do other work like volunteering. We mostly found it odd that in no interview or apology, they didn’t mention what they were going to do to better themselves. That upset a lot of us.

I disagree with new articles written about them that use terms like “mob mentality” and “pitchforks” to describe some of the community response to what they did. That’s an easy cop-out. The horrible, misogynistic comments made people angry. It’s a deep issue that affects not only the awesome women they wrote about, but other loved ones and family members. Their anger is justified. There were peaceful protests last week, not angry West Ashevillians with pitchforks. As with any scandal, there are people who write awful things about “jumping off a cliff,” but that was a minor element. No one is holding pitchforks.  Everyone is upset and this is a serious issues.

Jared and Jacob also chose to be interviewed in a podcast this past Saturday, but only shared the link in a closed Facebook group. I only heard about the interview after another girl in the group told us. I also don’t understand why they chose this specific podcast guy, as I did research on him he goes by two different last names. I had to turn off the podcast because the interviewer seemed to be another empathetic male. If you wanted to be in Asheville community’s good graces, wouldn’t you want the first interview or podcast to be with a news reporter here?

Another question: what about the girl that was featured and interviewed on your Holistic Game podcast? Was she a part of this the whole time and knew?

Everything that has happened has left a deep mark on the women involved. Some people seem to think what Jared and Jacob did is no different than “locker room talk” that guys engage in.  We want to point out their language is damaging and terrifying. One girl had to talk to her boss and bring up what happened. One girl discussed how this affected her current relationship. She said she feels lost talking to others, even her significant other.  One girl described how this issue brought up trauma from a previous relationship. We all agreed that it’s hard for us to trust others now, but we want to.

We would not like to see this scandal go away. We want to continue a community-wide discussion about how “red pill” and “manosphere” blogs and podcasts are damaging to all people. We all applaud Our Voice on not accepting their money and would like Our Voice and other non-profits to continue to set up ongoing community discussions.

In online comments, people have described us as “gullible” and “sluts.” We are far from this. We are all strong, courageous women who thought we were entering a trusting relationship, whether it was a casual setup or dating. Most of us continue to support the boycott of Waking Life and hope you as readers with think hard about doing the same.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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  1. C October 4, 2015

    If someone can point me in direction of Holistic Game podcast #17 with the girl (“Dee”) I have a hunch who she may be, just need to compare voice (the person I suspect “Dee” is has another podcast online that would be easy to compare the voice to).

    1. Jonathan October 11, 2015

      That’s incredibly fucked up. Stop it.

  2. DL Ellenburg October 4, 2015

    I too, am so proud of all of you. I know it is not comfortable being in the public eye in a misogynous blog, and then purposefully, but please stand resolute and we will back you. Your stance is so important to other young women…or women in general. It is time that other men who treat women as objects of derision, whose sexuality is a form of sadism be forced out into the open. “Slut”, they call you, as if they, these types of despicable men, make the rules about sexuality and sensuality. They do as they please…they are men; women who do so are sluts. It is an age old story, and as women we need to stop engaging with these men, even in their so-called recovery from misogyny. Let them get professional help. Enjoy who you are with partners who celebrate you.Do not settle for less. I am so sorry you have had the misfortune to encounter this kind of man.

  3. Jadwiga McKay October 3, 2015

    Proud to be a woman right now. Proud to be a resident of West Asheville. Poud of you amazing women banding together to heal and to make your voices be heard. This is a difficult time but also a powerful moment. You all have my love and support. I am here for you.

  4. Jax October 2, 2015

    Thank you so much for coming forward and putting a bit of human connection to you all. I’m so sorry your life was put on display. The community, myself included will not allow this to be swept under the rug, this conversation will continue!

  5. A. Austin October 2, 2015

    Ladies, kudos to you for speaking up.
    The protesters are out there, peacefully announcing our presence to the community for YOU and for others that have been or found themselves to have been abused and disrespected. We are there to say that WE do not stand for what these men did.

    We are there to say that YOU have done nothing to be ashamed of. These two men, THEY have much to be ashamed of.

    We are still out there, because we also DON’T think it should be swept under the rug, (which is a tacit form of acceptance).

    We support you, and others that have the misfortune of falling prey to some people that really .. need to just get a grip.

    We do it publicly, because that is how you answer their public promotion of misogyny. They put it in the public sphere, that is not locker room talk, that is promotion and spreading of their twisted and hurtful behavior.

    I write this to let you know that WE not only support you. But we also recognize that the whole trying to spin that they are doing; trying to say that it was a “mistake”. A mistake is a one time thing, what they did was promote, and educate others on how to disrespect more than half of the human race.

    We support YOU!

    Thank you very much for taking the time to write this, and share some of what YOU are thinking!

  6. Lesley October 1, 2015

    I’m so proud of you strong, brave women! Don’t worry, there are many of us in your community who have your back.

  7. Matt Johnson October 1, 2015

    “Some people seem to think what Jared and Jacob did is no different than “locker room talk” that guys engage in.”

    I can’t tell you how many guys I have heard say this over the last two weeks. This went WAY beyond that.


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