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NPR: Lululemon’s ‘John Galt’ Un-Yoga Like Criticism, Our Sad Mediocrity and Tea Party’s Ron Paul

in Business of Yoga, YD News

The Ayn Rand/Lululemon predic-ridic-ament is gathering steam, with people in the yoga world outraged (and probably the same amount unfazed) over the “Who is John Galt?” shopping bags and subsequent alignment with what some deem controversial, or “non-yoga” philosophies. The quote is from Rand’s 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged, which is considered by some as the “bible of the Tea Party.”

The buzz has reached NPR’s ALL THINGS CONSIDERED where host Guy Raz interviews the Globe and Mail‘s Simon Houpt on the lulu lollies’ shopping bag tribute to Rand’s ideologies. (just re-reading that sentence gives us the ‘greatness’ heebs. ideologies of uniqueness, on shopping bags).

Here’s an excerpt covering the criticism from customers on lulu’s non-yoganess, our pitiful lives of mediocrity and Ron Paul fans in stretchy pants:

RAZ: Now, for some – many, actually – Lululemon customers, this is not sitting well. They are not happy about this. What have they said to you?

HOUPT: Oh, boy. They’ve said to me and they’ve said online, certainly at our website at the Globe and Mail, that this is completely contrary to the teachings of yoga, that yoga is, in fact, a core component of building community and that the notion of self-interest, in fact, runs completely against that.

RAZ: You mean, they don’t get into yoga after reading “Atlas Shrugged”?

HOUPT: I have yet to find a yogi who has done so.

RAZ: Right. Yeah. On the company’s blog on its website, they try to explain this, essentially saying, look, society encourages people to be mediocre. This quote urges people to break free of – and this is a quote – “the constraints and limitations on ourselves, which impede us from living our best lives.”

Explain why the company decided to put this on the side of their bags.

HOUPT: Well, I do have some trouble with that because, in fact, in reaching out numerous times to the company, they actually refused to speak on the record to offer their opinion to me. However, in the blog post you refer to, they do offer an explanation and they believe that this book inspires people to embrace greatness rather than this life of sad disappointment, which apparently where all the rest of us are leading.

RAZ: Two stories that whenever we do them on the air, I’ve done them on the air, get the most response. One, any interview with Ron Paul. And two, anything on Ayn Rand. So, I wonder if this is sort of a, actually a smart way to get more business, right, because you might get all these objectivists all of a sudden taking up yoga. We, by the way, also tried to contact the company to speak with Chip Wilson. He’s not available to talk about this.

HOUPT: That’s entirely possible. However, at least at the moment, it does seem – the evidence suggests that Lululemon has severely alienated its core constituency. Certainly here in Toronto, the moms in the fantastic-looking Lululemon pants are discussing this in the school yards and the yoga studios and they’re not at all possible. And so, it’s possible that Ron Paul followers will suddenly embrace yoga or may buy a fantastic-looking pair of pants. And at the very least, it just means that Ron Paul will have some followers who just look great from behind.

You can listen to the full interview at NPR.org



17 comments… add one
  • Vision_Quest2

    On another bag:

    WHAT is a Lululemon as compared to sour grapes?

    On yet another bag:

    If life hands you Lululemons, give Lululemon AIDS …


    • David D

      I hope you get as worked up when you see quotes from Marx, Mao, or Che on things too. I mean, if the words of a marginal philosopher gets you that excited, then certainly people central to a movement and ideology that has killed, improvered, and imprisoned billions worldwide should be worthy of significant scorn too.

  • David, you’re political worldview is entirely dated. Beating the drum of how “evil” communism is as outdated as Rand’s political drivel.

    With that said, the fact that a a company like Lululemon has become so synonymous with yoga practice that it’s silly bags are actually in need of commentary demonstrates how far much of the modern yoga world has sunk. I long for the day when this company and it’s overpriced products is a barely remembered footnote amongst yoga practitioners. But I doubt that will be anytime soon, given how strongly a foothold consumerism has over us all.

    • David D

      Nathan, that’s a curious statement: my view of communism is “dated.” What, exactly, is your “current” approved view of communism? So, I guess you are good with the atrocities of Uncle Joe, Chairman Mao, comrade Fidel, brother Che, Pol Pot, and others? Funny, whenever communism has been tried, it has resulted in millions upon millions dead and many more suffering improverishment.

      Yet, when I look around, I see shirts with Lenin, Che, and Mao on them, usually worn by people decrying the evils of capitalism. Without flinching, people wear shirts displaying the faces of murdering totalitarians, while complaining that it’s not fair that someone else makes more money than them. That is disturbing, to say the least.

      If Rand provokes such a strong emotional reaction in someone, I would expect that they would have an even greater reaction to people who have killed and impoverished millions. You seem to think that’s passe. I guess I’m old fashioned in my reaction to ideologically motivated mass murder and expect my fellow citizens to feel the same way.

      Seriously, Rand’s a nobody, barely influential among those who read her. Marx and his followers have had enormous influence in the world, a bad influence, and this influence continues in the world today. Yet, to you, it’s gauche to try to maintain some perspective about such things or to ask others to have some perspective.

      In a larger sense, my point is that the yoga community is in a twist over a few bags with Rand quotes on them, but products featuring Che, Mao, or Lenin get worn with approval or at least tolerance. There’s something really wrong and messed up with that.

      Regarding Lulu, if you don’t like them, don’t buy them. If others don’t like them, then they will not last. We are all responsible for our decisions, including what we buy and support. But acting like the problem is that people (usually “other” people) can choose what they want (the strong “foothold consumerism” has, in your words) is both unjustifiably self-righteous and elitist.

      • Vision_Quest2

        The elitism already exists … in the target market for Lululemon … all about showing off … all about expensive yoga studio classes … all about lunching ladies …

        With the Tea Party … it’s all about carrying guns … libertarianism … independent militia …

        This has got to be a reaction to #Occupy movements and how they may have inconvenienced people; and rather than cynicism, it is a very disingenuous ploy on the part of Lulu to play it for all it’s worth …

        Including, but not limited to … maybe something tough to parody without possibly angering some Marxists?

        Luckily, I still have yet another parody of the former bag:


        They have some diabolically ace marketers … and a reputation that lives down a store policy of frisking employees, a violent murder by one of them, and sexual exploitation of minors who enter their contests … don’t tell me that the rape fantasy in Atlas Shrugged does not subliminally figure in here, because it does … what differentiates Lulu from American Apparel is a matter of degree …

        • David D

          Wow! You have a powerful imagination and an ability to speculate that is impressive. If you think that Lulu or Rand are worse than mass-murderering dictators, then I’ll let that speak for itself. Not necessarily surprising, but sad.

          Regardless, by your standards, the entirety of OWS is a group of raping, murderering, drug-addled, racist criminals who hate the poor and homeless. I mean, if Lulu is that bad for the reasons you say, then OWS must be at least 100 times worse based on the actions (and subliminal thoughts) of some of their members. However, I have a suspicion you only hold people you don’t like to that standard.

          Maybe next year Lulu will come out with a “Let’s nuke NY” line of bags and maybe that will redeem them for you. (That’s what Che wanted to do with the nukes Cuba was trying to get from the USSR during the Cuban Missle Crisis. Nice guy. But at least he wasn’t selling overpriced yoga pants. That would be a problem.)

          • Vision_Quest2

            No, they would not. Not by a long shot. That store probably has a contempt for grain silos rather than a love of missile silos. They obviously are not fond of the U.S. heartland. They need the commercial yoga machine, not someone who could easily work up tapas at home in a pair of Old Navy pants . So, some of their best, high-rolling customers live in New York and don’t even do yoga—and many share your politics …they may not be old enough to understand the tired, old-school kind you talk about …

            It is suspicion of theft that provoked the in-store murder by the employee …

          • sb303

            Seriously, you came to troll here? Was it a slow on day on HuffPost or something?

      • David, you assume I defend the use of Mao, Che, etc. as marketing tools, which I don’t. Furthermore, you assume that I support the genocide driven by Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin and others, which is an outlandish accusation.

        I’ll be honest – I think capitalism is a destructive system and am actively working to build something more ecological and humane. I have zero desire to sit and debate the merits or de-merits of communism because I think it was – in the forms that manifested in the 20th century – also a failure. You seem to want to brand those who disagree with capitalism as communists, whereas I support neither system as they have manifested, and there are plenty of folks like me out there. The communist/capitalist binary is outdated.

        As for we being responsible for our decisions, that’s entirely true. We are responsible individually and collectively. Responsibility is larger than simply managing your shopping choices. And frankly, freedom is much grander than simply being able to choose to purchase some crap or not.

  • “with people in the yoga world outraged (and probably the same amount unfazed)”

    Actually, I’d say that’s more like “a thousand times as many unfazed,” as is the case with every yoga blog controversy. That’s not to say these controversies aren’t important, but we denizens the yoga blog world really ought to take a daily dose of humility in the realization that the vast majority of people who practice yoga couldn’t care less about the things that outrage us.

  • Monica

    Nathan makes an excellent point about how strange it is to treat a clothing company as integral to or the spokespeople for yoga. This reminds me of the coverage of the (recently concluded) trial for the murder that took place in a Bethesda, MD Lululemon. Over and over again, reporters would refer to it as a “yoga store.” What could that possibly even mean? It made me want to beat my head against a wall. Yes, let’s all go buy some yoga from Lululemon, and carry that yoga home in our John Galt shopping bags.

    • Vision_Quest2

      LOL :p …. If my yoga depended on the existence of Lululemon, my practice would not exist. Of course, they did me a big favor. Now I clearly see their rationale for the way they do business, as well … Btw, I’ve never set foot in a Lululemon store … came close to out of curiosity … but this advertising came along, and I liken it NOW to touching a hot stove!

  • Christian

    The reaction to Ayn Rand is telling of a crowd that simply does not understand the totality of what she stood for, nor has a clue of her personal striving. Women who proclaim to honor trailblazing women conveniently forget or worse are not aware of her compelling story as a young women. She was a brash, complex women no doubt. Her brashness and drive is the reason she busted out of Soviet Russia.

    In terms of her philosophy as it applies to the yoga community, again look deeper. Rand took her philosophical cues directly from Aristotle. Aristotle’s concept of flourishing, which Rand endorsed, was terrifically self centered. An absolute duty to achieve, attain and be personally responsible. NOT for selfish reasons however, but because a person that flourishes ultimately benefits the community. The community is the most important thing. Yoga is a selfish practice, but we take what we do on the mat and launch it into the world. This is exactly what Aristotle’s conception of happiness asserts, and by extension what Rand was driving toward. Save the piece meal quotes that makes Rand look like a monster, and read her entire philosophy before making definitive judgements.

  • Scott

    By definition, half of the people will be at or below average no matter what is being measured (skewness and kurtosis not withstanding). So, criticizing mediocrity is essentially a misanthropic statement. Long Live Mediocrity! Fair to middlin, cener of the normal curve mo fos unite!

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