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Being Good Women: The Rise and Appeal of Femininity Among Globalist Women

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Qassim, Summer 


This thesis is focused on ethics as a practice of becoming. It examines a large, growing group of geographically dispersed women united in their devotion to a neo-Buddhist relationship guru who instructs them, online, in the embodiment of femininity as the means to realizing success in their desired heteronormative relationships. This is Feminine Magnetism™, a global countermovement to mainstream feminism led by dating coach and guru Katarina “Kat” Phang. The central questions the thesis asks are: Why and how do these women seek to change themselves into feminine others? What is the relationship between coaching, online support groups, and the goal of recalibration into a polarized, feminine self? What does the process of becoming an “other” across a digital and non-digital interface mean as an ethical practice?

As I observed this ethical self-cultivation that necessarily, for my interlocuters, mediated between their online and offline selves, it became clear that the discourse upon which their feminine ideal was born was itself a mediation between encounters – Buddhism and psycho-therapeutic self-help discourses – a hybridization that can be placed within those vague and varied spiritual practices that are often referred to as “New Age” or “New Thought” in what has come to be called the West. That is to say, “becoming” revealed itself not just as a micro-unit of analysis of split interlocuter selves – physical/digital, idealized/uncultivated, or real/virtual – but also as part of a broader conceptual and ethnographic focus: the discovery of a philosophical “ethical encounter with the Other”(El Shakry 2017: 17).

At the same time, Feminine Magnetism’s™ founder, Katarina Phang, (which, fieldwork revealed, is not her real name) herself a product of an “awakening” that led to the initial establishment of her discourse and coaching business, over the course of my fieldwork, underwent a dramatic metamorphosis. This thesis, then, is also about a charismatic leader’s process of becoming an “other.”

“Becoming” implies a priori the existence of an original, or, at the very least, an origin. If an origin is an a priori assumption, so too then is a destination. Becoming another, or an “other” points not only to notions of fundamental difference but also to the multiple shifts of differential iterations moving towards idealization, whether at the level of the self, philosophical tradition, or amidst anthropological discussions of cultural others and, in the ethnographic instances presented here, across a digital and ethical interface. This thesis, then, is also about these processes of movement.





Laidlaw, James


digital ethnography, ethics, femininity, New Age spiritualities


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge