The city of Asheville, North Carolina is home to a major international mainstream news scandal this week, with a direct tie to specialty coffee. The owners of an Asheville coffee company have found themselves embroiled in a dramatic backlash after their deeply misogynistic anonymous blog and podcast brand, “Holistic Game”, was discovered and publicly outed by a local reporter.
The story has ping-ponged across the American blogosphere for days, with original reporting happening on the ground in Asheville and by major publications based in New York City. Let’s dig through the story, but fair warning: some of the content we’re about to share is graphic, violent, and explicit.
So start from the beginning.
Waking Life Espresso is a cafe in Asheville, North Carolina co-owned by Jacob Owens and Jared Rutledge, whose hobbies include serving “flash chilled coffee” and dabbling in the fine art of seduction science. Owens and Rutledge ran an anonymous Twitter account with around 100 followers called “Holistic Game” (and a podcast of the same name) documenting in graphic detail their sexual exploits, successes and failures with the women of Asheville, North Carolina. Around 500 Tweets total were published, and some 21 episodes of their podcast were produced.
In August 2015 an anonymous citizen blogger began compiling hundreds of Jared Rutledge and Jacob Owens’ tweets and podcast as Holistic Game into a blog called “Jared And Jacob Said“. The blog explicitly ties the two Waking Life owners to the Holistic Game web empire by publishing damning photos from Rutledge’s own Tinder account.
The Asheville Blog ushered this story into the mainstream on September 19th. The story has since gone viral.
How bad was it?
Owens and Rutledge make rape jokes, for starters, and Owens chuckles about questionably consensual sex with someone while she was heavily medicated in a hospital. This graphic tweet has been excerpted widely across all coverage:
These two quotes, also from Twitter, appear across much of the coverage:
Holistic Game’s misogynistic masterwork is a post from March 2015, entitled “A Breakdown Of All Of My Lays“. The duo’s coffee shop features frequently throughout their exploits, as Waking Life appears to have been a central pickup nexus.
Who should I be reading coverage from on this news?
Jezebel is none-too-shockingly the smartest voice in the room in terms of coverage so far, with coverage by Joanna Rothkopf. Cosmopolitan‘s coverage is similarly thorough and well drawn, with the strongest protest visuals, in a feature written by Laura Beck and Prachi Gupta. Sites as markedly different as Ars Technica and USA Today have reported on the story as well. When the aforementioned Asheville Blog broke this story last week it was in a feature by Emily Trimnal, who spoke about the experience to Cosmo:
Last, and of course most sensational, the New York Daily News is in on the story with by far the best lede of the media dog-pile thus far: “This is what you get for brewing up misogyny.”
PUA? SJW? TRP? What the hell are all these terms?
Pickup Artist. Social Justice Warriors. The Red Pill.
This PUA-speak we’re referring to is a series of key phrases and acronyms popular across the “Pickup Artist” corners of the web, sometimes popularly referred to as the Manosphere. We like Dr. Nerdlove‘s writing on the topic for being both nuanced and devoid of bullshit:
Where the Wachowskis intended the scene to be a metaphor for the Buddha receiving enlightenment and no longer being bound by worldly concerns, to the Red Pill philosophy, it means “the recognition and awareness of the way that feminism, feminists and their white-knight enablers affect society.” It’s a neat rhetorical trick – trying to claim both the identity of a persecuted minority (cisgendered, hetero men) while also proclaiming themselves inherently superior to the “blue-pillers”, white knights and “betas” because they see the truth: that they’re supposed to treat women like shit.”
Have the owners apologized?
Yes, the owners have apologized, both as a brand and individuals, though the words ring hollow to some. You can read the full brand apology here. In it, Waking Life offered to donate all vaguely defined “proceeds” through the end of the year to Our Voice, a rape crisis services center in Asheville. Our Voice promptly replied on Facebook that they had no intention of accepting donations from Waking Life.
What’s happening now?
Waking Life Espresso is currently closed, and as you might expect, the brand’s social media is flooded with outrage. By September 20th nearly a dozen area businesses had pulled Waking Life product, including Whole Foods Asheville.
The fate of the company’s forthcoming second location, slated to open in mid-October in downtown Asheville, is firmly TBD.
The owners have offered former employees impacted by the cafe’s closure a severance package. Cosmopolitan reports two former employees, John Linch and Sarah Winkler, have refused a severance package from Waking Life, stating “money can not be used to mend broken trust, absolve one of accountability, or assuage the weight of personal guilt.” Local area coffee shops have stepped in to offer employment to former Waking Life baristas.
Public protests were held in front of Waking Life on Sunday and Monday of this week. No public statements have been issued by Waking Life since their apologies over the weekend, and the brand’s social media accounts have since gone dormant.
A Change.org petition has called for all Waking Life products to be removed from Asheville-area retail shelves. As of time of publishing, the petition is 167 signatures away from its goal.