109. Can Feminism Exist in Capitalism? with Rebecca Walker

August 22, 2023

The following article may contain affiliate links or sponsored content. This doesn't cost you anything, and shopping or using our affiliate partners is a way to support our mission. I will never work with a brand or showcase a product that I don't personally use or believe in.

The following article may contain affiliate links or sponsored content. This doesn’t cost you anything, and shopping or using our affiliate partners is a way to support our mission. I will never work with a brand or showcase a product that I don’t personally use or believe in.

What does it actually mean to be a feminist?

And how does someone actively practice feminist principles in a capitalist society that is inherently built around patriarchy, overconsumption, and systemic inequity?

In this episode, host Tori Dunlap sits down with Rebecca Walker, the founder of Third Wave Feminism and author of several books, including Women Talk Money: Breaking the Taboo to talk about the rise of the Third Wave movement, how we can be more intentional with our finances in support for causes we care about, and how to get more comfortable discussing our finances as women.

What you’ll learn:

  • How Rebecca came to be a part of the Third Wave Movement and what she sees as the biggest threat to it

  • How to make more ethical consumption choices

  • The importance of intersectionality when we talk about money stories

Rebecca’s Links:




Support the people of Hawaii:

Hawaii Community Foundation

Hawaii People’s Fund


Feeling Overwhelmed? Start here!

Our HYSA Recommendation

Order Financial Feminist Book

Become an investor and join our Investing Community, Treasury, with Investing 101

Behind the Scenes and Extended Clips on Youtube

Leave Financial Feminist a Voicemail

Financial Feminist on Instagram

Her First $100K on Instagram

Take our FREE Money Personality Quiz

Join the Mailing List


Rebecca Walker:

Continuing to really try to shed a light and amplify voices and perspectives that are often silenced, marginalized, but which have great wisdom and are incredibly important for our survival because I think consciousness fundamentally is critically important for our survival, and we can’t have consciousness if we don’t know the stories and experiences of other people.

Tori Dunlap:

Hello, financial feminists. Hello, welcome back to the show. If you’re an oldie but a goodie, welcome back. If you’re new here, welcome for the first time, maybe. My name is Tori, I obviously host this show. I’m also a money expert, I help you save money, pay off debt, start investing, and a bunch of other things, and I fight the patriarchy by making you rich.

A reminder, if you’re listening on Spotify, there’s a way to engage with us. You can answer polls, you can write questions, you can let us know what you liked from these episodes. And as a reminder, if you find value in this show, one of the easiest ways to support us is literally just hitting the subscribe button, either hitting the plus or hitting the follow button on Spotify. It allows us to continue bringing you incredible guests and just producing the show. So we thank you so much for listening and sharing and subscribing.

We are recording this during some pretty crazy devastation in Hawaii, and I would love Kristen, if you wouldn’t mind, putting some links down below in the show notes. I will say this as a white person, I have visited Hawaii, I love Hawaii very much, and I’m going to call on all of our listeners. If you have been to Hawaii, you have a responsibility to do something. If you have taken a beautiful vacation on native land in Hawaii and you are currently seeing it’s burning and you haven’t done anything, whether that’s donating a little bit of money or just sharing some posts about it, or having a conversation with somebody about it, please do something.

I know that for me especially, I have taken, oh gosh, what is it at this point? Probably four trips to Hawaii over the course of my life and have really just loved meeting people and loved learning more about the culture and seeing the devastation there is, it’s pretty dramatic and really hard, and we have a responsibility, again, especially as white people, to step up in moments like these. So I would encourage you to do what you can in some way, and I don’t know how to transition out of wildfire suck, but also climate change is real and that shouldn’t be, it shouldn’t be controversial to say, but climate change is real, so just support each other right now and anything you can do. I know that the people in Hawaii really appreciate it.

Today’s episode is honestly a prerequisite for engaging with any of our episodes. It is an incredible conversation on feminism, capitalism, patriarchy, and the way all of these systems intersect, and we were so honored to get this guest today who, side note, has one of the most soothing voices I think you’ll ever hear in your entire life. This woman could read me the phone book and I would be super happy about it. Before I get into all of her official accomplishments and her bio, our guest is also literally the creator of the concept of third-wave feminism. She coined the term third-wave feminist, which just is absolutely incredible, and again, we’re so honored to have her.

Rebecca Walker is a writer and producer who has contributed to the global conversation about gender, race, culture, and power for three decades. She’s the author of several bestselling books, most recently Women Talk Money: Breaking the Taboo. Rebecca has appeared at over 400 universities, literary conferences, and corporate campuses, and serves as a DEI consultant for several Fortune 100 companies. She’s the co-founder of the Third Wave Fund, an organization that supports women and transgender youth working for social justice, and the producer of the documentary, This is Personal, about the historic women’s march. Walker was named by Time Magazine as one of the most influential leaders of her generation. She’s also the daughter of the celebrated author and activist, Alice Walker.

We spend some time talking about Rebecca’s new book, Women Talk Money, but also dive into hard questions like, “Is it really possible to be a feminist fully within a capitalist system? And how we can make a more conscious choice around engaging with the society in the system we live in?” We also got into the WGA strikes, which as of this recording are still going on and it will likely still be going on by the time this podcast is released, which is crazy. We recorded this, I think at the beginning of the strike, so that should tell you how long it’s been going on. And we also talked about the importance of unions and collective bargaining.

This was truly such a special episode, I will also say a little behind the scenes before we started recording, Kristen, I don’t know if we even got it on recording, but she, I don’t even know how to say it. It was almost like a prayer that wasn’t religious. When we started recording, she, again, I wish I could quote her. She said this beautiful passage basically about how we were going to embark on this conversation of vulnerability and beauty together, and it was just this really grounding moment by someone who just has this most calm presence that even I felt through the internet, through a computer screen.

And so I’m not even going to try to give you something similar because I will not succeed, but I really do encourage you to, I mean, every time you listen to this show, but especially this episode, just take a deep breath, absorb a lot of her wisdom and her knowledge, and she truly is such this feminist beacon of hope and light, and also anger and rage, and all of these beautiful things together. So I’m just really excited for you to hear this one. Let’s go ahead and get into it.

But first a word from the companies that allow us to bring you all of this good free content. I went to an orchid shop in
Hawaii when I was there and they said that the ice cube’s a myth because they can shock the roots, and I had no idea.

Rebecca Walker:

Well, that is surprising because people have been telling me to do that for three decades.

Tori Dunlap:

I know.

Rebecca Walker:

I mean-

Tori Dunlap:

I know. It’s the same thing I guess with coffee grounds is that the science is out on whether that’s actually helpful for your garden or not, but who knows?

Rebecca Walker:

Let’s wait for the science. Let’s see what they say.

Tori Dunlap:

Your orchid looks great, so whatever you’re doing, if you’re doing ice cubes-

Rebecca Walker:

[inaudible]. That’s right.

Tori Dunlap:


Rebecca Walker:

And it’s been around quite a while.

Tori Dunlap:

Yeah. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. I am so honored to have you on the show. You have done a little bit of everything. You were the person who even coined the term third-wave feminism, which was incredible to discover in our research about you. You’ve written several books on topics like motherhood and money, you’ve consulted Fortune 100 companies in DEI. When we talk to people who exist in this activism space, there’s usually this inciting moment or a realization that they have from lived experience or this cultural moment. What was that for you that brought you into the work that you do?

Rebecca Walker:

Oh my goodness, what a great question. And you would think I would have something just right away ready for that after all these years. Let me pull one out. I guess there were a lot of different moments. I grew up as the child of the civil rights movement. My parents were married when it was illegal for them to be married. My mom is African American, my dad was a sweet young Jewish lawyer from Brooklyn, and they were real rebels. So I feel in some ways, like my activism and my work grounded in changing the narrative and changing our culture was born into me. It was a part of my identity from birth.

But I would say that one of the early inciting moments in my story was in 10th grade. I was walking home from school and I saw a man beating a woman on a street corner with a telephone handle when there used to be telephone booths. And I tried to get in between them and I tried to stop. I tried to stop what was happening. And it became clear after a few minutes that if I kept being involved, that he would hit me as well. So I stayed back and I sat on the curb and I just waited to see if I could find a moment where I could get in there and do something helpful.

And I waited and waited, and then finally when it all settled down, I went up to the woman and I said to her, “Can I help you? Can I do anything to help you? Can I drive you somewhere?” Actually, I couldn’t drive at that time, I was in 10th grade. I said, “Can I take you anywhere? Can I walk you anywhere? Can I call anyone?” And she said, “No, he loves me and he will be back for me.” And I’ll never forget the shock that I felt in that moment of having to shift my understanding of domestic violence, of relationships, of the dynamics at play and to see things in a more complex way.

And so at that moment, I had so many feelings and thoughts, and I went home and I wrote a piece right away. I wrote this sort of stream of consciousness essay about the experience, and I ended up sharing it with my high school and the school paper. And it started a conversation about domestic violence and relationships on campus, and we ended up having a kind of conference in school about it. And it was my first taste of bringing my own experience to bear on a situation and amplifying the stories of other human beings to benefit our collective understanding and evolution. And I was hooked right away.

I mean, the idea that I could actually make change, that people could broaden their view, that we could bring a discussion to a deeper level, it was very exciting for me. And then I just kept going like that. And in college, third wave, you bring up third wave, we were really radicalized by the Anita Hill testimony at the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. And at that time it was post the Rodney King verdict, the assault on reproductive freedoms was Chapter 1 of where we are now, was heating up then or being written, or maybe not even Chapter 1, I’d say Chapter 10.

And so there was a real sense that again, I could use some of my own experience. I grew up in a very feminist household community, and it didn’t occur to me that so many of my cohorts, so many of the young women in my generation, in my college experience didn’t identify with feminism, thought it was a terrible word, a movement that they didn’t understand, that they didn’t relate to. And when I started to get that, I became very concerned that we would lose a whole generation of activists and feminists. And so one of the things that I felt, again, was that I could use my own experience to shift that a little bit.

And so third wave came into being with the idea that younger women needed a way to, and men, and everybody in between, and on the spectrum, needed a way to redefine feminism for themselves and that would be necessary to maintain any kind of continuity in the movement. So that was the beginning of third wave and the beginning of my first book, To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism. And it just went on and on. Here I am 11 books later continuing to really try to shed a light and amplify voices and perspectives that are often silenced, marginalized, but which have great wisdom and are incredibly important for our survival because I think consciousness fundamentally is critically important for our survival, and we can’t have consciousness if we don’t know the stories and experiences of other people.

And so most of my work has been based on that. My own books like Black, White, and Jewish about growing up mixed race, trying to move from being a tragic mulatto, which is what the story was, and still is sometimes to a magic mulatto, like somebody who is able to put their fluidity to good use. And baby love, my second book about deciding to be a mom after growing up in this community where motherhood was considered really problematic and a kind of enslavement. And all the other books, Black Cool, one of my favorites, about reclaiming cool and understanding that it’s a cultural product of Africa and West African traditions like yoga is a cultural product of India. Did a great book on that. I’m doing another one on that right now.

I mean, lots of books. Adé, my last book right there, we’re making it into a movie about traveling to a small island off the coast of Kenya and falling in love with this be
autiful Muslim person, and almost marrying him and not being able to. So just lots of different stories. And this new book, Women Talk Money, which is about really trying to address the ways in which women have been encouraged to be silent about money and how we really need to understand our personal stories about money in order to figure out how we want to deal with money.

A lot of people have said, “I’m so surprised by this book. It’s not a make your budget, invest this way. It’s a different kind of book.” And I say, “It’s the book that you read before you do that. It’s the book that helps you understand what you learned about money so that you can assess whether that teaching is valuable and whether or not you have to learn something different. And then you can know how to align your investments or your priorities with money, with who you really are and what your values are.” So that’s the beginning of all that.

Tori Dunlap:

I love it. As someone who coined the term third-wave feminism, you’re on a show called Financial Feminist, my book is called Financial Feminist. I like to consider myself one of the leaders of the financial feminist movement. How would you define financial feminism?

Rebecca Walker:

Wow, that’s a great question. How would I define financial feminism? I would define financial feminism as an understanding of the power that money holds to transform the world in a way that creates a more equitable place for all of humanity. I would define it as a perspective and practice that centers a balanced, healthy, holistic lifestyle and vision that supports everybody, that really is all about how can we make more people healthy? How can we make more people feel safe? How can we use money to make the world a better place? Does that jibe with what you’re doing?

Tori Dunlap:

It aligns very much with my definition, yep. I start and end my book with the quote, “When you have all you need, build a longer table, not a higher fence.” And that for me is how I define financial feminism is if I can help you and then you can help yourself become financially stable, financially whole, financially confident, if your table is built, then you can start building and helping build a world where everybody gets their own table and everybody gets their own beauty and abundance. But we can’t do that until we have put our oxygen masks on first. We can’t help somebody else if we are gasping for air.

And so I think for any member of a marginalized group, the issue for so long has been give of yourself so much. We have this altruism built in us, and I can speak as a woman, I have been told since I was a child, “Okay, your value to society is and how much you give.” And then the irony is that when I have the audacity to demand more, that weaponization of altruism that happens where it’s like, “You’re being greedy, you should just be grateful for what you have. Why are you demanding more?” And so it’s the way that I think the patriarchy keeps people controllable. And if there’s anything I’m trying to do, it’s create a society in a world where you are able to unapologetically ask for what you’re worth, get it, and then create a society where everybody has that as well.

Rebecca Walker:

Fantastic. That’s the goal.

Tori Dunlap:

That’s the goal.

Rebecca Walker:

Yes. That’s the goal, honey.

Tori Dunlap:

We’re trying. We’re trying.

Rebecca Walker:

We’re trying. We’re trying. And to really help people understand that it’s in their own best interest to allow that to happen, to support that happening, that continuing to support the kind of inequities that our culture is fundamentally based on at this point is not going to work out well for anyone. So helping people really understand that it’s actually good for them to do the right thing and to support people in the way that they deserve to be supported and not based on what work they do or just based on the fact that they’re a human being here on the planet, I think helping people to understand that and how connected that is to peace and to stability for all of us is really, really important.

I think that people still are really holding onto this idea that if they just have enough, that’s what’s going to save them, they’re going to be safe. But it really doesn’t work that way. It seems like it’s working that way, but it’s not going to work that way. Putin’s going to be down his $1 billion palace thing that he’s got going on, and fundamentally, he may physically survive whatever happens, but psycho-spiritually, I don’t think there’s much survival happening there. And I’m just using him as an example of all the people who believe that they can just be siloed in their own buffeted universes and that that’s going to actually work out for them. But emotionally, it’s not a plan. It’s not a plan for health and happiness.

Tori Dunlap:

Well, and you have this great quote in your intro of your book of Women Talking Money, quote, “Though women’s bodies, labor, and very existence have always been interchangeable with money itself, their lived experiences of this reality are often unspoken, silenced, or forced into incoherence.” Beautiful. And I think it’s a great setup to the book.

Rebecca Walker:

Great line.

Tori Dunlap:

I know. Who wrote it? Great line. Talk to me more about how that idea was explored throughout your book, because I just see so many similarities. I kind of did the happy medium, it sounds like. I wrote part of the book on the before of how to invest and how to budget. I did the emotions of money and how the patriarchy involves our money, and then I’m also trying to give the how to invest, how to pay off debt? So I tried to find the happy medium, and I love that you spent the time working on just the emotions, the social element of money. So talk to me about how those themes were explored for you.

Rebecca Walker:

Okay. But I love the sound of your book, and I should have read it before we had a conversation because-

Tori Dunlap:

I’ll give you a copy. I’ll send you a copy.

Rebecca Walker:

Yeah, give me a copy because I’m going to read it and I’m going to love it, I’m sure. Sounds great. So let’s see. I started actually thinking about this book in the first recession that I lived through, which was in 2008. And I started to think about it because for the first time in my life, my friends and I started to speak way more openly about money because we were all thinking about money all the time, because people were freaked out about money, losing houses, losing jobs, not being able to pay basic bills. I’m trying t
o figure out how to get a second job, a third job. I mean, it was a really interesting moment where the financial world just cracked open in a way for me and my friends.

And what I realized after having some deep conversations about what was going on in people’s lives around money, that the openness and the transparency that we cultivated together in those moments actually made our relationships much stronger. And there were many moments when I could just see the shame and the sense of failure, or confusion, or pain kind of lift when friends would tell me something about their financial history. And I would say, “Oh, well, I relate to that, or I was just talking to someone else about that. And that is not your fault.” Whatever it is, we always think, “This is our fault. I made this mistake, I made that mistake. I should have this much money, I should have this.” All that stuff.

Tori Dunlap:

We’re told that too. We’re told it’s our fault.

Rebecca Walker:

We’re told that. Yes, it’s our fault. But you know what? And I just kept saying to people, “Honey, this is not your fault. We are living in late-stage capitalism here. It is completely designed for you to have this experience. You did not participate in this predatory loan situation that took down our economy. You did not make that decision, and you would not have made that decision had you had the power.”

And so really having those conversations where it was, and each person had a different story. And so I started to think, “I want to hear all of these stories.” I’m that person when I talk to you, it’s like, “Okay, tell me your deepest truth.” I’m really only interested in people’s deepest truth. I’m not good at parties. I’m like, “Okay, tell me your deepest story.”

Tori Dunlap:

You’re the best kind of party guest. That’s the kind of parties that make life worth living.

Rebecca Walker:

Okay. Well, thank you. Okay, I’m going to take that. Yes. But sometimes people are like, “Oh my gosh, I just told you something and it’s making me nervous.” So I started to feel like, “Let me do another collection,” this was my fourth or fifth collection creating space for women to tell me their stories and to create a community around these stories. And so I started to ask people to write, and of course the stories that came out were incredible and really speak to everything I’m saying, the way in which money has been used to control our bodies, our minds, our psyches, our creativity.

Some of my favorite pieces just off the top of my head, Sonali’s piece just came to mind. Sonali is first-generation Indian immigrant who writes about her experience of coming from a family who used money to try to control her body. So she’s a large woman, a woman of size, and they withhold money from her and sort of tell her that she can only have certain things if she has a surgery to make herself smaller. And she goes through this incredible process of kind of deciding that she’s not going to be controlled by this financial threat. “You’ll only get money if you do this, if your body changes in this way.”

At first, she has to realize that those two things are connected to her, that she’s thinking about money in a way that it’s only good as a weapon, that it’s only being used as a weapon, and that she’s got to turn that around so that it’s not being used as a weapon against her. It has to be used as a tool for her to feel good about herself as opposed to the other way around.

Latham Thomas writes an incredible piece about being a young Black woman, young girl, and watching her mom, who was a real estate agent in Oakland, go into a bank with her real estate commission check. And the teller did not believe that a Black woman should have a check so big, or could have, and called the police. And so one of Latham’s earliest memories of money and Black womanhood is that if you have money as a Black woman, you are criminalized, you’re thought of as someone who should be arrested.

Tori Dunlap:

A threat.

Rebecca Walker:

A threat, exactly. A threat that has to be neutralized. And she grew up with the story of money. “As a Black woman, how do I have money and safety? So maybe I shouldn’t have money if I’m going to be arrested for having money, let me not.” So she had to work through some of those feelings and that story. And just so many different stories. There’s an incredible story by a young trans woman writing about how her identity is based upon her ability to buy her medication, her hormones, her treatment, and how that is so charged and problematic in so many ways and has created a sense of desperation and longing for a different way, a different way, so that our very identities are not based upon our ability to pay for things to get them. And just many different pieces, pieces by very wealthy women.

One of my favorite pieces by Leah Hunt, who’s the daughter of Helen Hunt, who’s an extremely wealthy woman, amazing activist, and Leah writes about growing up as the daughter of a multi-multimillionaire and trying to figure out how to hold that reality. And she decides that she wants to use her money, or the people around her who have money, she wants to engage them and leverage those relationships on behalf of social change movements. And for her, it’s about shifting her narrative from money is this sort of personal thing and this abstract thing that my family has, but I don’t really deal with something, a story that is money is powerful and I can use my access to it to support BLM, to support Occupy Wall Street, to support all of these movements that are radical transformation engines.

So it’s really a book about, what’s your story with money and how does it make you feel? And if it doesn’t make you feel good, how can you change it and how can you reconcile some of the ambivalence you have, some of the shame you may have, some of the confusion you may have? How can you reconcile that with a fundamental belief in your own goodness and your own right to prosperity, and abundance, and liberty?

Tori Dunlap:

There’s so many common threads in what you write about in this book and what we do, which makes me so happy. One of the things you just said, and one of the things that my work explores and I also struggle with is money can mean freedom, and joy, and abundance, and ease, and change. It can also mean control and this element of force. We know from statistics that 99% of abusive relationships have some sort of financial abuse tied to them. You think about obviously the gap between the 99% and the 1% and the women’s or person’s right to choose. That is a financial issue in addition to a social issue and everything else, and a feminist issue. So how do you find that juxtaposition? How did you explore it?

I find it really difficult to navigate as someone who’s trying to do this work and say like, “We need to get women more money,” but having a lot of women rightfully so believe, “Oh, money, it’s this capitalist thing, it’s this controlling thing.” Do you find that it’s this hard juxtaposition for women to get past? And it sounds like you do. And
I know from my work with all of the negative emotions that swirl around money, and especially for women, especially myself who identify as liberal, it feels sometimes like if I pursue money, I am stamp of approval on capitalism.

And of course that is not it for me, but that’s the dichotomy I feel sometimes is it’s like, “This is the current system we have, this is the current game we have to play, and in order for the game to change, I have to participate or I am not taking care of myself.” Does that make sense?

Rebecca Walker:

That makes total sense and I completely agree with that. And it’s been really interesting. At one of the readings that I did with this book, there was a fantastic woman who was talking about, I live in LA, so she, there’s a lot of Hollywood writers, a TV writer was in the audience, and she was talking about how difficult it is to be in an environment where there are so many privileged white, mostly men, who are from her perspective, and this is not all privileged white men obviously, but there are many in her immediate environment who she feels just have a kind of disregard and a way of being in the world that she finds so distasteful and so problematic, and so everything that you’re saying, just corrosive to a value system that she believes in, that she herself got completely turned off for money.

She was like, “If money means that,” she was saying like, “I’m going to go and knit gloves and live on whatever and just opt out of capitalism altogether.” And I said, “I hear you and I support you, and I think you could do that part-time, but I really think that there is no extricating ourselves at this point from capitalism. You cannot wake up in the morning, you cannot walk out, you can’t live anywhere and not be embedded in capitalism. There is no opting out.” So in that way, then we’ve got to understand how to transform it every day.

One of Adrienne Maree Brown’s great pieces in the book was called Composting Capitalism, and she writes about not paying her taxes as a political resistance and how she had to change that approach to political resistance, but this idea of, “How can we compost capitalism?” I love. “How can we transform it, all of the detritus of it? What do we have to do to turn it into gold, to turn it into something that can make a tree grow, that can make a healthy child, that can make good air? How do we do that?” And that’s more of the project than, “How do I opt out of it? How do I save myself from it?” You can’t save yourself from it by leaving it.

And then I think everyone’s got to figure out for themselves what that means. Every single person has to figure out, “Okay, so I’m making this amount of money. I want to make this amount of money.” And then you really have to figure out where you want to put that and what do you believe? What do you believe in? What do you want to leave behind as your money legacy? Is it a big house that hasn’t been good for the environment, that hasn’t sheltered other people that were in need, that hasn’t really taken care of the earth that it’s sitting on? Is it stuff that’s going to fill land you fill later and has no real value past a few moments of temporary… What is it? What do you care about? What are you going to do with it?

And so that’s where I think every single person has to really focus, and it’s a day-to-day struggle. I mean, I have two Amazon boxes right outside my door right now.

Tori Dunlap:

I was just talking with Kristen, our producer, about this. I hate Amazon. Do I still shop there? Yes, because it’s so convenient and it’s just like, it’s so difficult to opt out.

Rebecca Walker:

I hate Amazon. It’s so difficult. And yet, just in this last week, I keep deciding, “I’m going to buy this book from the publisher.” It’s a small press. “I’m going to buy this book from the bookshelf, I’m going to buy this book.” I’m so used to wanting to read a book right away or needing a book right away. And some people will say, “Well, why don’t you go to the library or why don’t you get it dah, dah, dah?” And I say, “Well, I’m a writer. And so I believe in supporting the publishing industry, I believe in supporting writers, so I actually buy books. That’s one of the ways that I use my money to support what I believe in,” but I’ve got to slow it down a little bit.

My life is not a healthy life if I need that book the next day. You know what I mean? Something is not right. The machine is driving me, I’m not in control of the machine. So it’s changing our habits, it’s being aware of our habits. And Amazon is a glaring example, but there are a million examples or thousands that we all deal with every day. And I’m trying to really be gentle with myself as I make changes, and I have been making changes for many years, these small changes that resist this hyper-consumerist world in which we live. I’m always wondering if democracy can survive technocracy, if technology just makes democracy impossible.

And it’s another place where I push back against, it’s like, “Can hyper-capitalism and humanity survive? Can my own humanity, can my own sense of being in touch with the realities of all the human beings and where we are all at, and caring about it, can that survive the manufactured craving for objects, for consumption? How to do that? And how to be conscious of the ways in which we’re all being triggered all of the time to act and behave and make these choices that are not good for us?

So I’m not a guru, but I try to really be conscious. And I’m actually looking at this beautiful Buddha that I love that I got in Cambodia. It’s just reminding me of my practice. And so how are we going to spend our money, basically? And just realizing that we have choices really all the time, every time we’re about to part with a dollar or hit pay, just stop for a second and think about it.

My son had his prom recently. Fun times, fun times. It was very intense, and he had a great time and really happy, but he’s really against fast fashion, which is wonderful. And I was like, “Honey, you’re going to go to the prom.” I said, “So what are you going to wear and all this?” And he said, “Well, I’m going to thrift my whole outfit and I’m going to get…” It is great, it’s fantastic. And at the end of the day, I said, and he thrifted the outfit and it was a great outfit, but his girlfriend had this very beautiful different dress, not a thrifted dress. And I said, “I think we might have to get you a suit, something.”

And he said, “The cotton is grown and picked by slaves, people who are enslaved in China. The clothes are sewn by women in Vietnam who are making no money and working in unsafe conditions.” And he just gave me every beat of it. And I said, “Honey, I know. I know. And I’m so proud of you for thinking about that, and we all should be thinking about that, and how can we balance this moment so that you are in the moment, in the way that you’re expected to be in the moment and in a way that could feel good if you engage it maybe?”

So then we ended up getting a suit, and he said, “Well, I can always give this to someone who needs it to go for a job interview. I can always repurpose this in a way.” And I said, “Yes, you will need a suit in your life. Maybe you just have one suit. That’s a good decision.” But I think the younger people, anyone who is thinking at that level is really on the right
path to think about all the different feats of production at this point and all the different human beings who are contributing to the little thing that you’re purchasing and really weighing whether it’s worth it.

Tori Dunlap:

Yeah. I talk in the last chapter of my book of this feeling of just overwhelm, where you’re like, “Again, I can’t do everything, and that’s really frustrating. I can’t save the whales and also end child poverty, and also end sexism and racism, and homophobia, and all of those things.” And so especially at first, you have to just decide on one thing like, “What’s the one thing you’re going to do?” And I love that. It’s like, yeah, it’s like, “Okay, I’m not going to buy fast fashion or I’m going to think more intentionally about how I purchase this thing,” because you either do something or you end up doing nothing because you’re too overwhelmed.

Rebecca Walker:

Exactly. And when you do nothing, you’re actually doing something.

Tori Dunlap:

Yeah, right.

Rebecca Walker:

Exactly. And you don’t even realize it. It’s like our attention in this attention-grabbing world, you think you’re doing nothing, but you’re being led to do many things. You know what I mean? You’re sitting there and you think, “Oh, I’m Black, whatever it is,” and then all of a sudden, you’re way over here. And so getting our focus back, getting our own kind of mental, our own minds back, is really important. And it’s so hard. It’s overwhelm, but it’s also, again, will our intelligence, our deep human intelligence, survive technology? Unclear to me. The level of self-awareness and self-reflection and the ability to think deeply in a complex way, in a humanistic way, in a philosophical way to have extended thoughts.

This all seems to be on the way, and I think we really have to worry about that. And I think locating this question in the realm of money is pretty radical. It’s like, “How can we be more conscious about money?” Because it is really behind everything. I was talking about AI the other day about how eventually, or maybe tomorrow, maybe right now, we will be embedded within an AI experience and not even realize that if we don’t push ourselves to become more aware of it. And I was saying, “Right now, if we look around this room, so much of it was facilitated by the internet. So much of it was facilitated by the technology that has developed, that has allowed supply chains and manufacturing lines, and distribution networks in ways that we don’t even think about anymore.”

Like this table, parts of it came from this place, and that place, and that place, and somebody made it. It’s like if we didn’t have the interwebs and this advanced technology that allows all of this stuff to be manipulated, this world around me would look very different. And so the internet, that mechanism we’re living in, we don’t even realize it. We can’t just reject it. There’s no rejecting. That’s over. So AI is a space where I think eventually it’ll be like that. And I was talking to a chatbot the other day and I said, “Are you a human being, chatbot?” Because I really want to be awake in these moments.

And then I was reading a piece the other day and I thought to myself, “This prose is so clean, it’s very specific. I still hear the voice of the person, but there’s something about the way the grammar, and it’s very hard, it’s very subtle, but it was just crisp in a way that it didn’t feel human. It felt different. And I think we’ve got to be able to recognize the difference between being human and not. And we have to understand what is shaping this world. And so money is like that. It’s everywhere, shaping everything. And so waking up to that can be very shocking.

I mean, we all know it in a visceral way, but to really see that and decide that you’re going to make different decisions based on your awareness is a step that we all really need to invest in. So I’ve been really thinking about AI a lot and how it’s very concerning in some ways, but I have this hope that it will push us to think more about what it means to be human and what the difference is between human and not human, that instead of just feeling like we’re being replaced and made obsolete, that actually will become more aware in every moment, like this is a real human experience that can’t be replicated like this conversation.

And just even if AI, we can tell them, “Okay, Tori, Rebecca, have a conversation about women and money,” even if it can come up with something, it cannot come up with the experience of the two of us sharing this kind of space and thinking about the impact of our conversation on whoever’s listening. It is a consciousness situation here. But my life in the last, I don’t know, few weeks, maybe months since I’ve started thinking about AI, since everybody started thinking about it, I guess has been full of moments like that of like, “Okay, this is really human, the sun on my face. This is really human, these moments.”

And I’m really wanting to use it as a model for stopping to think about many things like, “Okay, this is a great model for thinking about what kind of different decision can I make about X today? What is not participating in deep, profound oppression right now? What can I do that’s not doing that?”

Tori Dunlap:

Well, and as you were talking, I was going to ask you a kind of ridiculous question. You answered it a little bit. What does humanity have that technology doesn’t?

Rebecca Walker:

We have lived experience. I mean, we have embodied lived experience. You know what I’m saying? I’m not ready to give that up and say that just because they can rehash, or this mechanism can rehash a kind of iteration, ideation of my lived experience, that is not a lived experience, that is not a human being that we’re talking to. And I think that’s very important to make that distinction.

Tori Dunlap:

Well, and the amount of times I’ve read advice online, you can Google like, “How to get over a breakup?” And it’ll tell you like, “Take care of yourself, go on walks, cry if you need to, call a friend.” And all of those things are true, but until you’ve gone through some kind of heartbreak, you don’t actually maybe take that advice.

Rebecca Walker:


Tori Dunlap:

There’s been plenty of times where I have received advice from somebody and either not taken it or it did not hit me at the moment I needed it. And then only I understand how to do that or how to deal with that thing because I’ve gone through it.

Rebecca Walker:

Exactly, you’ve experienced it. And also, it is about the future in a lot of ways, because AI really, I mean apparently, who knows? I mean, it’s really only based on the past, the past/present, because it’s drawing from everything that’s already been.

Tori Dunlap:

It’s just predicting.

Rebecca Walker:

It’s predicting, exactly. And so we have the potential as human beings to actually, as we always have, create the future. You know what I mean? Now we will be co-creating the future with AI, which is very interesting, but I think it’s really important for us to remember that we are able to imagine and cogitate and ideate and activate new ideas and things that, I mean, sure, AI is going to be able to synthesize and project what we have, this body, this human thing, I have a lot of faith in it.

And I believe that it can, when fed the right things and supported in the right ways, it can envision and it can manifest remarkable things for itself, for us, and for everyone. And I don’t think that AI can really do that. AI can tell you what maybe you should do, but we are the ones who at the end of the day, are going to have to do it. So yeah, to actually experience it and figure out how to make it actually happen.

Tori Dunlap:

It can tell me how to wax my legs. I’m the one who actually has to go through the pain of waxing my legs.

Rebecca Walker:

Exactly. And how are we going to get out of this nightmare, all of these situations that we’re in? And the way AI is designed, because it’s based on the limited knowledge and wisdom of what has been put into it, and we know it’s limited, it’s up to us at the end of the day. I mean, it always is. I think that the idea that it’s not is a fallacy and is part of what is wrong with the whole setup. This idea that we are not in control anymore. I think it’s a cop-out that makes people think they no longer have to engage in a certain way.

And I worry about that, people feeling unmotivated based on what they’re hearing about AI feeling like, “Well, there’s no point in writing this, saying this, thinking this.” And I think that it’s designed to do that, to take away our sense of agency, to take away our sense of purpose, and individuality, and original thought. And I will always believe in those things. I really believe in people. I believe in people a lot more than I believe in technology. We’ve been around a lot longer.

Tori Dunlap:

Well, and it was the perfect transition to my last question for you. In our research, we found that you were a member of the WGA, which is currently on strike around equitable wages in the age of streaming for film and TV writers, and also concerns about AI. Unions are incredibly important when it comes to discussions about money and creating a more equitable structure for these industries. What has the strike been like for you? What has it continuing to show you in your work in the financial space?

Rebecca Walker:

The strike has been really amazing for me. I mean, in some ways, obviously it’s been a little tough. It’s shut down a lot of projects that I’m working on. I have a couple of shows in development, I’m working on a couple of films. So as a writer and producer, things kind of ground to a halt. But as a human, as a worker, I’m feeling the incredible power of standing up against this sort of corporate scheme that really wants us to labor endlessly and benefit obscenely on our labor without any meaningful compensation. And that’s been incredible, just being with friends and relatives even who are also in the business and feeling the sense of, “We can do this if we stand together.”

Our strike is a model for this country. We have an incredible labor movement, history of labor movement in America. Unions have been the bedrock of this country for many, many, many, many years. And the dissolution of unions has created the gig economy, it’s created all of these different vulnerabilities in the country. And I’m happy that people are seeing this union in full effect. We are fighting to be paid well, we are fighting for our health benefits, we are fighting against being completely replaced. The studios want to be able to just input different scripts and input books and have the AI generate all of the work that we would ordinarily do as if we’re unimportant and it’s just unjust.

And that is true for all of us in this country. It’s back to what you talked about in the beginning. We need to understand our value and our worth, and we need to stick up to the people who say that we are replaceable. And so I’m learning a lot and feeling a lot about unity, about how hard it is to stand up. Sometimes it just feels like they’ve got so much more power than we do. It’s tough to think about how one’s creativity can be stopped on a dime in a certain way. I’m not allowed to meet with producers to talk about projects. It’s like I’m not allowed to meet with other writers and I’m all about it, but the way in which art and commerce are linked there is tough, but it’s real.

Again, it’s like you cannot opt out of it. So from a place of exhaustion, just saying, “We need more unions. Unions are what protect us as workers and citizens in this country.” And the idea that we don’t is another story that has been propagated by people basically, who don’t want to have to be responsible to the people who are laboring on their behalf, and that is fundamentally unjust.

Tori Dunlap:

We appreciate your work so very much. Thank you for being here, thank you for your work, thank you for your book. Where can people find out more about you and discover more of your work?

Rebecca Walker:

Well, you can always go to my website, I guess. Are people still going websites?

Tori Dunlap:


Rebecca Walker:

Rebeccawalker.com. I try to do a little bit of Insta, but I have a social media. It’s tough for me, but I have a nice team, brilliant team, and they try to keep things going for me, iamrebeccawalker on Insta. My books are everywhere. Go to Bookshop to get them. It’s independent bookstores. Wherever you are, whatever city you’re in, ask them to order my books if you’d like. I’ve been around a long time, so if you do a little Google, you’ll find something that speaks to you, I’m sure.

Tori Dunlap:

Thank you for your time. We appreciate it.

Rebecca Walker:

You’re welcome. Thank you so much, this is super fun.

Tori Dunlap:

Thank you so much to Rebecca Walker for joining us. If you want to learn more about her work, more about her books, I know I have it on my to-do list to get her books at my local library, you can go to the link in our show notes for ways to connect with her.

If you love the show, as always, please feel free to share with friends and family. We also have the ability for you to share voicemails with us, to ask your questions, to leave your thoughts in your own voice. So go to the show notes for that as well. Thank you so m
uch for being here, financial feminists. I hope you have a great day, and I’ll talk to you soon.

Thank you for listening to Financial Feminist, a Her First $100K podcast. Financial Feminist is hosted by me, Tori Dunlap, produced by Kristen Fields, marketing and Administration by Karina Patel, Sophia Cohen, Kahlil Dumas, Elizabeth McCumber, Beth Bowen, Amanda Lafew, Masha Bachmetyeva, Kailyn Sprinkle, Sumaya Mulla-Carillo, and Harvey Carlson. Research by Arielle Johnson, audio Engineering by Austin Fields. Promotional graphics by Mary Stratton, photography by Sarah Wolfe, and theme music by Jonah Cohen-Sound.

A huge thanks to the entire Her First $100K team and community for supporting the show. For more information about Financial Feminist, Her First $100K, our guests, and episode show notes, visit financialfeministpodcast.com.


Tori Dunlap

Tori Dunlap is an internationally-recognized money and career expert. After saving $100,000 at age 25, Tori quit her corporate job in marketing and founded Her First $100K to fight financial inequality by giving women actionable resources to better their money. She has helped over one million women negotiate salary, pay off debt, build savings, and invest.

Tori’s work has been featured on Good Morning America, the New York Times, BBC, TIME, PEOPLE, CNN, New York Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, BuzzFeed, and more.

With a dedicated following of almost 250,000 on Instagram and more than 1.6 million on TikTok —and multiple instances of her story going viral—Tori’s unique take on financial advice has made her the go-to voice for ambitious millennial women. CNBC called Tori “the voice of financial confidence for women.”

An honors graduate of the University of Portland, Tori currently lives in Seattle, where she enjoys eating fried chicken, going to barre classes, and attempting to naturally work John Mulaney bits into conversation.

Facebook Group