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Marie Kondo Doesn’t ‘Spark Joy’ For Some Critics—And It Might Be Due To Racism

Marie Kondo
by Rise via Flickr Creative Commons

By Ann Thuy Nguyen, AsAmNews Intern

Marie Kondo, who is the jovial host of Netflix’s Tidying up with Marie Kondo and author of the popular 2011 book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, has been the victim of unwarranted malice by people who seem to criticize her for reasons unrelated to Kondo’s decluttering method.

The latest to attack Kondo is writer Barbara Ehrenreich (@B_Ehrenreich), who posted in a now-deleted tweet saying, “I will be convinced that America is not in decline only when our de-cluttering guru Marie Kondo learns to speak English”, reported Fast Company.  

Ehrenreich, who, according to her website’s bio, focuses her journalism on themes of social injustice and inequality, was described by the
American Sociological Association as someone who has “dedicated her life to informing the general public of social injustices.” It seems that her consideration of equity stops when it involves people who don’t speak English.

While Ehrenreich has faced criticism for the xenophobic and racist undertones of her initial tweet, her follow-up still appeared to many individuals as an inadequate apology, with a similarly problematic sentiment.

Her second tweet said, “I confess: I hate Marie Kondo because, aesthetically speaking, I’m on the side of clutter. As for her language: It’s OK with me that she doesn’t speak English to her huge American audience but it does suggest that America is in decline as a superpower.”

She later on went to say that her attempt at subtle humor went wrong.

Cale Guthrie Weissman said in Fast Company’s article, that “there isn’t a logical connection” to associate Kondo’s minimal English and that decline of America unless you are arbitrarily attempting to do so and that “you’re also racist.”

Weissman said, “[Ehrenreich] somehow made Kondo’s mother tongue into something simultaneously pejorative and indicative of a hidden hegemonic shift.”

Other online users have also stepped up to not only call out Ehrenreich, but also to discuss the veil of racism cast over the general commentary on Kondo.

In both the positive and critical discussions of Kondo, people are noting that they often involve a wide-range of critics and fans who are predominantly White and —though sometimes unknowingly—placing a racist interpretation on Kondo.

Bim Adewunmi, who is a freelance journalist, defended Kondo and her benign attempts to guide people through their cleaning journeys, on their Twitter.


Author Rebecca Makkai (@rebeccamakkai) posted on her Twitter, showing screenshots from “white feminist icons” Katha Pollitt and Elaine Showalter whose tweet replies seemed to add to the exoticization of Kondo—saying her Japanese “adds to her fairy-like delicacy and charm” and that she is a “pretty little pixie”, respectively.  Another user, Arissa Oh (@arissaoh), described the problem with associating Kondo to a pixie as way to reaffirm racial controlling images of Asian women as either the Lotus Blossom and/or  Dragon Lady.


This is not the first time Kondo has faced backlash that was unrelated to her actual philosophy on her tidying method, known also as the Konmari Method. According to Paper Magazine, Kondo was previously attacked, largely by White critics, for allegedly forcing people to remove all their books and keep under thirty books in their homes.

Writer Anakana Schofield, who is also White, posted a series of viral tweets targeting Kondo’s Konmari method and vilifying Kondo’s phrase of “spark joy” out of context.

According to Paper Magazine, in the actual episode where she advises a couple about their books, Kondo actually says, “Take every single book into your hands and see if it sparks joy for you. Books are the reflection of your thoughts and values.”

One Twitter user, Clara Mae (@ubeempress) provided evidence that Kondo speaks explicitly against setting numerical goals in her book and that “only [we] can know what kind of environment make [us] feel happy.”

Kondo, herself, has responded in a statement about the aggressive misunderstanding of Kondo’s philosophy, she stated:

“I do think there is a misunderstanding of the process, that I’m recommending that we throw away books in the trash or burn them or something… The most important part of this process of tidying is to always think about what you have and about the discovery of your sense of value, what you value that is important. So it’s not so much what I personally think about books. The question you should be asking is what do you think about books.”

The criticism against Kondo has shown that there is a lot of misunderstanding of Kondo’s gentle and mindful approach to tidying up, but it’s important to note that many of the names who attacked the lifestyle cleaning consultant are writers and researchers.

Some individuals believe this misinterpretation and misunderstanding of Kondo as much more deliberate than meets the eye.

Ellen Oh, who is the author and co-founder of We Need Diverse Books, said to Bustle that she believes “people are deliberately misunderstanding [Kondo].”

“The backlash has focused on everything from [Kondo’s] poor English to making fun of the terms she [uses],” Oh said to Bustle.

“We have seen so many memes making fun of the concept of ‘sparking joy’ and it reminds me in many ways of people deliberately misunderstanding and making fun of my parents’ broken English.”

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  1. RE: Marie Kondo Doesn’t ‘Spark Joy’ for Some Critics-And It Might be Due to Racism: There is NO OFFICIAL LANGUAGE IN THE UNITED STATES!!!!

  2. RE: Marie Kondo Doesn’t Spark Joy for Some Critics-and It Might be Due to Racistm: Ehrenreich is obviously full of it. Humor? Where’s the joke? But as a comic book collector with over 2500 comics , Kondo has no business in my house. Her philosophy represents nothing but her own opinion and should not be considered representative of any culture or race. She’s merely stating the obvious old trope. If you haven’t worn it in five years time for it to go. This doesn’t apply to collectors for obvious reasons

  3. RE: Marie Kondo Doesn’t “Spark Joy” for Some Critics0 And It Might Be Due to Racism: There are four European languages spoken in the American Continents. English, Spanish, French and Portuguese. That is, spoken as national languages, in fact there are many who are native speakers of pretty much every European languages.

    However, in case anyone has forgotten there were people here when Leif Ericson arrived, and they did not speak English, or Norwegian or any European language.

    So, if you want’s to appeal to more than just English Speaking Americans, does she have to become fluent in every one of those? What is that, a hundred in the US and Canada alone? More?

    To promote her philosophy around the world she would have to become fluent in every one of the world’s thousands of languages.

    Before you try to talk about her English, tell us how many languages you can converse in.

    As I type this I am listening to music on one of my computer play lists. I have songs in Japanese and Russian and French and French is the only one I studied, about 55 years ago.

    Uh… do you know how to change the channel? Oh, on Youtube listen to The Voice international lists, I especially like the African ones, Nigerian singers are so good, and Mongolia does a great job too.

  4. RE: Marie Kondo Doesn’t “Spark Joy for Some Critics-and it might be due to Racism: Kondo, her first name is not really Marie, is trying to inflict her religious beliefs on other people. Her accent is both ugly and annoying. She is a greedy capitalist pig. She can pull the wool over some people’s eyes, but she can’t mine. She is desperate to take in the big bucks.


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