Off the coast of Finland lies an island called SuperShe. It was purchased in 2017 by Kristina Roth, who had recently sold off her $45 million company, Matisia Consultants, to “seek out something even more fulfilling” (Bloom 2018). Or as she put it more bluntly to a room of Latvian tech students during her speech Empowering Women Leadership at the 2018 Digital Freedom Festival: “I didn’t want to work again. Ever.”
Kristina Roth studied computer science in Germany and came to the United States to work in tech consultancy. After nine years in the business, she moved to Seattle and started her own company in 2006 (Curotto 2018). The business grew fast and for a number of years it was on the Forbes list of ‘fastest-growing women-owned businesses’ (Bloom 2018). In 2016, however, she was ready to leave the tech consultancy behind and sold her company to “just kiteboard and snowboard and sit on the beach forever” (Roth in Bloom 2018). She also started a blog and began building up an online community called SuperShe, aiming to draw together strong women in order to inspire them to be “the best version of themselves”. “The blog” observes Merin Curotto, journalist for The Observer, “evolved from photos of healthy-looking food and even healthier-looking women to real-life meet-ups and retreats” (Curotto 2018). The idea to buy an island to facilitate these meet-ups evolved naturally from there (ibid.).
The island SuperShe is just for women. Although the infrastructure is build by men, everyone who works on the island or caters to it – from carpenter to bus driver to photographer for visiting journalists – are women. The staff buy the vegetables from female farmers in the area and would have bought their fish from women too had there been any female fishers around. The point is “creating more jobs for women” (Roth in Bloom 2018). I find it truly… I am struggling to find the right word… disheartening… absurd… puzzling… (?)… that an article, essentially claiming to be about female empowerment should conclude with the Famous Coconut Yoghurt Recipe. Then maybe that is what you ask for when you claim your philosophy is ‘to cleanse’. Once you get into the finer details about what the SuperShe community is about and judging by the photos on the website, it does seem to be an awful lot about eating fruit and granola, doing yoga, and bathing. No alcohol. A case of good clean fun.
Yet, it would be too easy to simply critique and ridicule. Too easy, although tempting I admit: Journalist Curotto in detailing her stay at SuperShe does not manage that balancing act. We have to forgive Curotto because it truly is paradoxical to hear about breaking away from the subconscious inclination to “just go with the herd” and instead “get out of your comfort zone”, “take it to the next level”, “to do what you want to do”, “not give a fuck about things that are not important to you”, and “be the best version of yourself” (Curotto 2018) in an environment heavily designed around control. Control of body intake and body movement. Control of congitive patterns. Control of what is there (a few select women with the right mind set) and what is not (men, ‘haters’, and ‘bad juju’ which I think means both negative vibes, sugar, and alcohol). Control of visual input (strictly Scandinavian décor interspersed with distinctively American one-liners such as ‘No Bra? No Problem!’ or quotes by Madonna like: ‘I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, okey’ (pictures in Curotto 2018)). Yet behind this female-liberation-through-disciplining-the-female-body-and-mind’ is a deeper rooted theme: The leit-motif in Kristina Roth’s life seems to be her mother’s passing over without resistance the control of all finances and income to her father.
At the digital freedom festival, Roth continues to the Latvian tech-students: “Nothing, NOTHING I love more in life than independence and freedom”. I know because I watched the speech on youtube and transcribed it during the autumn of 2019. She continues: I’m just big on independence. And independence for women means two things: That you are financially independent, noone is paying your bills, and emotionally you are trying not to be codependent and that’s the basics. If you still get money from your parents or from your husband or a boyfriend or whomever that is not independence. Because let’s not kid ourselves. When someone else pays your bills you have some things you need to do.”