Last week, 1.3 million Instagram followers, most of whom are the very tired parents of infants and toddlers, got a front row seat to the scandal that engulfed Cara Dumaplin, founder of “Taking Cara Babies.” Cara (@takingcarababies) is the mother of four, a neonatal nurse turned “baby sleep expert,” and basically owns the online monopoly on everything infant sleep related from newborn spit up and “dream feeds,” to establishing nap and bedtime routines, to tackling Daylight Savings time with kids, to full on cry-it-out sleep training — all in a very pretty package, and some with a hefty price tag. Just to fully illustrate the brand vibe, from the looks of her Instagram page she is also a fan of Chick-Fil-A and Chipotle (maybe ironically?), mom buns, J. Crew, immaculate modern Restoration Hardware-esque interior design, and God. Just a few weeks ago, @emilyfavreau had tweeted this about Cara:
What uncanny foreshadowing. But it is not her Republicanism that I am here to revile. It is her blind and unflinching white supremacy — an unconscious and unwavering belief in her own white innocence and goodness — and the violent psychological mechanisms she uses to uphold that self- and world-view.
Like most people, I landed on Cara’s Instagram account when my daughter was just a few days old, and I was in an incredibly vulnerable and sleep deprived state, desperate for guidance. My husband’s adrenaline had plummeted, and he was basically still sleeping after cheerleading for such a long and difficult labor, and we were alone in our apartment with this new tiny person screaming at us intermittently through the days and nights. This new mother-figure, who my mom friends and I started lovingly referring to as “Aunt Cara,” emerged — just the right parts bubbly-positivity and confident-expertise to lend me some hope about my family’s sleep future.
Cara’s signature viewer-directed manta may be: “There is no better mama in the world for that baby than you, mama.”
When Instagrammers leaked last week that Cara Dumaplin has been donating regularly to the Trump Campaign since 2016, I was dismayed. I tried to activate some surprise and exasperation, and texted with friends, “But isn’t she supposed to be pro-women?!” and “Her husband is an immigrant! How could she support Donald Trump!? He dog-whistles and condones white supremacists and thinks immigrants should go back to their ‘sh*thole countries’!”
But mostly I was left with a feeling of disappointment that I know well: nearly half of voters in our country elected him into office in 2016 (let’s not forget that he did not win the popular vote, ya’ll!), and they nearly pulled it off again in 2020. Votes cast included some of my own family and friends. I fantasized that she is probably a single-issue voter (abortion), and as unforgivable as I believe that is in how it overlooks (and enables!) Trump’s racism, misogyny and xenophobia — not to mention total pathological narcissism and utter ineptitude — I moved on. I wasn’t following her anymore, anyhow, and I would “vote” with my wallet and not give her any more of my money. That’s capitalism — let the followers, consumers, public decide.
But then, a few days later, along came her response. And, TRIGGER WARNING. If, like me, you are triggered by extreme toxic positivity and disavowal of a powerful white woman’s ownership over her own choices and beliefs, then now is the moment to grab your weighted blanket or glass of wine, or just log off right here in the name of self-care and psychological self-preservation. It gets bad. I mean, I’m a white lady who has had more than her fair share of Karen moments over the years, but this was some next-level White Sorcery*.
The story videos above capture Cara’s public Instagram response in full. Explaining why these stories are so incredibly triggering will require a small lesson in psychoanalysis, and the ways we unconsciously defend ourselves against unbearable emotional realities — feelings that don’t jive with how we want to see ourselves, and experiences that threaten our sense of safety in/understanding of how the world works. Some of these defenses are more primitive and violent than others. Cara appears to be a master of the bottom of the barrel.
In Part I, she starts out by stating in her signature sugary, slow tempo tone of voice, which to me always bordered on condescension, that we are “all welcome” here on her platform, to continue to absorb her views on parenthood, and to give her our money. She says, “It doesn’t matter who you are, what you believe, who you love, the color of your skin, who you voted for, or where you were born,” we are welcome — so it sounds like even if we’re full-blown neo-Nazis, she’s here for us! Phew.
This messaging is just a degree or two removed from a Pollyanna “I don’t even see color!” outlook on society. She certainly does not believe there is a culture of deep-seated racism and structural inequity in our country, which might explain why so many of her followers were hurt by the kind of rhetoric and policy she throws her money behind via Trump. This is standard, textbook Denial.
Denial is one thing, but Part II is where it gets psychologically even more violent. She signs off with a few comments seemingly directed at the people who leaked her donation history, called her out, or unfollowed her, and says, “If you need to use my name to get all the hate out of your heart so that you can love others as well, do it. But if you want to use my name to spread love, you can do that, too.” The defense being skillfully employed here, in order for a powerful white woman with a huge online platform to get herself out of hot water for her questionable political beliefs, is massive Projective Identification (in part for ‘PR’ reasons to protect her image; but likely also in part to protect herself, internally, from having to acknowledge her own error in her ways).
I believe the psychological sequence looked like this:
Cara realized on some level that her very real hate and bigotry had been exposed. → Instead of confronting that, and doing the shameful and/or anxiety-laden work of ownership, learning and change, she projects this “hate” outwardly into the other (all the “hate in the hearts” of the people who called her on the carpet). This is easy for her to do, because the white supremacist foundations that pervade our culture tell us that white people can do no wrong, and this myth of their innocence and inherent, unearned value is constantly reinforced by the systems around them. → Now she (and she hopes the world, too) can go on seeing herself as the pure, innocent one, tolerant of all. → Her disavowed hate, error, aggression (toxic positivity is almost always a disavowal of aggression) is now projected into, and lives in, the people who were hurt by Cara’s actions in the first place.
Projective Identification is called “identification” because the person/people projected into start to identify with the disavowed feelings (in this case, THEY GET REALLY PISSED AND HATEFUL!), so it works. It is psychologically violent, and the BFF to straight up gaslighting people about their experiences in the world. The projector’s perceptions of things (for Cara, “I am good, I am here to serve everyone, I have been wrongfully attacked”) are confirmed as the projective identification further antagonizes the “other.” It can be a nasty cycle. It got me so revved up that I’m here, during my toddler’s nap, writing this.
But girl, sis, Cara, Karen … I’ve got news for you: things are more complex than just that. You like money, you rely on vulnerable moms who feel they need your courses, and clearly you like something about Trump and the downstream benefits to you of his leadership. Your donations totaling $1k plus to Donald Trump are not inconsequential, and your attempt in your responses to depoliticize your choice to make these donations, and neuter it of significance with regard to your social platform, only hints that there is a deep reservoir of shame about your own beliefs and choices that you are precariously trying to keep hidden. Let there be no confusion: the hater, or shall I say, person with “hate in their heart,” is the person who supports family separation at the border, locking children in cages, banning Muslims, grabbing women by the pussy, and equivocating with literal Nazis. I hope one day you can own even just a piece of that.
Let there be no confusion: the hater, or shall I say, person with “hate in their heart,” is the person who supports family separation at the border, locking children in cages, banning Muslims, grabbing women by the pussy, and equivocating with literal Nazis.
And if BIPoC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) folx do not know what White Sorcery* they are experiencing when they feel incited into anger and rage by the deflection, disavowal, or toxic “love” spewed by a white person, this is the technical term: Projective Identification. You are now holding and experiencing a version of the rejected, disowned and evacuated feelings or experience that was intolerable, and rocked the worldview too much, of the white other.
Cara just level-upped Karen. Personally, I think she at least deserves a new meme in her honor?
*Still tracking down the origins of this brilliant term and concept.
Thank you to my contributing editor @cabrooks120