Ro Élori Cutno’s “Wife School” has always failed Black Women by peddling misogynoir to teach submission
Cutno is charging Black women what some make as an annual salary to learn how to be docile mules.
“Let’s be honest… If Sandra Bland had a husband, she would probably be alive today. Marriage matters. Who’s your protector?” —Ro Élori Cutno
by Josie Pickens
Man Leads author, Ro Élori Cutno, is in the news again because of her Roots of Royals and Black Wealth U companies, and the courses it offers—especially its wife school course. Cutno’s “Wife School” is a four-part series that, according to the company’s website, instructs women on “feminine grace, etiquette, wealth building, man charming, feminine & masculine communication, [and] the 100 things a wife needs to do to promote generational greatness,” among other things.
The series of courses costs $30,000. Yes, you read that correctly. Thirty thousand American dollars is what Cutno charges women to put them on the fast track towards marriage (or to improve the marriages of women who have already said “I do”). This time, the self-proclaimed relationship expert has found trouble with disgruntled students who have signed up for, and seemingly paid for, her wife school series, but who feel swindled, duped, and poorly treated by Cutno.
A Change.org petition has been established by a person named Yelijha Durr, who puts Cutno on blast for what Durr describes as business ethics violations that include but are not limited to “dealing money under the table” and “masking her business as a family run donation spot to get wealthy.”
Durr also claims that Cutno does not deliver on the quality of products she advertises to her wife school students, and when questioned or confronted, she attacks those students (and has other members of her group harass those who oppose her as well). I should also make clear that there is a counter petition that has been created to support Roots of Royals.
I’ve seen other alarming online accusations against Cutno, including claims that she is involved in sex trafficking and training women to become concubines and servants for wealthy middle-eastern men. I cannot confirm these claims, but what I do know is that Cutno seems to have as many fans as she has detractors. She represents the quite polarizing views that many Black women maintain regarding relationships, respectability, and gender roles. Views that I am astonished are still so popular in our community in 2018.
Ro Elori Cutno’s teachings on love and relationships, and especially her instructions connecting worthiness to marriage, have always been problematic and met with conflict. I was amazed in 2015, when I read that Cutno advertised a retreat called “wife school” that was being held in Miami for $299. But I considered Cutno’s heavily misogynistic approach to teaching women how to partner no different than the tons of “wife school” courses offered by tons of Black churches.
“Beauty is feminine currency & inspires MEN to provide masculine currency. This is why ugly women have poor husbands.” —Ro Élori Cutno
I am a Black womanist. My womanism creates space for women to make their own choices about how they want to live their lives—and if literally bowing to men in order to marry is a choice they willfully make, then I support them. The work of loving and liberating Black women includes making space for and upholding Black women, even if I do not agree with their ideas and choices.
But charging $30,000 to supposedly teach women the steps to attain marriage and wealth, in this economy, in Trump’s America, is absurd and deserves to be questioned and called out. First and foremost, before we begin to examine Cutno’s dangerously misognoirist and anti-Black approach to teaching women how to find a lasting partnership, we have to recognize that Cutno is preying on broken-hearted Black women—Black women who have not been able to successfully partner at all, Black women who have had relationships they invested deeply in fall apart, and Black women who find themselves in troubled marriages.
My heart goes out to any woman who is vulnerable and disheartened enough to succumb to Cutno’s rhetoric about needing to give their power away to attract a mate. In addition to blaming Black women for their inability to find suitable mates, Cutno is also encouraging Black women to take on a lifestyle that is harmful to them, especially.
Even though it appears that more Black women are choosing to be stay-at-home moms, many of us are actually working from home as well, figuring out how to run businesses or telecommute to earn income. Since so few Black women are actually able to stay home to care for their families without having to provide income to support those families, Cutno is instructing women to both work and assume all household responsibilities—including catering to their husbands who likely don’t complete many of the traditional gendered tasks men were once expected to provide.
Even if Black men desire to, many of them are simply not in a position to uphold traditional white heteropatriarchal gender roles (roles like being the “bread winner”, for example). Why, then, do we expect Black women to perform so much labor in our households?
And what is this demand from Cutno (and so many others) costing Black women physically, mentally, and emotionally? We know the answer already: too much. Essentially, Cutno is charging Black women what some make as an annual salary to learn how to be docile mules.
Cutno roots many of her teachings about what success is (whether in wealth building or family building) in whiteness. She tells her followers that the reason so many Black women go unpartnered is because too many of us are products of single-mother homes—homes where we do not learn how to attract “devoted” and “hard working” husbands.
According to Cutno, Black women are too often raised by television instead of mothers, are “masculine,” and are a danger to the building of functional, respectable families. Like most who disparage single-mother households, there is no mention of the missing, dead-beat fathers who contribute nothing to the care of these children.
It’s as if the mother/teacher Cutno uses the controversial Moyinhan Report (written in 1965) to create the syllabus for her wife school. She continues the tradition of blaming Black women for the ways that we suffer—suffering that should clearly be linked to systems of racism and white misanthropy, not whether or not Black women can cook, clean, and master their “masculine” impulses that cause them not to “submit” to their husbands.
“Black girls keep trying to Bill Cosby me, but I’m not falling for the ghetto bait. They can keep trying to promote their silly books, blogs, programs, shows, etc, without trying to piggyback. I’m submissive, meaning smart, not dumb.” —Ro Élori Cutno
We simply have to stop blaming Black women for being single, whether they choose singlehood or are single because they haven’t found a desirable partner willing to commit to them as they are. Full stop.
We know that Black women receive far too many toxic messages around why we are “not desirable” for marriage already, and we should not be paying Cutno $30,000 to hear more of these misogynoirist messages.
What if, instead, we choose to instruct Black women on how to find joy in their journey through singlehood—to look at being single as a blessing—instead of a curse. What if we worked together, in sisterhood, to heal the wounds that make us feel less worthy of love and happiness because we are not being “chosen”?
If we claim to want the best for Black women’s mental and emotional health, wife schools are absolutely not the best road to help. Shame on Ro Élori Cutno and anyone else for attempting to build wealth on the backs and broken-hearts of Black women.
Josie Pickens is a professor, cultural critic, writer and griot. Follow her on Twitter at @jonubian.