Goopy junk

Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop, a wellness brand that has recently come under fire for advertising almost-certainly pseudoscientific “lifestyle” products like $66 jade eggs for women to insert into their vaginas to strengthen their pelvic floors, put up three notes in their defence: two by doctors and one by ‘Team goop’. The ‘Team goop’ note was the usual defence of pseudoscience that we’re all familiar with: that they’re keeping an open mind and seeking autonomous control over their bodies while remaining blissfully deaf to how this diverts the limited resources of many misinformed people who are desperately seeking solutions to health problems away from legitimate, and more reliable, solutions as well as to the capitalist overtones of their beliefs, an irony given Paltrow & co. insist the alternating modes they’re parroting are “Eastern traditions”.

Some of the coverage that goop receives suggests that women are lemmings, ready to jump off a cliff whenever one of our doctors discusses checking for EBV, or Candida, or low levels of vitamin D—or, heaven forbid, take a walk barefoot. As women, we chafe at the idea that we are not intelligent enough to read something and take what serves us, and leave what does not. We simply want information; we want autonomy over our health. That’s why we do unfiltered Q&As, so you can hear directly from doctors; we see no reason to interpret or influence what they’re saying, to tell you what to think.

And speaking of doctors, we are drawn to physicians who are interested in both Western and Eastern modalities and incorporate the best from both, as they generally believe that while traditional medicine can be really good at saving lives, functional medicine is more adept at tackling issues that are chronic. These are the doctors we regularly feature on goop: doctors who publish in peer-reviewed journals; doctors who trained at the best institutions; doctors who are repeatedly at the forefront of medicine; doctors who persistently and aggressively maintain an open mind. The thing about science and medicine is that it evolves all the time. Studies and beliefs that we held sacred even in the last decade have since been proven to be unequivocally false, and sometimes even harmful. Meanwhile, other advances in science and medicine continue to change and save lives. It is not a perfect system; it is a human system.

(The part in bold – not sure where that dichotomy comes from.)

In fact, the jade eggs are less problematic than goop’s other misdemeanours, such as advertising “healing stickers” that goop said was backed by NASA tech – and which NASA called BS on. It’s bad enough that an org with goop’s clout and money is going to market snake oil but it’s worse if it’s going to bill itself as a marketplace for all snake-oil vendors. Anyway, goop’s principal target in their tirade was Jen Gunter, an articulate doctor with a blog, a peculiar choice given the brand and Paltrow have both come under worse fire by major news outlets with millions of social media followers. Good job picking on the small people. And late last evening (or early this morning IST), Gunter published the post everyone was waiting for:

Regarding Aviva Room [doctor #2] I have frankly never heard of her, but she appears to be a vaccine skeptic so there’s that. Dr. Steven Gundry [doctor #1], however, is a special kind of patriarchal prick. I have devoted one sentence in my writing career to his pet project lectins and somehow this earned me a proper mansplaining about both potty mouth and evidence based medicine. Dr. Gundry even wants me to know he is pals with Dr. Oz (that is where I burst out laughing on the train), yes, he brags about being associated with the same Dr. Oz who was scolded by a Senate panel for abusing his national platform to push snake oil. …

To GOOP I say medicine is not subjective. There are facts and biological plausibility. Of course there are unknowns, but not in the way you present it. For example it is fact that sea sponges contain dirt and are completely untested for menstruation. It is highly biologically plausible that sea sponges could have a significant risk of toxic shock syndrome as they may be more absorbent than tampons, may introduce more oxygen than tampons, and be impossible to clean in a way that removes the toxic shock syndrome toxin or even staph aureus. If you disagree with this information it doesn’t mean you have a different opinion, it means you are choosing to be uninformed or the potential risk of being uninformed matters less to you. Subjective would be preferring tampons with a plastic applicator over a cardboard one.

To use a phrase coined by Tim Caulfield, a health law and policy professor at the University of Alberta, it seems the tragedies that “science-free celebrities” perpetrate usually centre around believing that there’s more than one way to interpret what constitutes scientific evidence, taking the suspicion of Western medicine to another level while assuming it has had no successes, taking feminism to mean anything that’s pro-women while ignoring the need to empower women, and wearing the traditionalism of Eastern medicine as a cloak to hide from not being able to produce scientific evidence.

Featured image credit: YouTube.