2 years ago

Wellmania? Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop Culture




Here’s an unfashionable confession: I don’t hate Goop. Actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness website and brand is regularly lambasted by accredited medical professionals. Its writers have recommended everything from vaginal steaming to wearable “healing stickers”. Of the latter, a former chief scientist at NASA condemned them as “snake oil”. All this gives me pause, but I don’t think Paltrow is the worst person alive.

Goop‘s writers don’t interest me, rather its readers and why they buy into the wellness warrior myth. From the start, Goop was all about aspiration. Think holidaying tips for secluded islands, expensive ingredients and cashmere with everything. Now it’s a one-stop shop for clean beauty, more cashmere, self-help writing and profiles on sex toy entrepreneurs. It’s a mixed bag, the contents saying “here lies a fulfilling existence”.

I don’t think it’s silly to seek completion through tangible objects or experiences removed from the drudgery of existence. Kintsugi is a Japanese method to repair damaged ceramics with a gold, silver or platinum lacquer. Smashed plates are reborn whole with visible shiny rivulets. Is wellness as branded by Goop the promise of personal kintsugi? Marie Boran, a science journalist and PhD researcher at DCU, disagrees with me, telling me over email, “I think Paltrow is about profit first and foremost.” Well, tickets for the Goop Health conference in June did start at $650. In terms of value for money, the conference had a smorgasbord of choice when it came to self-care. Aura readings sat alongside vitamin B-12 IVs and plenty of Goop-approved medics on site. One MD on a panel dismissed breakfast as a modern invention and others advised eliminating legumes from one’s diet.

Amy Morgan, GP, is worried about this culture of becoming “your best self” in the wellness era. In practice, she’s seeing young women cut out whole food groups to be “toxin free” or clean. Subsequent blood tests show they’re B12, calcium and iron deficient. “They’re left trying to manage it,” Morgan laments. Hormonal contraception is also getting the bin in this cut-out culture, says Morgan, citing media coverage linking the pill to depression as a trigger, though it has also been cited as curing depression too.

This surge in wellness culture is indicative that women are yearning for something. When medical professionals band together on social media to dismiss alternative medicine and feel pity for its participants, I see the establishment missing a beat. Goop and its ilk thrive in a society where there is a trust deficit. Goop may exploit the emotional whirlpool, but where’s the lifeboat? Some women have lost their faith in the conventional – let’s try find out why.

Jeanne Sutton

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