The INSIDER Summary:
- Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle website Goop sells $US66 jade eggs meant to be placed in the vagina.
- Gynecologist Dr. Jen Gunter wrote on her blog that women should not use a jade egg.
- Goop issued a response attacking Gunter, causing a stir on Twitter.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle website Goop is almost always the butt of someone’s joke. Since its founding in 2008, people have lambasted the brand for recommending a $US15,000 sex toy, vaginal steaming, and wearable stickers to improve health, to name just a few eyebrow-raising examples. Doctors, too, have jumped into the fray, accusing the site of promoting quack remedies that may even be dangerous.
But the site hasn’t formally responded to the long onslaught of ridicule and criticism — until now.
Last Thursday, the site published a lengthy post defending itself — and attacking one doctor who has repeatedly criticised the brand.
Here’s the full story of the controversy.
It all started back in January, when Goop started selling a product known as the vaginal jade egg.
Few of Goop’s tips have drawn as much ire as the $US66 jade egg.
Back in January Goop published a Q&A with Shiva Rose, a”beauty guru/healer/inspiration/friend” who promised that holding the small stone inside the vagina can “increase orgasm,” “tighten and tone,” “create kidney strength,” “intensify feminine energy,” and “invigorate our life force,” among other purported benefits.
A few days later, gynecologist Dr. Jen Gunter wrote an open letter taking down the product.
On her popular women’s health blog, Gunter penned an open letter to Paltrow, arguing that a jade egg is unnecessary at best and a possible a risk factor for toxic shock syndrome and pelvic pain at worst.
“The only thing your post got right is to check with your doctor before using one,” she wrote. “So let me give you some free advice, don’t use vaginal jade eggs.”
Since then, Gunter has frequently blogged about Goop’s worst tips.
Gunter has been blogging about Goop since 2015, but she’s picked up steam in recent months.
Since the jade egg takedown, Gunter has written a steady stream of posts on Goop’s worst advice, using her medical expertise to scrutinize goat milk cleanses, detox smoothies, and other “treatments” that lack scientific backing. She even has a tag on her blog called “Bad Goop Advice.”
Last week, Goop decided to fire back at Gunter.
On Thursday a lengthy post authored by Goop editors and two pro-Goop doctors appeared on the site. Gwyneth Paltrow herself took a moment to share it on Twitter:
“As Goop has grown, so has the attention we receive,” the post began. “We consistently find ourselves to be of interest to many — and for that, we are grateful — but we also find that there are third parties who critique goop to […] bring attention to themselves.”
After a brief introduction, it lasered in on Gunter, calling her assertions about the jade egg “strangely confident.”
“Since her first post, she has been taking advantage of the attention and issuing attacks to build her personal platform — ridiculing the women who might read our site in the process,” the Goop post said.
Goop’s main defence is that they believe they are empowering women by offering alternatives and questioning the status quo. They argue that Gunter, by criticising their advice, is disenfranchising women.
“It is unfortunate that there are some who seem to believe that they already know it all,” the post said.
The next day Gunter wrote with a fiery response of her own.
Gunter’s response is long, and addresses each Goop critique in detail. But its central thesis is nicely distilled in this short passage:
I am not strangely confident about vaginal health. I am appropriately confident because I am the expert. I did 4 years of medical school, a 5 year OB/GYN residency, a 1 year fellowship in infectious diseases, [and] I am board certified in OB/GYN in 2 countries. A woman with no medical training who tells women to walk around with a jade egg in their vaginas all day […] is the strangely confident one.
She also addressed the assertion that Goop empowers women, writing, “Suggesting that goat’s milk can cure parasites or that astrology has a role in mental health care is the exact opposite of empowering […] It drives people to waste money, get unindicated and often expensive testing, and even delay care. It is also cruel and quite simply makes everyone less informed.”
“My ire has been directed squarely at the people spreading misinformation, especially if it is for profit,” she continued. “I blog to help women get better advice so they can be more empowered with their health.”
On Twitter, hundreds of people came to Gunter’s defence.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Gunter said she was shocked to find herself on the receiving end of the attack.
“I feel like I’ve fallen through the looking glass,” she told BuzzFeed. “It’s just odd I have to defend myself against a website that passes on the idea that bras cause cancer or that people should listen to someone who talks to a spirit for their health care.”
On Twitter, many fans, doctors, and scientists praised Gunter or chastised Goop (or both).
Gunter even got a shoutout from the Canadian minister of health.
And, for what it’s worth, virtually all of the 460 replies to replies to Paltrow’s original “We go high” tweet were negative, not supportive.
Goop may be targeting more critics in the future.
The post that appeared on Goop last Thursday is actually the first in a forthcoming series — so perhaps more doctors or scientists will be singled out by Paltrow and the Goop editors. The site has no shortage of critics: Stephen Colbert has joked about Goop on his TV show, for example, and University of Alberta professor Timothy Caulfield even wrote a book called “Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?”
A spokesperson for Goop told BuzzFeed that “The purpose of the letter is to stand behind our doctors, and stand behind the readers who tell us that advice and guidance from these doctors has had a positive impact on their lives.” When reached for comment, a Goop spokesperson told INSIDER that “we hope to continue engaging in a respectful and productive dialogue.”
Only time will tell if Paltrow and the Goop staff will continue waging attacks like this one.
This post has been updated to reflect a statement from Goop.
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Incredibly pathetic. I have engaged with hundreds of MDs, nurses, health researchers, etc., all think @goop = bunk. #Truism in science wold. https://t.co/FErQstgmT8
— Timothy Caulfield (@CaulfieldTim) July 13, 2017
Come on, Gwyneth, no one is “empowered” by misinformation (or disinformation). Quite the opposite.
— Fred Wu, MD (@FredWuMD) July 13, 2017
Thankful for Canadian scientists, health researchers, & #fakenews debunkers, including @CaulfieldTim @DrJenGunter & many more. #GoScience! https://t.co/YaSe1a9LLd
— Jane Philpott (@janephilpott) July 16, 2017