Views / Opinion

How could a magazine with 'health' in its title feature Goop-founder Gwyneth Paltrow? Easily.

The thinking goes: They should’ve known better. But maybe we should have, too.

Gwyneth Paltrow graces the April cover of Women’s Health, angering some who say she is peddling pseudoscience with her Goop brand.

AP

Gwyneth Paltrow graces the April cover of Women’s Health, angering some who say she is peddling pseudoscience with her Goop brand.

Gwyneth Paltrow looks pretty great in a red bikini on the April issue of Women’s Health. But wherever the Goop founder goes, she is not only followed by cold-pressed juice and bergamot-cedar incense, but also controversy.

People, including those in the medical community, are outraged not because one of the bolded cover lines “Get. Her. Abs.” in “just 3 moves” is a flat-out lie (tried it), but on account of an interview with the wellness guru titled “Gwynergy!”

How could a magazine with the word “health” in it promote a person who promotes decidedly unhealthy things — like vaginal steaming, and questionable practises like cupping — and not even hold her to account for her medically unsubstantiated beliefs?

There is literally an entire book dedicated to Paltrow’s peddling of pseudoscience: Timothy Caulfield’s Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash. The professor of health law and science policy at the University of Alberta recently told Gizmodo: “It’s disappointing that a magazine called ‘Women’s Health’ is embracing this science-free nonsense!”

The thinking goes: They should’ve known better. But maybe we should have, too.

For starters, a high school student could find the red flags: first, the interview was conducted by Paltrow’s employee, Jean Godfrey-June, Goop’s beauty director. No wonder she didn’t press her boss on the vagina steaming. And that it reads like an advertorial hawking Goop’s new line of supplements.

Second, in the interview’s sidebar, titled “What’s supp, doc?,” an MD evaluates those supplements. But the doctor dabbles in so-called functional medicine, a controversial form of alternative medicine whose most famous practitioner, Mark Hyman, regularly appears on The Dr. Oz Show.

“Gwyneth and Goop do push things like real food, sleep and exercise, which is fantastic,” Caulfield told Gizmodo. “But it is always wrapped in a blanket of pseudoscience.”

Buy the $72 scented candle, the $195 Energy Clearing Kit that includes a feather fan and “1 shungite stone,” and detox everything from your body save for your soul. But be weary of the Goop interview with a doctor who says: “I have yet to see an autoimmune disease that cannot be cured or put into remission by simple dietary changes and supplementation.” (Tell that to my mother, who has Lupus.)

And since when did we consider Women’s Health an arbiter of health science? Thirteen pages after Paltrow’s “interview,” a spread called “Practical Magic” provides tips on how women can tackle their health and beauty all in one go: facials plus healing crystals, laser hair removal and Reiki. It makes another cover line on the issue,“How to Spot Fake Health News,” all the more ironic.

Women’s Health, whose founding editor was formerly of Teen People, is not a health journal. They promote alternative medicines, like acupuncture and chiropractics, and fad diets and workouts — think bone broth and Mama June’s routine. So to feign shock over an interview in which Gwyneth says she wants to get to the bottom of why women are so exhausted (I have a few theories) and why she is “really interested in the impact of heavy metals and parasites on our bodies,” seems pretty rich.

But things get richer. Compare the two April covers of Women’s and Men’s Health. Both target weight loss and how to get a ripped bod. Women get a “Sexy, Easy Hair” cover line and men get: “Lean, Tough, Fit!” Women get that spread on Goop’s new supplements and men get a special report on “Is your supplement toxic?”

It’s a solidly scientific topic. Medical studies, op-eds and reporting brought the issue of Big Vitamin taking on regulators to light. You couldn’t pick up a paper or turn on a TV in 2013 without reading about not just the ineffectiveness of vitamin supplements but also their inherent dangers.

Pseudoscience is pushed on women all the time in the most inauspicious places. Take Saks Fifth Avenue’s glossy Spring 2017 catalogue: Women are treated to a five-page spread on what jeans you should buy based on your zodiac sign, which lead me to ask two questions: How are men supposed to know what style of denim to wear? And why are they always targeting us with this garbage?

I can’t answer the first question. But the second is obvious: we buy into it. Recent polls suggest that more women than men believe in astrology, take vitamins and supplements, and put stock in alternative medicines. But that for decades the media has hocked pseudoscience to women specifically makes the practice more complicated.

It’s easy to laugh at Sean Spicer for not being media-savvy enough to know that The Onion is a satirical website. But whose fault is it if Gwyneth on the cover of a women’s health magazine doesn’t sound any alarms? Who’s to blame for the orgasm-improving $60 jade eggs that you stick into your vagina selling out on goop.com? For the 4,000-strong waiting list to secure one?

I’d like to blame the patriarchy, but I don’t think it holds much sway over Goop. And even if the patriarchy came before the jade egg, I don’t blame Gwyneth. She’s just the messenger.

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