Certainly at the same disco

Jen Gunter is in London chatting with reporters.

Though she became famous for her sharp criticisms of Paltrow (the jade egg scandal led to a lawsuit against Goop’s marketing), she has branched out from bodies and blogging, with two columns in the New York Times, a web series that unpicks health myths, and a new book, The Vagina Bible.

The book is already a bestseller, a sign there is a need for her expertise; last month a 62-year-old woman was hospitalised with second-degree burns after steaming her vagina.


The BBC August 8:

Gynaecologists are warning of the potential risks of vaginal steaming after it emerged a Canadian woman burned herself attempting one.

A case study, involving a 62-year-old, was published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada.

The woman had been suffering from a prolapsed vagina and believed the treatment could help avoid surgery.

Vaginal steaming, which involves sitting over a hot water and herb mix, has seen a growth in popularity.

Sitting over a hot water and herb mix to do what? Besides causing burns? Steam is good for coughs, because it loosens up the crap in the lungs so that you can cough it out and thus breathe more easily. It doesn’t follow that steam is just generally Good. We don’t need to steam our eyeballs, or our armpits, or our kneecaps. Same with the vagina but more so.

What about this unfortunate woman?

Dr Magali Robert, who authored the article, said the injured woman attempted to steam her vagina on the advice of a traditional Chinese doctor.

The woman, who gave permission for her case to be shared, sat over the boiling water for 20 minutes on two consecutive days before presenting at an emergency department with injuries.

Boiling water?? Dear god. I accidentally let my hand stray into the plume of steam from a kettle just for a fraction of a second a few weeks back and that hurt. Just a fraction of a second so there was no damage, but still, the pain was fierce. You do the math.

Back to the Graun on Gunter and Goop.

Gunter argues that the wellness industry and the anti-abortion industry are, if not exactly dancing together, certainly at the same disco. The former manipulates that confusion to take women’s money, the latter to take their power. “I even started to notice overlap between the language,” she says with a shudder. “The anti-science views of wellness and the anti-science of the religious right. Themes like ‘purity’ and ‘cleanliness’ with their similar rituals. It’s predatory. It’s the patriarchy by another name. And it keeps women back by telling them lies about their body. They might be different lies, but the effect is the same.” It is her responsibility, she says, with something like a sigh, to “step up”.

Women are basically seen as filthy. We know this. The taboos on menstruation, the disgust for women who have sex with more than 1 (one) man, the desperate efforts to scour out that demonic thing between their legs – it’s all the same phobic terror.

Gunter’s skill is in her rawness, her frankness about her own experiences and the way she takes celebrity trends apart like oranges, spitting out pips.

“When I realised that people were believing Goop’s fairy tales, I thought: ‘I’ll take them on.’” The first anti-Goop post she wrote, on vaginal steaming, centred around the idea that women have long been believed to be unclean. “It’s one of the core beliefs of the patriarchy. That women are dirty inside. And yet Goop presents this as female empowerment? In Hippocrates’s time they used to think that the womb wandered the body, causing mayhem, and you would coax it back into place by putting fragrant herbs between the legs. This is the same thing. It’s in so many cultures, this belief that the uterus is toxic. I couldn’t believe it was now being presented as female empowerment. It’s bad feminism. And it’s bad science.”

But it makes $$$$.

She was stunned, and yes, angry. “Paltrow is able to call up any magazine in the world and get on the cover. And this is what she’s doing with her privilege. Grifting off desperate women.”

Would she like to sit down with Paltrow one day, have a conversation about, say, weaponising women’s fears about femininity? “No, I don’t think I’d ever get an answer that would be satisfying. People have had to spend money, just to prove her breast cancer bra thing was false, money that could have been used to study something important. Many of the medical experts she publishes are part of the anti-vaccine world and post a lot of conspiracy theories. So, either it’s a grift, or she’s a true believer. As a ‘feminist businesswoman’ she’s claimed the right to ‘try out’ being a reporter, and then, ‘try out’ being a doctor. It doesn’t work like that.”

It doesn’t except that it does. It’s working for Trump and his litter, and it works for Paltrow.

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