Tuesday, September 20, 2022

#2568: Jennifer Block & Elisa Albert

Nourish the Inner Aspect’ is the slogan of Goop, and it really captures the nature of that organization – utterly contentless, but with a vague air of feel-good deepity about it. Goop is of course Gwyneth Paltrow’s brand, and although it is huge business, it is pseudoscientific drivel to the core – Paltrow is wrong about everything, has no standards that bear any resemblance to truth or accuracy, and really, really doesn’t care. Her project is big enough, however, that Paltrow was given a series on Netflix, which she used to promote the most bullshit of nonsense and woo. Naturally, some reasonable people reacted to that, such as Dr. Jen Gunter, given that much of Paltrow’s randomly insane advice is not always mere harmless drivel but potentially dangerous.


And predictably enough, the criticism from the side of reason received some pushback from Paltrow’s dingbat fans. And of course, some of them couldn’t help but employ the ‘we’re-oppressed’ gambit – criticism of Paltrow by people like Jen Gunter just because Paltrow is lying is misogyny and patriarchal oppression. That was the line deployed e.g. by Jennifer Block and (successful author) Elisa Albert, in a piece in the NY Times, where they dismissed criticism of Goop by people like Jen Gunter as “classic patriarchal devaluation”, or shorter Block and Albert: “if you don’t lay off the pseudoscience promoted by Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, you’re treating women and their concerns about their bodies, emotional landscapes, and physiology with disrespect and a lack of humility”.


Mostly, their screed was a long exercise in whataboutism, referring to historical and misogynist practices in medicine. But they really didn’t shy away from describing the stuff Paltrow recommends, including psychics and energy healing, as “none of which lack actually lack sound evidence of benefit.” Oh, but it most certainly does; many of the claims Paltrow makes don’t rise to the level of meaningful, but those that do are almost invariably false (Block and Albert try to back up their claim with a link to a press release by a reiki practitioner before quickly moving their focus to the few Paltrow claims that are defensible). And of course, because Block and at least Albert were semi-celebrities, they did get their nonsense screed published – and deservedly attacked.


The more general and important point here, though, is this: Falling for this kind of response is to walk right into the Goop trap, line, hook and sinker. Paltrow’s whole marketing strategy is to use references to empowerment and feminist language (not content) to make a huge amount of money selling fraudulent bullshit. She’s a parasite on the feminist movement and every fight for empowerment, a leech who uses the slogans and spirit of those movements in the most cynical way to promote pseudoscientific crackpottery. She is exploiting women (knowledge is empowerment; misinformation isn’t). And useful idiots like Block and Albert prop it up by mistaking slick marketing ploys with genuine emancipatory efforts. This one provides a good summery. Ultimately, it is important to keep in mind what is overwhelmingly likely going on here: It is not that Block and Albert support feminism and mistake Paltrow’s efforts as a means to empowerment; it is that Block and Albert support wellness woo, and use whatever means they can to promote it or at least to justify it to themselves.


Diagnosis: It was probably inevitable that someone would endorse this kind of gambit. But it is stupid, and those who use it are genuine shitfucks.

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