Goop de jour: Some things we learned from listening to Gwenyth Paltrow’s podcast by Steph Conroy and Stephanie Wescott
Image: Anna Demianenko on Unsplash
We are perpetually searching for good podcasts. We frequently exhaust recommendation lists in search of the one with the winning mix of intrigue, masterful editing, and a solid story. We’ve become pretty discerning too; we recently abandoned The Lady Vanishes due to its repetitive content in lieu of substance, and The Clearing for not living up to its fantastic potential.
When Conroy asked me if I had listened to the Goop podcast, I assumed it was a dig. I unironically consume a healthy diet of new-age cringe, which she responds to with interchangeable mocking and curiosity. This question came tentatively; both of us wondering if we were going to relinquish our intellectual snobbery and admit to ourselves that we kinda wanted to give it a try. Accepting Goop into our lives and into our ears meant an act of defiance against ourselves; our cynicism, our hyper self-consciousness about our white-middle-classness, and our uneasy interest in the widely-problematised modern pursuit of wellness. While we can casually throw informed references to crystal-charging, synching menstrual cycles with the moon and doing ‘ego work’ into an otherwise unremarkable conversation, subscribing to Goop felt like a bit of a dive, even for us.
I, Conroy, had limited prior ‘knowledge’ about Goop. What I had absorbed from the ether is that Goop is a health-based organisation for rich white ladies and people who think putting pretty rocks in your vag sounds like a perfectly legitimate way to increase your ‘feminine energy’. A place where people who could afford to buy actual truffles to use in their cooking could convene and talk about the challenges they face day to day. Something that finally gave Toorak mums an excuse to put our famous Melbourne coffee in their buttholes. One time I heard an anecdote that Gwyneth, the company’s creator and Shallow Hal actress, would rather smoke crack than eat cheese from a can; a trash-mag I was ironically (but actually unironically) reading at the hairdresser told me so. I remember thinking: I do not relate to this woman. She is so far removed from the life I know. And also: Where can I buy this ‘canned’ cheese?
But when it popped up on a list of podcasts suggested for me, I thumbed-in automatically. My eyes roved the titles of the episodes: ‘What Our Anxiety Is Telling Us’; ‘How Food Affects Our Mood’; ‘Manifesting the Life You Want’. Okay, alright, cool…this sounded on trend. And I decided to give it a crack.
It quickly became apparent that Gwyneth or ‘GP’ as she’s known within the Goop fam, seems to be only vaguely present, the disembodied cult leader letting the very engaging and well-spoken ‘Elise’ do the bulk of the work. We dived in with fervour, consuming each episode with the crazed enthusiasm of born-again converts. But when our normal dose of cynicism re-emerged, Goop left a sour taste. Much like the one we assume canned cheese or kale ice cream would leave. The Goopy shine dimmed, and we were left wondering how our consumption sat alongside our moral code. Below is what remains of our Goop experience.
Goop, is for rich people.
The last ‘In Goop Health’ Summit had three ticketing options for womenfolk seeking wellness. The first, the Summit Pass, would set you back a cool $1,793 AUD. The Wellness Weekender package, a chakra-clenching $8,073 AUD. But fear not, this price tag included two nights of accommodation and a sunday workout session with GP so it was obviously reasonable value for money. In addition to its being plugged incessantly on the podcast, this information was largely obtained from the Goop website where they make no secret of the cost of their workshops, prices appearing in large, bold font on the first page. You’d almost think GP et al were flaunting the high price tag, as if a stay at the luxurious Kimpton Fitzroy London was the true determiner of wellness. We’d probably be feeling pretty well too if we were able to afford ‘an in-room massage before heading out for the afternoon [where the] friendly doorman is waiting nearby to hail [us] a cab’ and serve us bubbly upon our return. In what feels like a very patronising nod to the peasants, there are entry-level-wellness-tickets-for-plebs available in the form of classes and workshops costing a respectable $53 AUD a pop. But how well can you really get if you’re only able to afford one of these? Should you even bother? The answer is implicitly, no, peasant.
What is most interesting about the podcast, though, is that the rich women of GP’s inner circle seem to operate on the assumption that their default status is ill-health, a state that must be remedied immediately by expensive (and bizarre) wellness pursuits. Women with access to the best doctors, medicines and treatments available are preoccupied by seeking a state of wellness beyond being disease-free, speaking to a distrust of their bodies, and the continuous pursuit of some sort of ineffable condition of aliveness, in which they, presumably, float luminous and radiant through the world. Writer Lindy West’s time at the Goop summit gives her a similar realisation. She writes, ‘I might be fat, but I’ve never felt like I needed to get an IV drip on a patio in Culver City or put leeches on my butt to suck out toxins, and I’m grateful for that’.
Diamonds = wellness.
In addition to the torrent of ads for the Summit, the Goop podcast is sponsored by a diamond company. The ads set the tone of each podcast, an introduction of sorts, and herein a strange intermingling of luxury and wellness begins. Diamonds, Elise tells us matter of factly, are one of those things we buy ourselves (are they? Neither of us own any). A timeless piece that captures the beauty of nature. She tells us that diamonds are unique and special, no one diamond exactly resembling another. And then, almost without skipping a beat, she has launched into an overview of the impending episode, discussing which guest will be talking about gut health or anxiety or parenting. There is very little to distinguish the advertisement from the content and we both felt uncomfortable with the realisation that something as superfluous and problematic, and entirely unnecessary as diamonds was being presented as a virtual precursor to health and wellbeing, which, just in case you needed to hear it, they are not.
This lead me (Conroy) to do some further investigation into Goops sponsors and recommended products via the website. Surely it couldn’t be all diamonds and luxury hotels. And I was right. It was also small bottles of face serum ($186 USD), a number of clothing brands- whose products were advertised as part of an article about detoxing for as low as $165 USD for yoga leggings, and up for $578 USD for a robe- and a product called High School Genes; Goops very own anti-aging promise to women with disobedient older bodies; a cool $90 USD for a one month supply.
These prices are not listed to simply scoff at (although by all means, please feel free). They are also there as reminders that women’s health, despite the association Goop has tried hard to manufacture, is not contingent upon a woman’s personal arsenal of diamonds and fancy dressing gowns. You don’t need these things to be well. This stuff serves to make women feel as if their health is something that can be measured in carats (good) and wrinkles (bad). Instead of providing sound information on how women might actually go about improving their health, Goop is perpetuating and exploiting the insecurities of women to hawk their fancy wares, conflating diamonds with health. It has lead us to believe that authentic concern for the betterment of womenfolk is naught but a thin facade. We are convinced that wellbeing is not an interest of Goop at all, and that Goop and its podcast is simply vehicles for capitalism to thrive in the name of fear mongering around women’s health issues. #GOOPSPIRACY.
The time required to focus on ‘wellness’ is not realistic for 99% of us
Look, we have had to admit to ourselves that while we may not be the target audience for the podcast in that neither of us will likely ever have the means to flit over to England for a Wellness Weekender, there are some useful take home messages wedged in between the ads for diamonds and man Goop. As women with anxiety and historically problematic relationships with food and diet, we found a lot of the content insightful and helpful in this regard. However, GP’s wellness recipe is a full-time pursuit, loaded with the kinds of rituals one may only be able to carve out time for if they are also able to afford help with the menial and mundane tasks life throws at us the 99% of us.
Nevertheless, we can’t help but feel that Goop’s brand of wellness is dishonest, to its listeners and itself, if it does not at least, maybe in tiny font at the bottom of its webpage, declare its own privilege. Something like: hey, we know that not all women have access to these kinds of resources. But, we hope there is something for all of us here. Maybe also a disclaimer about whether or not those diamonds are ethically sourced. For rich, white, American women to declare in brazen ignorance that diamonds are a necessity, without any acknowledgement of ethics, is goopy gross.
But, we suppose, that’s Goop’s whole schtick. It’s unattainable and its aspirational. Kind of like all brands of tone-deaf white wellness. But that also means that it marginalises and excludes, and that, my friends, means we ought to hit that unsubscribe button before GP croons in our ears again about drink bottles with amethyst inside.
Wellness is a distraction that courts the patriarchy
While women are delving deep into the Goop podcast, learning the best method to steam their vulvas and researching the best surfaces cleaners that won’t impact their microbes, they are actively de-radicalising themselves from the ongoing project of women’s emancipation from the patriarchy’s gaze on their bodies. As long as we continue to be preoccupied with this pursuit of being over-well, buying into the capitalist modes of priming and primping our bodies unnecessarily, we are drawn further away from the true anger and devastation that the state of things deserves.
What we want to avoid in this critique is any reductionist claims that femme = bad, or liking wellness and crystals or whatever is anti-feminist. Our critique is situated in class and power, and the active distraction of an entire class of women from legitimate problems impacting the daily lives of women with less capital than them.
Gwenyth Paltrow’s version of wellness de-radicalises women into shiny, docile and more palatable versions of themselves. It is white women at their peak, their most potent and their most distasteful. While we express our hard-won freedom to choose the hardest working exfoliator, or a chakra-based diet, or the 3-day anti-bloat summer reset, all on the backs of our forebears, we ignore that in the US some states women’s right to reproductive freedom is being taken away, that the gender pay gap remains, and that in Australia, one woman a week dies at the hands of her intimate partner. So fuck you, Goop, and your stupid guide to a detox at a Clinical Swiss Spa swarming with doctors.
Cynicism is easy. What’s another way to think and write about GP?
Okay, so, we feel differently since we wrote this dot point. We experienced a brief, fleeting stage of feeling like the Goop podcast was actually useful to our lives—that it had the potential to offer us from crucial learnings. But, we feel a little bit scorned now. Kind of like, betrayal. For all our criticality and cynicism we still managed to fall for the lure of this cult.
There is no other way to think and write about Goop other than with contempt and rage. Paltrow has an incredible platform of followers, above whom she floats ethereally like a blonde, doey, minimal make-uped, detoxed cloud. The idea that you could detox, lifestyle and meditate yourself into a life free of capitalism’s control over your time, your body and your capital, that women could exist in a contrived and contradictory vacuum of choice and freedom, is utter bullshit.
Because when you take out the diamonds and jade eggs and $8,000 workshops, wellness is about whole foods, taking care of your mental health and trying your best to live a life that makes you happy—messages the podcast does endorse, and ones we agree with and connect with. Wellness is also acknowledging that we live in a society that values us mostly for our labour, prefers us silent, and is led by a goopy white man who likes to ask us, ‘How good’s Australia?’ when really, Scott, we have a few concerns.
In short, you don’t need the $5,000 gift bag to attain wellness. And steaming your vag is basically free, dude.