Actress Gwyneth Paltrow, long ago now, joined the group of celebrities attempting to sell the masses pseudoscience and, frankly, snake-oil. Among her are people like Dr.Oz, and celebrities and influencers who try to sell their followers detoxing tea (which are really just laxatives and don’t help you lose weight in the manner they claim).
Paltrow has gone so far as to creating her own online space and shop called: “Goop”. They sell more than just their branded snake-oil. You can also buy shoes from her that are nearly $700. But as unnecessarily expensive as those flats are, they’re generally harmless if you’re the kind of person who can afford those shoes. The real problem are the products that are meant to be good for your mind and body, that are anything but.
The latest controversy (of many) was a few months ago now — back in June, Goop promoted a company called “Body Vibes”. In case you missed it, they sell stickers that are meant to promote healing (really!). They also claimed that these stickers were made with the same “carbon material NASA uses to line space suits”.
NASA had a few words to say about this. Specifically, they told Gizmodo that they “do not have any conductive carbon material lining the spacesuits.” (The article is not intended for younger readers — strong language throughout.) Furthermore, after the controversy, Body Vibes themselves sent out a statement apologizing for the “communication error”, claiming that they had been lied to by a distributor, and promptly took the claim off their website.
However, they still claim to (maybe) offer relief from pain, (perhaps) reduce inflammation, and (perchance) release you from anxiety. Despite their product labels claiming this, they have a disclaimer at the bottom of their website that says that Body Vibes are “not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any ailment or disease …”. But they may be able to anyway, so they say.
So Why Are We Talking About This Now?
Gwyneth Paltrow recently talked to #GirlBoss Radio and defended her lifestyle blog. "We're very clear on what we're doing. We stand behind everything we do. But unfortunately, people who are critical of us sometimes get attention for being critical of us. It gives people a platform,” She told them. “I wish that people would actually read the article or do their homework before they are vitriolic about it. A lot times they're not even addressing what's on the website. [Especially because] we encourage discussion and we love the back and forth. And we love different points of view.”
A sentiment that might hold meaning if Goop themselves hadn’t claimed things that made it seem like they hadn’t “done their homework” on the subject.
Rae Paoletta, space writer and the author of the aforementioned article for Gizmodo, took to twitter to question this. “Did Goop ‘do its homework’ when it extolled the benefits of shoving jade eggs up your vagina?” She asked, with a CNN article linked that claimed that experts were against the idea of using jade eggs to strengthen the muscles in your vagina. “Goop preys on people by tapping into their insecurities, and decades of advertising shows this is profitable,” Paoletta continued. “It's an old trick wrapped in something new. Marketing pseudoscience as ‘wellness’ doesn't make your product more endearing. It's still garbage, just expensive.”
Paoletta also brought out that Paltrow’s Goop was being investigated for 51 deceptive claims made on their website.
As the icing on top of the cake, Goop’s official twitter account blocked Rae Paoletta’s account, rather than standing up for themselves.
The Bottom Line
Being unable and unwilling to express and defend themselves to their critics, and childishly block said critic, shows that Goop really doesn’t have an explanation (or at least a good one) for their over four dozen claims for health. Paltrow’s vague comment about readers and critics ‘doing their homework’ furthers this. Instead of giving backed reasons for her claims, or speaking to and referencing an expert on the subject, she places the blame on critics.
When people blindly buy the products she endorses, that's when the consumer isn’t doing their research. And though the general public needs to be more critical of the health tricks they buy into, it’s easy to believe in people we look up to — and many people look up to celebrities who claim to put the health of their fans first.
There’s even been studies done about this, such as this one by epidemiologist Steven J. Hoffman and science journalist Julia Belluz. They talk about how fans following celebrity’s advice on health is a form of "herd behavior”, something similar to a mob mentality. So while some blame may fall onto people for not thinking more critically before jumping into a new health trend, more of the blame falls onto these celebrities who know what they’re doing.
Paltrow is an Oscar Winning actress, who has continued to be successful in her acting career since her win for Shakespeare in Love. She supposedly had a net worth of $60 million. There is absolutely no reason she needs to be endorsing and selling these products to unsuspecting fans and other consumers. She knows what she’s doing — she knows she’s promoting the herd behavior because it’s an effective marketing tool and always has been. It’s greedy, and promotes pseudoscience, giving science itself a bad name and harming consumers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of things STEM. Find her on Twitter.