“Why do we all not feel well? And what can we do about it?” asks GOOP, Gwyneth Paltrow’s much-mocked wellness empire. The answer might be “Visualize your aura and shove a rock into your vadge for good measure,” but it might also be “Get the medical community to realize how badly it’s failing women.” At The Baffler, Jessa Crispin wonders about the “curious feminist logic of GOOP” and how the internet is decentralizing and democratizing medicine, for better or worse.

This is, of course, the same internet that tells women their children’s autism is caused by vaccines and that Goop uses to distribute its theory that walking barefoot on the grass helps realign the electromagnetic fields of the body. It’s also the same internet I turned to when I was vomiting up the iron supplements the doctor prescribed for my chronic anemia. He refused to give me anything else, other than the suggestion to “eat more spinach,” but an online forum told me about the easily absorbed nettle tea, which I have been using effectively to control my anemia for years. It’s also the same internet that told me I had scabies or syphilis when really I had an allergic reaction to my soap, and the same internet that tells me my coffee beans carry a toxic mold and are slowly killing me…

Viewed against the sobering backdrop of Western medical history, the Goop turn in female self-treatment can be seen as more than just another jaded journalistic narrative about delusional women and their soft-headed disbelief in science. In important respects, it is also an attempt to wrest control and authority back from a medical community that has mistreated women for centuries. A male-dominated medical world is no longer the authority on the female body—I am, with the help of online message boards, Goop newsletters, and random Google searches for things like “why is my discharge like this” or “how do I get rid of wrinkles” or “can a person eat nightshades and not die.” We could be regressing, then, to something like the oral medical tradition of the medieval midwife, where knowledge is come across sporadically, where anecdote is given as much credence as experimentation, and the knowledge base is decentralized.

Read the story