Dr. Jen Gunter

GOOP’s misogynistic, mansplaining hit job

GOOP and Gwyneth Paltrow have a case of GOOPitis, which according to Dr. Steve Gundry is due to my potty mouthed facts. Or tomato skins. Or something. I find it all very disjointed, inadequately researched, bloated, and mansplainy.

I first saw this GOOP letter thing on the train back from a wonderful day in Manchester visiting with family (I’m over in the U.K. on holiday) when my phone almost blew up with Twitter notifications, partly because GOOP dedicated their first ever fighting words to little old me (apparently I have some gall suggesting women should not listen to second hand health advice from a ghost) and partly because even High Priestess Paltrow herself had descended from her bespoke, wooden vagina steaming throne to tweet about it among the mortals.

 

Apparently GOOP thinks I am a “third-party” who critiques them “to leverage that interest and bring attention to” myself. This  opinion leads me to wonder if they have ever read what I write or even visited my blog? I was blogging about pseudoscience long before Paltrow first squatted over a pot of steaming allergens and leveraged her celebrity to draw attention to her website. In GOOPlandia having a newsletter, selling products, hosting a very expensive swellness summit, being on the cover of magazines, and appearing on Jimmy Kimmel is apparently not leveraging anything. This is Paltrow’s privilege and hers alone. I am curious to hear what exactly the ladies in waiting who edit GOOP think I am leveraging when I write posts about laws designed to curtail reproductive rights or punish women? Then again they don’t write those posts so they don’t see the abuse that follows. 

The editors at GOOP find me “strangely confident” in my “assertion that putting a crystal in your vagina for pelvic-floor strengthening exercises would put you in danger of getting Toxic Shock Syndrome—even though there is no study/case/report which links the two.” I am not strangely confident about vaginal health, I am appropriately confident because I am the expert. I did 4 years of medical school, a 5 year OB/GYN residency, a 1 year fellowship in infectious diseases, I am board certified in OB/GYN in 2 countries, I am board certified by the American Board of Pain Medicine and the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in Pain Medicine and I am appropriately styled Dr. Jen Gunter MD, FRCS(C), FACOG, DABPM, ABPM (pain). A woman with no medical training who tells women to walk around with a jade egg in their vaginas all day, a jade egg that they can recharge with the energy of the moon no less, is the strangely confident one.

This assertion that jade eggs are safe because there is no reported case of toxic shock syndrome is not even acceptable for a grade 4 science fair project. The incidence of menstrual toxic shock syndrome is 1-2/100,000 so it would take a lot of jade egg wearing (meaning the kind of sales that bring tears to eyes of the team at GOOP) to get enough data. However, luckily I am an expert and I know basic science so can form a highly educated expert opinion. As an expert I know that introduction of microscopic amounts of oxygen is one very important step in menstrual toxic shock syndrome, by microscopic I mean the amount of oxygen trapped in a tampon’s fibers (organic cotton still traps oxygen, sorry GOOP) or the amount of oxygen that could be trapped in the microscopic crevices on a vaginal jade egg repeatedly exposed to a pH of 4-4.5 in the vagina. Or the kind of oxygen that could enter the vagina if a vaginal jade egg slides down to the introitus if wearing it while sleeping. What if someone using a jade egg is a producer of toxic shock syndrome superantigens (we know 1% of women are colonized vaginally with TSS-1 producing strains of Staph aureus) and the superatigens are reintroduced vaginally with air during jade egg insertion? These superantigens are quite resistant to heat, 10% bleach, and even dessication. In fact they can be reactivated one year later after drying out. So GOOP editors need to tell me scientifically how they know a jade egg can be cleaned of toxic shock super antigen without damaging the jade thus allowing more oxygen to be inserted with the next use. I haven’t even begun to talk about the impact of oxygen on lactobacilli.

The jade eggs and tampons that feature in the GOOP post are conveniently located in the same screen for purchase. Speaking of tampons the GOOP editors are apoplectic that I could be “100 percent” certain that conventional tampons are safe. Of course when I write about toxic shock syndrome I address the very low risk with tampons, but here the GOOPsters are worried about glyphosate. If they had read my post on tampon safety they would know the WHO says the following about glyphosate:

…the absence of carcinogenic potential in rodents at human-relevant doses and the absence of genotoxicity by the oral route in mammals, and considering the epidemiological evidence from occupational exposures, the Meeting concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet.

It is possible that if GOOP got their tampon information from a gynecologist they would know that 40 years of exclusive tampon use would expose a woman to a maximum of 1 mg of glyphosate over her lifetime. According to European standards a 50 kg woman can safely eat 25 mg of glyphosate a day. A lifetime of heavy tampon use doesn’t approach the amount of glyphosate allowed for one day of oral intake. Pointing this out with snark is only mocking the person at GOOP who couldn’t be bothered to look it up. The science matters. Addressing GOOP errors like this one is not disrespecting women it’s pointing out the fucking truth.

I bristle the most at the idea that GOOP are the feminist keepers of the inner goddess and that I am a tool of the patriarchy. Suggesting that goat’s milk can cure parasites or that astrology has a role in mental health care is the exact opposite of empowering. This is subliminal messaging about fear and modern medicine and toxins and it drives people to waste money, get unindicated and often expensive testing, and even delay care. It is also cruel and quite simply makes everyone less informed. How can women possibly take away anything useful from a post that seems to promote anorexia for quick weight loss, or one that claims bras cause breast cancer, or the one that claims sea sponges are safe for menstrual hygiene, or the absolutely jaw-dropping advice that nitrosamine exposure from condoms could be carcinogenic?

How dare the editors of GOOP promote the idea that I somehow think women “are not intelligent enough to read something and take away what serves us, and leave what does not” when they present half-truths. The classic GOOP playbook is stoke fear with the names of dangerous sounding chemicals and then offer a “natural” cure (often found in their shop). For example with nitrosamines and condoms GOOP neglected to tell women that using 1 condom a week for 30 years results in about 0.9 microgram of absorbed nitrosamines and that animal studies suggest that topical application of about 1 g is a concern. So 30 years of condoms once a week is about one millionth of that single carcinogenic dose. Let me tell you kiddos bad information is the exact opposite of autonomy. How can women possibly take away anything useful when the crucial information about dose and the studies that show condoms reduce the rate of cancer are missing?

I also take umbrage at the idea that I have mocked women who desperately turn to the snake oil that GOOP sells. That is simply untrue. My ire has been directed squarely at the people spreading misinformation, especially if it is for profit. I blog to help women get better advice so they can be more empowered with their health. 

Women are of course free to do what they want with their bodies. I have walked that walk more than any actress, editor, doctor, naturopath, ghost whisperer, or jade eggthusiast at GOOP. I literally write about choice regularly, a subject absent from the self-proclaimed collection of feminists at GOOP. How dare someone who has never counseled a woman about a second trimester abortion never mind done one lecture me on choice and health.

Regarding Aviva Romm I have frankly never heard of her, but she appears to be a vaccine skeptic so there’s that.

Dr. Gundry, however, is a special kind of patriarchal prick. I have devoted one sentence in my writing career to his pet project lectins and somehow this earned me a proper mansplaining about both potty mouth and evidence based medicine. Dr. Gundry even wants me to know he is pals with Dr. Oz (that is where I burst out laughing on the train), yes, he brags about being associated with the same Dr. Oz who was scolded by a Senate panel for abusing his national platform to push snake oil.

It gets better. Despite Gundry’s grandiose claims as the champion of peer review (this is the screenshot of some of his tedious mansplaining)…

…he defends his work on lectins with an article published in the Journal of International Society of Microbiota (JISM), which isn’t even indexed.

Indexing is a sign of a journal’s quality.  This JISM appears to be nothing more than a glorified syllabus that is available only to conference attendees. While he was mansplaining research ethics Gundry forgot to disclose the ongoing money he gets from drug companies. I don’t begrudge him the money from a patent, however, knowing someone has made almost $500k from Big Pharma over three years is a bias that is typically disclosed by someone as concerned with optics as Dr. Gundry. Feel free to look me up, but I’m not listed because I don’t accept Pharma money. 

As for the swearing? Dear God that was precious. Gundry accuses me of not Googling him (I did, that is how I found the Atlantic article), but clearly hasn’t read a thing about me. If you are going to accuse someone of shoddy Internet research perhaps you should have your own Google hygiene in order. Dr. Gundry is worried that swearing on my gynecologic blog might have an impact on “my child.” I have written about the number of children I have several times in blog posts that have been widely read. Here’s a hint it’s not one.

What is super funny about Gundry is that he seems unaware that the original post with the word fuck was a response to Paltrow actually saying “If you want to fuck with me, bring your A game.” She even brags that she has napkins with that phrase! Is Dr. Gundry not worried what might happen if Paltrow’s kids see those napkins? And Paltrow swore on Jimmy Kimmel. Is Dr. Gundry going to wash out Paltrow’s mouth with raw goat’s milk soap? Perhaps he is unaware she swears. Who knows?

What astounds me the most is that GOOP and Gundry have targeted me. After all Stephen Colbert has mocked GOOP mercilessly several times. Gizmodo blasted GOOP over the fake NASA band aids. Tim Caulfield wrote an entire book Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything. Jezebel has taken GOOP to task. The Atlantic put up a blistering piece about Dr. Gundry’s lectin hypothesis and supplement selling. Vox coined the phrase GOOPshit. Quartz said GOOP is simply bespoke Infowars. A study took Paltrow to task for recipes involving unsafe food preparation. Why do I get under GOOPs dry brushed skin? I am not anymore right than anyone else who has taken on GOOP and Paltrow, although a reporter from the New York Times once called me a gift from the quote Gods so it is possible that I have a unique way of quickly summing up what is wrong with GOOP in a relatable way. It is also possible that they think I am an easy target because I am just a chick with a blog as opposed to a man with a blog or a reporter with a national or even international reach or a talk show host who can leverage writers, a PR team and an audience of millions. In short, is it because they think they can bully me?

To GOOP I say medicine is not subjective. There are facts and biological plausibility. Of course there are unknowns, but not in the way you present it. For example it is fact that sea sponges contain dirt and are completely untested for menstruation. It is highly biologically plausible that sea sponges could have a significant risk of toxic shock syndrome as they may be more absorbent than tampons, may introduce more oxygen than tampons, and be impossible to clean in a way that removes the toxic shock syndrome toxin or even staph aureus. If you disagree with this information it doesn’t mean you have a different opinion it means you are choosing to be uninformed or the potential risk of being uninformed matters less to you. Subjective would be preferring tampons with a plastic applicator over a cardboard one.

To Dr. Gundry I say you are a textbook mansplainer. Your letter to me and your picture should really appear on the Wikipedia page for mansplaining. I have dealt with surgeons like you throughout my training, you didn’t bother me then and you don’t bother me now. I will not read your book, but I will be happy to read your research when it makes it to JAMA or NEJM or BMJ