secrets of the orient
April 30, 2017 11:47 AM   Subscribe

 
There's something under here about how, having been routinely failed, belittled and disregarded by (Western) medical practicioners, the target audience for GOOP turns to (a seeming) opposite of this in order to regain (the feeling of) control in their lives.

But I can't quite elucidate it.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:56 AM on April 30, 2017 [21 favorites]


Yeah. It's frustrating that there are real things being spelled out here (indeed, it's hard out there for a new mom with no nearby community to lean on!) but the answer proffered is, "But purchase this literal snake oil and you'll feel all better!"

Gross. Plus, jeez, that "Eastern" medicine thing sounded a lot less racist and creepy in the 70s I guess but in 2017 I'm horrified it still sells.
posted by potrzebie at 11:59 AM on April 30, 2017 [8 favorites]


Another source of expensive woo
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 12:00 PM on April 30, 2017 [4 favorites]


This kind of advice is typical of Goop’s approach: viruses, or any disease and disorder, can be “conquered” by consumption.

It's all magic spells. Combine the right ingredients, obtained at the proper level of sacrifice, apply energy and attention into how you combine them, and consume the results. The results will manifest in a continued negative presence of things you fear in your life but have not happened yet.
posted by hippybear at 12:00 PM on April 30, 2017 [18 favorites]


One of the reasons I hope to live a long life is so I can witness the day when new-school charlatans like Gwyneth Paltrow and The Food Babe are looked back upon with the scorn they deserve. They're what happens when a generation that didn't pay attention in science class decides to "get healthy".
posted by tantrumthecat at 12:00 PM on April 30, 2017 [17 favorites]


Goop...woo...ooh
posted by jonmc at 12:19 PM on April 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


Interesting how Goop blames so many women's health issues on "patriarchy" (which does have more than a grain of truth to it), yet 4 out of 5 experts quacks in the article were men.
posted by TedW at 12:22 PM on April 30, 2017 [24 favorites]


having been routinely failed, belittled and disregarded by (Western) medical practicioners

I think there is a lot to be unpacked around this idea - that women are the target audience for the likes of Goop and are receptive not because their tiny lady brains don't understand science, but because there is so much lacking in the way so many doctors and other health care practitioners treat them. There are many, many articles, and threads on MeFi for that matter, on how women are belittled, ignored, misdiagnosed, and undertreated thanks to misogyny.

The solution is not Goop, but it's not "suck it up" or "I hope you have a man to advocate for you" either. I think Western medical practitioners need to examine their attitudes toward women.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:38 PM on April 30, 2017 [67 favorites]


It was amazing to me when I got on the internet how many people identify as chronically ill or in chronic pain, and I'm wondering if some of it is a feedback loop. Every vague ache and pain gets labeled now. Like the man of twists and turns says, it's about trying to regain a sense of control, but it can also turn into learned helplessness.
posted by AFABulous at 12:40 PM on April 30, 2017 [8 favorites]


Ahem, this post is rather something of a dupe. :-)
posted by sammyo at 12:48 PM on April 30, 2017


goop...woo...oooh...dupe
posted by jonmc at 12:52 PM on April 30, 2017 [3 favorites]


A Goop dupe? Whope knewpe?
posted by hippybear at 12:59 PM on April 30, 2017 [11 favorites]


What stood out to me was how there are some real principles of TCM briefly mentioned there (and no, TCM is not snake-oil, and it is not pre-modern either in the sense that it is still being actively developed, researched and practised alongside western medicine in China and other Asian countries), and how the author of the article disparages these principles since they are under the Goop umbrella.

And what also stood out to me was how white people are taking Asian people's practices and knowledge and again labelling it and "re-branding" it as theirs - something that was the topic of this recent Metafilter post too. How this stuff that belongs to POC, that belongs to Asians gets disparaged and dismissed as woo until a white person comes along and decides to legitimize it and make money off of it. Funny that all those "Eastern experts" from Goop mentioned in the article are all white - as if they didn't think that real "Eastern" people could be maybe more legitimate experts on their own cultural and medical practices? (Unless you count Shiva Rose, who is half Iranian. But Shiva Rose is claiming the authority to speak on Chinese practices, not Iranian practices).
posted by aielen at 1:05 PM on April 30, 2017 [25 favorites]


I'm not sure labels themselves are a problem. I have a lot of problems that previous generations couldn't label appropriately, and those labels helped me to get the care I needed such that I could currently be described as weird-but-functional. But the feedback loop is definitely a problem. So many of the sorts of chronic physical and mental health problems that I see in women of my generation, a lot of them are made 100x worse the moment you let yourself slow down. In the worst cases... You move less and less and less and then you're struggling with stairs. You go out less and less and then the grocery store is overwhelming.

If Goop and similar sorts of resources have any positive role in any of this, it's that the way you lose this game is giving up. Continuing to actually try seems to be a better indicator for maintaining your health than anything else I've seen. If you keep moving--physically or mentally--you have some prayer of getting the momentum you need to get to the point where you can start feeling better. I don't like that Goop is the thing filling this role, because I totally agree that it's hogwash, but who's reaching out with something that isn't hogwash? I guess what I'm saying is, I fault Paltrow for selling it, but I don't fault women for buying it if it keeps them going.
posted by Sequence at 1:05 PM on April 30, 2017 [4 favorites]


the male coded version of this is workout supplements, strange protein blends, nootropics, etc.

I guess the difference might be that this stuff is supposedly curing and protecting from disease, while men tend to go for stuff that purports to make them smarter/stronger/more virile. staying healthy vs. performance enhancement.

there's a strong component of male insecurity too, which is why basically every alt-right/MRA figure is hawking pills of some kind. including Cernovich's hilarious "Gorilla Mind" supplement stack.
posted by vogon_poet at 1:12 PM on April 30, 2017 [24 favorites]


TCM is not snake-oil

Is there some good elaboration on this?
posted by Going To Maine at 1:13 PM on April 30, 2017 [5 favorites]


I don't know what y'all are doing with your Goop, but I've used it for all kinds of waterproof adhesive jobs and never had it go that badly wrong.
posted by sfenders at 1:21 PM on April 30, 2017 [11 favorites]


Yeah this is not so easy as haha "they don't even know that water is a chemical" or haha rich people getting scammed (#FyreFestival) because some of the underlying issues include real problems with an American health care / medical establishment that is still prone to dismissing women and still operating with huge blindspots and messed up incentives.

But it makes me sad that yet again we are trained to respond to systemic/socio-political problems with individual/consumer solutions. As an aside, every time someone tries to convince me and my partner to procreate with "but I watched Idiocracy and we need more smart babies being born," I think to myself, "and a way better solution is improving the public school system."

But eff that Orientalist bullshit. "Chinese concubines???"
posted by spamandkimchi at 1:22 PM on April 30, 2017 [19 favorites]


I think Western medical practitioners need to examine their attitudes toward women.

And this includes their colleagues who are women. Hoo boy, the good ol' (white) boys network needs to die a death pronto.
posted by Existential Dread at 1:25 PM on April 30, 2017 [4 favorites]


I guess all these charlatans have very expensive lawyers on retainer.

However, if their patients are wealthy, they probably have expensive lawyers too. Let them duke it out if someone takes too much of an unregulated supplement that turns out to be contaminated with lead or arsenic.

I'm more worried about the clients of a certain pet-whisperer who gives veterinary advice with a heavy dose of woo. It's one thing to avoid feeding your dogs and cats processed pet food and snacks, another to claim that lavender and tea tree oil will fix nearly all their health issues. It's poor people who are more vulnerable to alternative medicines and practices, and who turn to them because they can't afford or trust mainstream doctors (or veterinarians for their pets).
posted by bad grammar at 1:38 PM on April 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


TCM is not snake-oil

Is there some good elaboration on this?


Turner Classic Movies is exactly what it says it is, it does what it says it does, and it has done so for decades with proven results. #notsnakeoil
posted by hippybear at 1:42 PM on April 30, 2017 [42 favorites]


Is Goop really so far off from the wellness approach promoted by mainstream nutritional experts and the upscale press? Discredited but intuitively appealing "natural" regimens (eight glasses of water a day, fiber to prevent colon cancer, a low-sodium diet for everyone) are still touted on the grounds that they couldn't hurt. Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are the result of unspecified psychosomatic mechanisms (rather than unspecified "toxins"). The root of most illnesses is some kind of ill-defined problem with Western culture (we don't cook enough, we don't savor our meals enough, we are not "mindful" enough) that requires unpacking through endless think pieces. It is completely unsurprising that Gwyneth's brand of woo thrives in the current medical advice culture.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 1:44 PM on April 30, 2017 [5 favorites]


We will always be unhappy, and there will always be people getting to convince you that they know why.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:00 PM on April 30, 2017 [4 favorites]


I'd appreciate it if this thread didn't turn into a sneer-fest at traditional Chinese medicine and demanding that people prove it's effectiveness because of the if-it's-not-western-medicine-it-must-be-snake-oil derail.

GOOP's usage of TCM and bastardizing it by mixing it with other orientalist fetishism for marketing purposes for a very select audience is what I find is the scope of the article.
posted by Karaage at 2:06 PM on April 30, 2017 [25 favorites]


So I didn't actually RTFA at first and thought everyone was being a bit harsh on people who might just be sincerely sharing what worked for them. In light of the medical establishment being all kinds of weird and horrible towards women with chronic illness.

Then I did and yeah...definitely snake oil salesmen. These are folks not getting high off their own supply. Even if their target customers/victims are rich. Which I don't think they necessarily are...the prices for these supplements are aspirational but not impossibly high for the middle-class/upper middle-class person who wants to "invest" in her health.

Also, I had thought GOOP was mostly a cooking site? When did the woo start?
posted by eeek at 2:57 PM on April 30, 2017


When my bride began explaining this to me a few nights ago... we were both amazed at just how crazy people can get... I thought for sure it was a late April fools joke, but reality is sad.
posted by MikeWarot at 2:59 PM on April 30, 2017


Marina Hyde and the Guardian's Lost in Showbiz column has been calling out Paltrow and Goop's bullshit for some years now.
posted by biffa at 3:14 PM on April 30, 2017


I interpreted GOOP as the hand cleaning product and was very confused initially.
posted by Ferreous at 3:15 PM on April 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


Oh, it's a cleansing product alright. Let's start with the egg...
posted by hippybear at 3:19 PM on April 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


One of the comments re: "yoni eggs" gets to the, er, heart of the matter:
Tons of people who like Goop always talking about how oh this is Ancient Chinese Such and Such and then apparently somebody tipped off Actual Chinese and Chinese-American People who were like “wtf is this nonsense, no it is not” and then we got someone trying to explain (to the actual Chinese people) that “oh, no China kicked [doctor] out for sharing Ancient Chinese Secrets to the West! That’s why you’re trying to discredit this!” and I was like “wtf is this, an old kung fu movie?”
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:31 PM on April 30, 2017 [11 favorites]


It was amazing to me when I got on the internet how many people identify as chronically ill or in chronic pain, and I'm wondering if some of it is a feedback loop. Every vague ache and pain gets labeled now. Like the man of twists and turns says, it's about trying to regain a sense of control, but it can also turn into learned helplessness.

Or it could be that the internet makes it possible for people who would otherwise be sidelined due to chronic pain to participate in public life.

Or it could be that the internet helps to connect, find strength in common experience, and speak up about the truth of their lives.

Or it could be that there are tons and tons of people out there in the world all around us who live with chronic pain and other invisible disabilities, but they don't advertise it to everyone in their lives because (a) It's nobody's business; and (b) Ableist disbelief and pushback can get really ugly, and dealing with that stuff uses up valuable spoons.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 5:05 PM on April 30, 2017 [23 favorites]


Yay, I can link my favorite sarcastic medical blog, Dr Jen Gunter! She hate-reads and researches Goop and her takedowns are hilarious yet informative.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 5:15 PM on April 30, 2017 [14 favorites]


It was amazing to me when I got on the internet how many people identify as chronically ill or in chronic pain, and I'm wondering if some of it is a feedback loop. Every vague ache and pain gets labeled now. Like the man of twists and turns says, it's about trying to regain a sense of control, but it can also turn into learned helplessness.

Or it could be that the internet makes it possible for people who would otherwise be sidelined due to chronic pain to participate in public life.

Or it could be that the internet helps to connect, find strength in common experience, and speak up about the truth of their lives.

None of these things are exclusive.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:28 PM on April 30, 2017 [6 favorites]


I am a woman with a chronic illness that manifests with severe chronic pain and fatigue. Rest assured that before I got diagnosed and treated by a good doctor, I got told that my inflammatory arthritis was psychosomatic by several other healthcare providers. There is no shortage of professionals who are delighted to tell us that it's all in our heads, and we certainly don't need random MeFites diagnosing us while knowing nothing about us. I am not a Goop follower, I am extremely anti-woo of any Eastern or Western sort, I am actually quite pro-Big Pharma because it fucking gave me my life back, but I know what it is to be incredibly sick and completely dismissed by the doctors responsible for my care.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:35 PM on April 30, 2017 [35 favorites]


Dr. Gunter is also on Twitter and worth a follow.
posted by emjaybee at 6:57 PM on April 30, 2017


It was amazing to me when I got on the internet how many people identify as chronically ill or in chronic pain, and I'm wondering if some of it is a feedback loop. Every vague ache and pain gets labeled now. Like the man of twists and turns says, it's about trying to regain a sense of control, but it can also turn into learned helplessness.


You have no idea how many people don't even properly exist to you because their illnesses prevent them from having anything to do with your workplace, your hobby, your supermarket, etc. I mean, the internet is telling you, but I don't think you're listening? Seriously, these people were there before the internet. It was only to everyone else that they disappeared. I was one of them for a few years, but I got better. I definitely didn't do anything to "deserve" it, I'm just lucky (at least for now) and some people haven't been.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 6:59 PM on April 30, 2017 [14 favorites]


1) People love stories and entertainment
2) Most modern humans are short on getting their social grooming needs met, both physical and verbal (being taken seriously gets lumped in there)

In the world we live in, the above maps to "big business opportunities."
posted by MillMan at 7:31 PM on April 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


TCM = traditional Chinese medicine, for anyone who is still wondering.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:45 PM on April 30, 2017 [7 favorites]


I have a chronic illness, though I'm not currently dealing with chronic pain. What astounded me when I was first diagnosed with MS and was looking for advice/commiseration was the general lack of clinical understanding from patients about how MS flares tend to happen. They're generally months to years apart, at least with relapsing-remitting MS; people were still claiming that since they discontinued their medication and hadn't had a flare in a month, the previous med was obviously not working, or because they had tried an alternative treatment and hadn't had a flare in a month, the alternative treatment was obviously working. This seems like a giant failure in doctors educating their patients, which is leaving the patients open to claims of unsupported woo.
posted by lazuli at 10:16 PM on April 30, 2017 [8 favorites]


This seems like a giant failure in doctors educating their patients, which is leaving the patients open to claims of unsupported woo

Education is part of it but I think respect and humility are at least as important. Every single person I've known who got into woo has a story they tell about their doctor ignoring or misdiagnosing something. Many people react to that by recognizing that the doctor didn't do their job and find a better one but some sour on the entire field and are often committed to “helping” everyone they know get free, too.
posted by adamsc at 6:28 AM on May 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


Education is part of it but I think respect and humility are at least as important.

Oh, absolutely. And I think it gets way more frustrating for people who have symptoms but no diagnosis. It seems like it should be more straightforward once someone has an actual diagnosis, at least if it's for a condition that has available treatment -- doctors should spend time educating patients with new diagnoses what that means. But they're not; mine actually told me to check out the internet! Not a particular website, just "the internet." For information on a chronic autoimmune disorder. Do you know how much ridiculous nonsense is on "the internet" about MS? But presumably because my insurance company wouldn't pay her for more than a 10- or 15-minute follow-up appointment, she felt she didn't have time to explain much more.

I think of her as a really good doctor. She answered all my questions, was respectful, etc. But that basic, "Here's what this disease is and how it works" education was totally absent.

Where I've learned the most is pharma company dinners, because apparently they have those for patients now, too. Which is all sorts of problematic, too.
posted by lazuli at 6:56 AM on May 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


Kayla Webley Adler just published a great article in Marie Claire on women's healthcare, specifically focusing on how women and men are treated differently by healthcare providers.

On this subject, by the way, I'm reminded of an interaction I saw while covering Jeb Bush's campaign in New Hampshire last year. A woman brought this subject up during a q&a after Jeb's speech. She didn't have much data or anything, but just said that women aren't treated equally in medicine and sometimes studies are only done on men. She wondered what Jeb would do to make sure women get proper treatments. Jeb Bush couldn't believe it....he said something like, "Well why would they do that? Of course they don't just test on men. That's ridiculous. Who would do that?" The woman was a bit flustered and didn't have a good response, so Jeb moved on to the next subject.

Also, Erik Vance has written in National Geographic and now a book about placebos and the role of belief in medicine. He writes with a scientific rigor that most popular writing on these subjects don't have and covers TCM and other topics. He got quite a bit of press for the book, so you can find interviews and reviews all over the place.

Disclaimer: both of these writers are friends, but I don't have any connection to any of these pieces beyond being asked by Erik which possible cover design I liked best...
posted by msbrauer at 7:00 AM on May 1, 2017 [4 favorites]


To be fair to Jeb, it sounds fucking ridiculous and insane on the face of it. Before reading people talking about it here I had no idea. If it were just one person, I could easily see myself making the excuse that this one person had bad experiences with one or a very few doctors, not the systemic issue it really is.

Ironically, bad medical practice specifically for women is something a lot of right wingers who are fairly regressive on women's rights in general would be upset about if they listened enough to hear about the problems. Yes, they are responsible for some horrific shit regarding reproductive health, but they see it as their job to "protect" women and would be dismayed to find out doctors weren't treating their other medical issues effectively or taking them seriously.

lazuli: I can totally see how MS sufferers can be particularly susceptible to false correlations. My mom went years at a time between episodes back in the days when there was no treatment other than PT and palliative medication. After the one that left her unable to walk, she was stable for 8 years. That was after a stable period of 3-4 years. It's very easy to see causes and effects that aren't there with such long islands of stability. Brains want to pattern match, after all.
posted by wierdo at 7:44 AM on May 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


TCM = traditional Chinese medicine, for anyone who is still wondering..

The healing power of Turner Classic Movies
posted by Going To Maine at 11:02 AM on May 1, 2017


TCM = traditional Chinese medicine, for anyone who is still wondering..

The healing power of Turner Classic Movies


A bit of column A, a bit of column B. Thank-you for the clarification!
posted by Braeburn at 11:22 AM on May 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


Ironically, bad medical practice specifically for women is something a lot of right wingers who are fairly regressive on women's rights in general would be upset about if they listened enough to hear about the problems. Yes, they are responsible for some horrific shit regarding reproductive health, but they see it as their job to "protect" women and would be dismayed to find out doctors weren't treating their other medical issues effectively or taking them seriously.

Not at the cost of having to listen to women's stories and deem them more consequential than the expertise of a traditionally white male profession. That will always trump "protecting" women.
posted by praemunire at 12:08 PM on May 1, 2017 [4 favorites]


Turner Classic Movies is exactly what it says it is, it does what it says it does, and it has done so for decades with proven results. #notsnakeoil

It's AMC that's become the charlatan.

TCM = traditional Chinese medicine, for anyone who is still wondering.


After getting past Turner Classic Movies I honestly thought this was referring to transcendental meditation for some reason. I wish people would just spell out the words, I know things seem obvious to the writer, but everyone has different points of reference. I can't count the number of times I've read things here that I end up having no idea what they're referring to.
posted by bongo_x at 12:49 PM on May 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


It is worth noting that "Traditional" Chinese Medicine in the current sense didn't exist until Mao basically invented it to make up for the lack of real doctors in China at the time. There were a wide variety of folk medicinal practices in China over its history but the idea that there was ever a single, unified, "Traditional" Chinese medicine is completely non-factual.

In addition to the problem of women being ignored, condescended to, and generally not treated right by doctors, I think we've also got the problem that real medicine has, in a way, succeeded too well. Most people spent their early and mid life having medicine result in their condition being fixed. Medicine seemed simple: they'd have a problem, they'd go to a doctor, they'd get treatment, and that would resolve the problem.

And then they run into medical problems that real medicine can't really do much about no matter how rich they are and it feels like a betrayal or a conspiracy against them.

What do you mean I've got an illness that can't be cured and I'm going to fucking die?

What do you mean I've got a medical problem that is going to leave me in pain forever and your best advice is to get used to it?

This leaves a market for people who promise a fix to problems real medicine can't yet solve. If that also comes with attentive and sympathetic "doctors" who listen, don't talk down to you, treat you with respect, and generally act in a way that most real doctors don't (towards women anyway, as a man I've never had a doctor belittle my problems, male privilege strikes again), then there are a lot of people who will be more than willing to pay for it.
posted by sotonohito at 1:12 PM on May 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


"lack of real doctors in China"

I think there are some who might disagree that "real" medicine was invented by white people and hasn't existed anywhere in the world until white people bring it. I am such a one.
posted by xarnop at 3:32 PM on May 1, 2017 [4 favorites]


It is worth noting that "Traditional" Chinese Medicine in the current sense didn't exist until Mao basically invented it to make up for the lack of real doctors in China at the time. There were a wide variety of folk medicinal practices in China over its history but the idea that there was ever a single, unified, "Traditional" Chinese medicine is completely non-factual.


"real doctors"? "in the current sense"? I think you're making a lot of presumptions from your white American-centric point of view. Mao attempted to standardize traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), but that does not mean that traditional Chinese medicine existed in as disorganized or disparate a form you seem to imply prior to the 1950s. (In that same vein, is Western medicine absolutely standardized, globally? I think not. There are different schools of thought on best approaches towards treating illnesses and diseases within Western medicine - look at the range of cancer treatment recommendations you might find across doctors for a single patient, for a very simple example.) There are some very basic principles of TCM that developed over centuries, and these are the basic principles of TCM that I was referring to in my earlier comment.

I grew up in a country (not China, by the way) where a doctor's note from a TCM doctor is just as valid as a doctor's note from a Western doctor. Where traditional Chinese medicine is a normal part of everyday life. Where TCM doctors need government approval and TCM board approval to practice - with very strict and selective critieria for obtaining a TCM licence (the years of education/residency required are either just as long or longer than for Western medicine doctors). Some comments in this thread have felt very invalidating of my life and experiences. I accept that Metafilter is very American-centric and very white-centric, and that not everyone knows what "TCM" means as an acronym (yet - this is a thread with the subject title "secrets of the orient", talking about a company that peddles distorted versions of "Eastern" treatments and "Eastern" cultural philosophies at a mostly Western female audience. The acronym is more likely to be "traditional Chinese medicine" than the other alternative joked about here, and if people didn't know this, surely they could have googled? Did people really have to snark about Turner Classic Movies?)

I ask that people here think before they make flippant comments, or before they presume (especially from a white/Western background) to make judgements or assumptions about knowing another culture's history of medicine, the manner in which it works, and its efficacy. Companies like Gook don't do Asian cultures any favors by appropriating and distorting their practices and philosophies. I hope that MeFites here don't take that route either.
posted by aielen at 11:44 PM on May 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


There are some very basic principles of TCM that developed over centuries, and these are the basic principles of TCM that I was referring to in my earlier comment.

I agree with Karaage’s comment above about keeping this thread goop-focused, I stand by my earlier interest in the non-snake-oilness of traditional Chinese medicine; if anyone ever makes a post about the topic in more detail I would be happy to read it. But perhaps that’s something to take over to Ask Me some day…
posted by Going To Maine at 12:04 AM on May 2, 2017


Going To Maine, I agreed with Karaage's comment as well. And in that same comment, Karaage said, "GOOP's usage of TCM and bastardizing it by mixing it with other orientalist fetishism for marketing purposes for a very select audience is what I find is the scope of the article."

The whole premise of Goop is that it is claiming to be an authority on "Eastern" treatments, which it isn't. That doesn't invalidate TCM itself. I do not recognize Goop's "Eastern" treatments, and I do not consider Goop's treatments as TCM. (I don't think any sane person with a background in TCM would.) What I do see is that Goop took basic principles of TCM, mixed it in with a lot of other rubbish and claimed this Frankensteinian result as some sort of authentic "Eastern" service/product. Like Karaage is saying, and like I'm trying to say (but perhaps didn't make clear enough), the cultural appropriation, distortion and fetishism here at the heart of Goop's value proposition is central to the article.

For example, TCM does encourage a holistic approach towards treatment (seeing the body as a holistic system rather than just focusing on the diagnosis of isolated parts), and in some cases does advocate tailoring a diet that can be either therapeutic or preventative towards certain conditions/illnesses. Goop takes or mentions those ideas, then fills in its own details and distorts them to serve its own purpose. The concept of postnatal depletion (also mentioned in the article) is also familiar (although definitely not in the form and details that Goop claims) - and in TCM, it's also tied to the practice of postpartum confinement (basically a period during which the postpartum woman is cared for, kept warm and given specific foods meant to speed up her recovery from giving birth). Goop takes little truths, mixes them in with a lot of lies, and passes them off as culturally authentic.

As to your interest in the non-snake-oilness of TCM... I do not have the emotional bandwidth at this point to write a long detailed post explaining and justifying why/which aspects of TCM work, how they work, the scientific research that has been done, the form that modern-day TCM presents itself today etc. And I think a lot of Western media tends to seize on the more sensational (but relatively rare/fringe), even archaic aspects of TCM (e.g. someone recommending some sort of endangered animal part as a cure), which further paints it as some sort of fantastical system of outdated beliefs with no real results. Maybe someone else can do this, or maybe as you have suggested, it might be better for Askme.
posted by aielen at 1:10 AM on May 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


Demanding that other mefites prove traditional chinese medicine (TCM) like there aren't other sources of information on it or implying that eastern cultures didn't have "real doctors" instead of taking the time to listen or read something regularly documented in non-GOOP related institutions is nothing more than a sneering derail.
posted by Karaage at 4:49 AM on May 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


The idea that real medicine is wholly an invention of white people is a pernicious lie. Real medicine is a cross cultural project that has been undertaken and contributed to by people of every culture, religion, and ethnic group. The Chinese contributions to real medicine are innumerable and have improved the lives of everyone on the planet.

Yes, the project was (largely, though not entirely) started by white guys. That doesn't make it a white guy thing, nor is the fact that it was (largely, though not entirely) started by white guys anything other than sheer luck. If the dice had fallen differently a few times real medicine would have been started in India, or China, or Africa. Reality, truth, and science are not Western ideas they're things that exist outside any culture.

And, it's worth noting, the first thing real medicine had to overcome was Traditional European Medicine, and many of the pioneers of real medicine were literally killed for going against the tenants of Traditional European Medicine.

Or, rather, Traditional European Medicines, because just like in China there was never a single monolithic Traditional Chinese Medicine until Mao [1] invented it by mushing together various and competing beliefs, there was never a single monolithic Traditional European Medicine. Homeopathy, humors, various folk herbalisms, multiple and conflicting folk magic systems, Traditional European Religion, and so forth all existed in a stew of "Traditional European Medicine", and all had to be mined for the good stuff hidden among the superstitious bullshit, and then discarded once all the good stuff had been extracted leaving only a husk of superstitious bullshit behind.

These days only two main strains of Traditional European Medicine survive: homeopathy and chiropractic.

There are your white guy exclusive "medicines", and I note that only a tiny handful of cranks in China have truck with either. And, in my culture, a note from a "chiropractor" has almost equal weight with a note from a real doctor, and I hate and am ashamed of that part of my culture.

I realize that white people have been fuckers who abused pretty much everyone else on the planet. But that's a very bad reason to abandon the few good things white people helped pioneer (though, again, I note white people hardly invented real medicine all by themselves) and embrace stuff that measurably works less well.

Like the stew of bullshit that could have been labeled "Traditional European Medicine", Traditional Chinese Medicine has nuggets of truth and value mixed in with the worthless (if not actively harmful) stuff and real doctors and scientists in China have been mining that good stuff from TCM and we white guys are (or should be anyway) grateful for their contributions to real medicine.

There's money to be made by charlatans presenting offensive orientalist bullshit to suckers who believe in orientalist bullshit, and that's part of where Goop gets its suckers from. Americans who (rightly) sneer at the remnants of Traditional European Medicine can be swayed by highly offensive stereotypes of the mysterious East and buy into the most transparently racist crap about Traditional Chinese Medicine. That's not because Traditional Chinese Medicine is anymore true or valuable than Traditional European Medicine, it's just exoticism.

[1] And given his prior genocidal efforts at eradicating Chinese traditions and culture the sheer evil hypocrisy is staggering.
posted by sotonohito at 5:44 AM on May 2, 2017 [6 favorites]


Or maybe Traditional European Medicine actually had a lot to offer to begin with.

This is what indigenous people everywhere face, the idea that wiping out earth based and indigenous customs was a win and needs to happen everywhere. I strongly disagree. There is evidence of the use of mathematical research and evidence based observations in the creation of medical systems across many ancient cultures- the idea that the rest of the non-European world started doing real medicine and science only after they started copying Europeans is ridiculous, I can't even believe I'm reading you suggest white people have saved the world by eradicating it's folk cultures and spreading and encouraging this wipe out across the rest of the world.
posted by xarnop at 10:56 AM on May 2, 2017


xarnop I can't even believe I'm reading you suggest white people have saved the world by eradicating it's folk cultures and spreading and encouraging this wipe out across the rest of the world.

We seem to be not communicating, I just looked over my comment and I don't see anything there that I'd parse in anything even remotely that way.

the idea that wiping out earth based and indigenous customs was a win and needs to happen everywhere. I strongly disagree.

Would you argue that it is improper, or wrong, to require Christian fundamentalists in America to use real medicine to cure their children rather than prayer, laying on hands, anointing with oil and so forth?

I'd argue that customs are great, but results also matter. I also note that on a practical level most most people living in conditions where children die from preventable causes are more interested in keeping their children alive rather than sacrificing their children on the alter of cultural preservation. I don't see any large scale anti-vaccination movement in the parts of the world where vaccination has not yet succeeded at eradicating the diseases that kill and maim children. Quite the opposite, in fact. The people who actually live in indigenous cultures are usually eager to get their hands on real medicine because, and this is the important part, it works for things folk remedies don't. Vaccines alone have saved billions of lives that would have been lost if the only medicine available was folk remedies.

You also seem to be advocating for a position that culture is immutable, that cultures can't change, and that any change in culture is a destructive force and to be opposed. Do you argue that it is wrong to advocate for LGBT rights in cultures that are traditionally homophobic? If not, why is that different from advocating for real medicine?

As for folk remedies, there's value to be found in there. No one will deny it, and the BBC article you cited is a typical example of bad science reporting. Any medical researcher knows that some folk remedies are effective and would not be surprised or shocked to find that one worked as advertised. Both aspirin and digitalis are refinements of old Traditional European Medicine folk remedies. Yet people prefer to take an aspirin tablet rather than brew a cup of willow bark tea, both for the convenience and the fact that an aspirin tablet has a consistent dosage while a cup of willow bark tea does't (also, willow bark tea tastes like shit, I tried it once).

Worse, folk remedies also often include things that either can be demonstrated scientifically not to work, or to be actually harmful. Traditional European Medicine, for example, includes putting a prayer book under a child's pillow to cure illness (harmless but not useful), and bloodletting as a cure for a variety of illness (harmful).

The fact that some folk remedies work, and can and should be refined and integrated into medicine, does not mean that all folk remedies should be viewed uncritically or embraced unquestioningly.

I value the lives of people more than I value the preservation of traditional cultural beliefs. I'm pretty sure that you do too.
posted by sotonohito at 11:53 AM on May 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


Yet, there are many diseases and disorders that threaten healthy bodies, like the Epstein-Barr Virus which is, according to Goop, more dangerous than the medical community would allow you to believe, lurking in dark corners of the body, harboring everything from cancer to general discomfort. (Emphasis added).

I see they've embraced the holy grail of marketing = profit: the use of fear.

I'm a person who first tries whatever home remedies are available, but still solidly believes that modern medicine would never have been invented if home remedies solved all of our problems. But when marketing and profit and greed get into the mix, well you can eff right off with that. I've never followed Goop and this just reinforces that it has been the right choice for me.
posted by vignettist at 12:46 PM on May 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


I think that sounds right, but this passage is coming from the article itself - the writer and editor have chosen to use loaded language here because they want Goop to sound like shysters. If Goop actually uses "lurking" in their own materials I'll eat my hat.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:56 PM on May 2, 2017


Fair point Going to Maine. I was taking a shortcut in using that quote in the interest of saving time.

I stopped reading magazines targeted to women years ago when one month a Vogue headline was about the latest diet and literally the next month the headline was "Are You Too Thin?". So while I won't sort through Goop to find a quotable reference, I think it's fair to assume that they are employing similar, if not the exact same fear-based language that I quoted. I read a lot about health issues as a hobby, and it's a pretty common marketing tactic.
posted by vignettist at 1:48 PM on May 2, 2017


Not sure if some comments were deleted or if I missed something. But - sotonohito, I hope that your idea of "traditional European medicine" is NOT being equated with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as TCM exists in its form today. And I hope that TCM in its form today is not being equated as a bunch of mere unproven or inexact folk remedies. I think it's a bit disingenuous to draw parallels between traditional European medicine and traditional Chinese medicine - they have very different trajectories, and TCM today is not like traditional European medicine in the path it has taken, its ongoing development, regulation and widespread implementation, etc. You seem to have very different ideas on terminology - of what is "real" and what is not, of what counts as Western medicine and what does not. And I am wondering how updated your knowledge, or impression of TCM is.

Yet people prefer to take an aspirin tablet rather than brew a cup of willow bark tea, both for the convenience and the fact that an aspirin tablet has a consistent dosage while a cup of willow bark tea does't (also, willow bark tea tastes like shit, I tried it once).

Again, I hope you're not trying to equate your idea of traditional European medicine with TCM. TCM doctors prescribe exact dosages depending on each patient (I would argue sometimes much more exact than a Western doctor would prescribe a patient). Old school doctors measure it out by the gram/ounce; other TCM doctors prescribe in pill/tablet/dissolvable-powder form, with exact directions on how often to consume the medicine, and the manner it should be taken (before/after meals, etc). If you're talking about TCM in its consumable form today, it's often indistinguishable from the consumable form of Western medicine.

And, in my culture, a note from a "chiropractor" has almost equal weight with a note from a real doctor, and I hate and am ashamed of that part of my culture.

I don't know about your culture, but I am personally proud that my culture has the sense to encourage the development and practice of medical knowledge from both Western medicine and TCM. If you are talking about the USA as your culture, I highly doubt the regulation and requirements for your chiropractor to practice are comparable to the regulation and criteria for TCM doctors to practice in Asian countries where TCM is practiced and regulated alongside Western medicine. Like I said earlier, the years of education and residency required for a TCM doctor to obtain their licence is on par with and can exceed that of a Western doctor's training. Governments that implement TCM in parallel with Western medicine regulate TCM just as stringently as they do Western medicine, down to the ingredients/components of approved medicines, the source/quality of approved medicines, the approved educational institutes from which a TCM doctor can obtain their education, the ongoing scientific research that investigates and develops the efficacy of TCM, etc.
(I think Goop is an example of what can happen when there is no or poor regulation for any type of medicine or medical practice - and yes, it could be any type of medicine or medical practice, not necessarily Asian. People make all kinds of outrageous, unproven claims about a product or "treatment" that they literally invent.)
posted by aielen at 3:08 PM on May 2, 2017 [1 favorite]



The push to make herbalism considered inferior came from disliking that folk and herbal medicine could be practiced by the people not from long term quality evidence based trials disproving it-- and all subsequent focus in "real" medicine stemmed from this pre-existing bias which re-enforced itself by a lack of trials and research on herbal medicines and folk healing techniques. There was already a push in Europe to get rid of cheep herbal medicine such as offered by Nicholas Culpeper "Culpeper was a radical in his time, angering his fellow physicians by condemning their greed, unwillingness to stray from Galen and their use of harmful practices such as toxic remedies and bloodletting. The Society of Apothecaries were similarly incensed by the fact that he suggested cheap herbal remedies as opposed to their expensive concoctions"

Following up all I was taught in Ayurveda lead me to feel like when I read "new" findings in pubmed about wellness and environmental illness it all sounds like old news because this has all been mapped out before and we're slow to even bother studying the connections at all, then "western" scientists act like amazing discoverers who are the first to ever connect such dots! I certainly appreciate larger scale clinical trials and more precise tools of measurement for the human body (like for example some Chinese researchers are now using new technology to map aspects of the pulse to use in diagnostics and match with evidence based research). This is the first study I pulled up on the topic but there are more you can find if you're interested!

But WHAT has been researched once such tools were developed had very particular biases in the English speaking world-- herbal medicine is laughed at because it's unscientific because it's not well researched and therefore it's not researched as much because it's not taken seriously as much and only now are more rigorous trials being done in European and American research, meanwhile in China and India and many other countries large scale outcome based research on herbal medicine and other forms of treatments are taking place that find positive results fairly regularly. If you aren't familiar it's an interesting field of research and you should take a look at it!
posted by xarnop at 6:42 PM on May 2, 2017


aielen And I am wondering how updated your knowledge, or impression of TCM is

I never made a special study of it, what I learned I learned as part of my study of the history of modern East Asia. My first real introduction to TCM was in the context of the Japanese comparison of TCM with rangaku (Dutch Learning) during the late Edo Period and the decision by Japanese researchers at the time that TCM was incompatible with their observations of the human body [1]. My other main study of TCM involved the formation of TCM by Mao in response to a severe shortage of doctors in China. Mao, it should be noted, personally believed that TCM was pure bullshit and relied exclusively on "Western" medicine rather than TCM. He invented and popularized it entirely as part of an effort to convince the Chinese population that his government programs were effective.

I've spent some free time in the past few days researching TCM as it is practiced today and I can't say it seems to be valid. All the studies I found on effectiveness noted no significant difference between TCM and placebo. I'll admit that I don't speak Chinese, and my Japanese was (at best) about at the level of a two year old, so I'm relying exclusively on English language sources.

However, from what I've found TCM is still based on "qi", which has no more grounding in reality than the TEM belief in "humors". No one can identify qi, no one can find it, no one can bring me a cc of qi, or provide any evidence for its existence. While the lack of a sound theoretical grounding doesn't mean there can't be results, I find the lack of any sound theoretical grounding for TCM to be evidence of quackery, much as I find the lack of a sound theoretical grounding for chiropractic or homeopathy to be evidence of quackery. If they produced effective results obviously the lack of a sound theoretical grounding would be less of a problem, but TCM does not appear to have outcomes more effective than placebo in any double blind study I was able to find.

Further I find that in studies where multiple practitioners of TCM are asked to provide a diagnosis for the same patient they often have wildly different diagnoses and prescribe wildly different treatments. Another study found some benefits from acupuncture, but when a blind test involving placebo acupuncture was conducted it produced results in line with the study of real acupuncture, suggesting that the benefits of acupuncture are no more than the placebo effect.

The fact that practitioners of TCM spend a long time studying has nothing to do with the validity or effectiveness of TCM. People with a degree in theology spend a long time studying too, that doesn't make their gods real. It is doubtless true that a good practitioner of TCM is a good diagnostician because they will have seen and examined a lot of people and gotten skill at diagnosis even if their theoretical basis for disease and illness is totally fanciful. Studies seem to back this up, xarnop linked to one.

I hope that your idea of "traditional European medicine" is NOT being equated with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as TCM exists in its form today.

Having looked into it yes, I am. I'm willing to be shown that I'm in error, but based on what I can find I see no reason to think that TCM and TEM are different in terms of effectivity and validity.

xarnop would appear to agree with that assessment. See their hypothesis that modern medicine is a conspiracy to eradicate cheap and easily available, yet very effective, traditional European medicine with more expensive "Western" medicine. This, I should note, is very similar to the beliefs of Westerners who are convinced that homeopathy is valid. And, there is a grain of truth there. Homeopathy is, essentially, doing nothing, and at the time it was developed medicine in Europe was at a low point so that the actions of doctors then were more often harmful than not. Therefore doing nothing was more effective than medical "treatment" at the time. What homeopathy believers fail to take into account is that medicine has progressed beyond the bleeding and cupping BS of the 1700's and is now more effective than doing nothing.

I also note that people in East Asia appear to agree with my conclusion that TCM is mostly worthless. No one in any East Asian nation uses TCM excursively for conditions that medicine has a cure for, unless they are unable to afford medical treatment. Instead, like modern American quackery such as chiropractic and homeopathy, TCM is presented as "complimentary", or "holistic". As near as I can tell that means that when practiced alongside medicine it doesn't interfere too much and gives its believers some good feelings, but that it is worthless when practiced without medicine providing the actual cure.

In China people who have appendicitis and who can get what you'd call "Western" treatment do so, only the poorest and most desperate rely exclusively on TCM. Because TCM doesn't cure appendicitis and people who rely exclusively on TCM when they get appendicitis die, while people who get "Western" treatment live. The people who get "Western" medicine mostly also use TCM in a "complimentary" way. And I'm sure it makes them feel good, and the placebo effect is real and can be beneficial so yay them. But I also note that their faith in TCM almost never extends to putting their life on the line if they can possibly avoid it.

I think xarnop's equating of TCM with TEM, stripped of their conspiracy theorizing, is entirely correct. Neither works.

[1] One example, after a group of Japanese physicians trained exclusively in TCM but studying the rangaku observed the dissection of an executed criminal they noted that TCM claimed the liver was divided into four segments while, in reality, the liver is not.
posted by sotonohito at 7:50 AM on May 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


I will add, as a final point, that the mortality rate in China declined sharply with the introduction of medicine. Clearly TCM was not effective at preventing death from illness or injury, while medicine was.

We saw this in Europe and the USA, while TEM was the exclusive form of treatment life expectancy was low, mortality was high, and around 1/4 of children survived to have children of their own. Then medicine was developed and, quite rapidly, life expectancy went up, mortality went down, and the number of children surviving to adulthood skyrocketed.
posted by sotonohito at 7:59 AM on May 3, 2017


Given this article, a hypothesis:

Goop : the feminine :: InfoWars : the masculine
posted by Going To Maine at 1:35 AM on May 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


I just thought it was amusing to add this quick 80-result google search: site:goop.com lurking.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 2:08 AM on May 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


I can't help but wonder if the fact that so many of these health/wellness scams are aimed at women is related to the fact that in America the emotional labor of keeping not just themselves healthy/fit/well, but also keeping the men (and children if any) in their lives fit/healthy/well falls squarely on women. The urge to be seen to be doing something, to feel as if they're doing something, to fulfill that obligation would be strong.

Snake oil, especially if it comes packaged with something that satisfies some other aspects of emotional labor ("natural", "organic", plus the smugness of doing something better, more supermom, than those other women), seems ideally situated to exploit some women.

Snake oil targeted at men is mostly about fragile masculinity, all the descendants of the Charles Atlas scam. Which, doubtless, has its own set of racialized and awful advertising and beliefs.
posted by sotonohito at 8:30 AM on May 5, 2017




I'm also curious about an aspect that didn't get much coverage in the article: why?

As in, why would a very wealthy woman like Gwyneth Paltrow get into the snake oil business?

Greed is the usual explanation for such things, but she's already got gobs of money, probably more from her movies than she could ever make peddling woo to the rubes. Is greed really just the answer here?

Or is she a true believer herself and does she really imagine that she's helping other women, giving back to society, and all that stuff?
posted by sotonohito at 10:27 AM on May 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Oprah gave us Dr. Oz, and I don't think greed was a factor.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:37 AM on May 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


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