Goop, Bigly, and the fake news of white supremacy
First: yes. This headline is intentionally shameless. The intentions aren’t motivated by keyword thirst — certain words enjoy distinct and ceremonious popularity in our think piece-saturated news feeds and search engines — or by cheapness, thinly exploiting Gwyneth Paltrow’s awfulness for the purpose of misdirection. The shamelessness lies in the frustration at the missing dots connecting the vulgarian at the apex of power in the White House and the vulgarian at the apex of power in contemporary neoliberal feminism, Goop. The bigliest dot encircling the two is white supremacy. And we’re all stuck inside it.
In the wake of the election, white feminists struggle with an identity crisis like never before. Of course, identity is a complex thing, being both conscious and subconscious, fluid and unchanging, intentional and circumstantial, sometimes all the same time. Race, class, gender, age, religion, sexuality, able bodiedness, body shape — it’s all happening in us, to us, and on us every waking, sleeping moment of our lives. The roughly forty-seven percent of white women like me who voted for Hillary Clinton now feel like a minority among our race and gender because numbers-wise, we are. Any white woman who voted for Hillary is a feminist. The outcome of the election felt like a sucker punch, or if you will, a pussy grab for those of us who happily buried ourselves in the social media algorithms and the NY Times outcome odds tracker designed to surround us with content we already like and with people who see things as we do, a practice commonly mistaken for being liked or being seen. From conversations, reading and eavesdropping on the subway, most Black and Brown women I’ve seen simply shook their heads or rolled their eyes at our shock over the betrayal by white women. It’s nothing new.
A convenient explanation for both the demise of trust of in our institutions and why the majority of white women didn’t vote for the white woman over the white guy is fake news. Too much misinformation, too much distraction. Enough with her emails, everyone posted three days before election, including me. Comey’s to blame! Until, wait, no he’s not! He called out the mean bully who cut the line right in front of Mommy… Nine months too late.
White feminists are all over the fake news, sharing list after list after list on Facebook and in Twitter threads of the current administration’s blatant lies, misdirection, and scapegoats. I’m old enough — or young enough, depending on the age of the person reading this — to remember that during the George W. Bush years, fake news was called “truthiness,” inspired by The Colbert Report’s catch phrase to describe the media regurgitating administration’s fabricated evidence for invading Iraq and the resulting excuses to continue the occupation. Raise your hand if you remember Judith Miller.
Way, way before truthiness and television, fake news in America was called “yellow journalism.” Appropriately racist-sounding, yellow journalism sprouted when the populist trust-fund baby, media magnate and failed presidential candidate William Randolph Hearst successfully helped kickstart a war of “liberation” against Spain in Cuba with sensational newspaper content, er, reporting. His media company still exists, maybe you’ve heard of it. Remind you of anyone? Multiple dudes? The history lesson up until recently was that rich kids shouldn’t run for president and a run a media empire; do one or the other, but not at the same time. Social media, the loneliest of all media, now makes it possible to do both. Tweet it yourself! Get your message directly to the people. Aren’t journalists just middle men anyway? Traditional media finally came around to social media once they figured out USER. GENERATED. CONTENT. The biglier the user, the biglier the numbers. Bigly President Biff Tannen’s tweets save them time and money on reporting and content creation. Twitter is the best thing to happen to old media dinosaurs like Hearst, CNN, and CBS. (If only the inverse could be said.) Everyone needs social media as much as social media needs them.
Social media was in its infancy during the Bush years, and no one published lists of fake news that W’s administration pushed out, probably because it would take too long to compile. This was the Clintons’ tactical problem from the outset: he, and therefore she by the social and legal contract of marriage, only really lied about one thing in particular — unless you’re a the conspiracy theorist who believes they killed Vince Foster — and that thing is something at least every fourth straight married person lies about. The simple fact of input/out is that the more you lie, statistically the more lies you’re likely to get away with. The present brain trust running the country from Mar-a-lago and occasionally 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue knows this all too well. Keeping tabs on the lies, while helpful for lawsuits and depositions, doesn’t really get at the problem, which is why we Americans bother to consume the lies, especially when we don’t believe them.
Goop, that humble startup founded by the hardest working woman in the Western hemisphere, overcame countless obstacles including wealth, whiteness, thinness, blondeness, and pre-existing celebrity to create the foremost e-commerce site for solving all womankind’s problems one vaginal egg at a time. That nearly all the medical, nutritional, and even spiritual advice dispensed on the site should be disavowed and disproven by accredited professionals in those respective fields hasn’t hurt the company’s bottom line that I can tell or hurt its popularity in any way, at least in terms of the publicity regeneration machine which feeds off criticism of the brand. It’s a perfect symbiosis, especially for smaller brands and internet personalities who, like Goop, look at their reach and traffic and want more.
Just like Bigly Biff Tannen, Goop’s founder insists she’s just trying to stay above it all, all being any criticism. She repeated, without any credit, reference or citation, the now-exhausted tome originally coined by a far more popular Black woman, it should not be forgotten, in support of a white woman: when they go low, we go high. Goop just wants to ask questions for God’s sake! “Western” medicine doesn’t know everything! Women’s ails should be taken seriously, the unspoken reason being, of course, feminism. Except its humble founder goes on national television — not her own media platform, mind you — to share the news that she doesn’t know what the questions or answers or topics even are. To put it in popular keyword parlance, Gwyneth pulled an “I don’t know her” on herself.
Goop is crap. So what? You take medical advice from a trust fund college dropout actress who incidentally hasn’t headlined a movie since the days of truthiness, you get the health you deserve. Of course she’s full of homeopathic shit. She’s fake news only if you believe she’s news. You see a Goop piece sponsored or shared in your newsfeed, you know it’s not really news. Who cares? Who gets hurt?
This leads us back to the problem of identity facing white feminists, more than a few of whom read Goop or at least read think pieces about how awful Goop is. The source of the problem is the same source for fake news in America: white supremacy. White supremacy is fake news. America’s most important institutions, the ones that generate wealth, were built with chattel slavery, which for most of its long history required the delusion of white supremacy to maintain. It still very much exists, lest you haven’t been paying attention to the hundreds of Black and Brown men, women and children murdered overwhelmingly by white public servants this year alone, who are rarely held accountable for these crimes and in some cases are financially rewarded. Or, as you would not read in Goop, a few predominantly Black towns in America like Flint, Michigan are unwell, their water poisoned with lead and all. Or that our country is top-ranked for incarcerated populations among all countries and that incarceration rates for Black folks are drastically disproportionate compared to any other racial group. No economist or sociologist or even medical doctor needs to tell you how this shit effects every facet of society, from generations of families torn apart by mass incarceration to young people’s access to education, jobs, healthcare, and drinking water that won’t fucking give them seizures.
When white women center our nation’s ailments, especially class-related ones, on gender instead of race, we’re simultaneously promoting and ignoring whiteness at the same time. That’s the evil genius of white supremacy as it relates to gender: from the moment of birth our race is circumstantial and unyielding to change, yet white feminists, especially those of us with enough in our coffers to spend ninety dollars on something called “melting cleanser,” relegate it to the subconscious, if any part of the conscious — or the conscience for that matter. It is always in sight yet always out of mind. The hurts and traumas of womanhood may allow us a degree of compassion for women of color, but what is there to inform our understanding of issues unique to color except privilege, which is just ignorance slathered in Goop? Any discussion about gender without inclusion of race or any of the more unyielding aspects of identity is a continuation of the most oppressive supremacy ideology humankind has concocted yet. Race — more than just melanin expression to be sure — isn’t as fluid as gender. Sammy Sosa can try as he might to make you forget he’s Black but no one will; Caitlyn Jenner is wholly female.
This is not to say gender and all its expressions don’t carry enormous, systemic struggles within our society or shouldn’t ever be centered in conversations. It absolutely fucking should, because trans people are punished in all kinds of vile ways for being trans — except that Black trans people are disproportionately punished more than white trans people. See how unavoidable and uncomfortable it is? Out of sight, out of mind passed as an excuse for nearly all white people to ignore anti-Blackness in ourselves long before the smart phone, television, or newspapers, and it’ll continue to pass as long as the white, male-owned Facebook algorithm serves up only that which protects our comfort. For most of us, our eyes are where we live and most of us live in the smartphone screen a great deal of our waking hours. Social media is not a communal medium like television or good old mouth to mouth conversation. There’s actually potential in its isolationist user experience for white people unpack our whiteness and support Black creativity and influence, though it’s certainly not the only way we should do so. Because the job of teaching white people how systems work or what empathy is should not fall on Black people, no matter how close or intimate the relationship. White people have to our own damn homework. So if you’re a white feminist who doesn’t see content or think pieces written by Black folks in your newsfeed, you’re no better or more informed than a follower of Breitbart or Bigly’s. White comfort, white silence, white complicity: whatever you call it, it kills. White feminism cannot, should not and will not be centered around social justice.
White supremacy needs fake news to thrive. It is fake news. Fake news, the origin story of America, can’t exist without the algorithm anymore. White people perpetuate more fake news all by ourselves than any Russian spambot. Fake news is your aunt’s photo from an all-inclusive resort in a third world country. Fake news is sharing only the things which reinforce your status. And yes, fake news is also the “articles” your old white uncles post about making America great again. Fake news is all comfort, all the time. We must feel as though we look good in order to feel good about ourselves. Appearance is the key to wellness, after all. Just consult one of Goop’s essays or buy one of her face masks if you doubt. What could explain our obsession with appearances, the fascination with listing lies instead of the facing the pain of being lied to?
It’s time to fuck with the algorithm. Don’t just unsubscribe or unfollow the Goops of the internet; report them for the fake ass news they are and block them if you’re already following. (And for fuck’s sake, don’t buy or share anything from them if they try to lure you back with sponsored content, even if it looks cute as hell and it’s on sale.) Stop liking your high school ex’s staged photos of his Stepford wife and their Stepford children on Instagram. Subscribe to Black and Brown feminist and queer writers and check their newsfeed settings on Facebook so you see their content first. Leslie Mac, Didi Delgado, Son of Baldwin, and Crunk Feminist Collective, are but four wonderful places to start. Like their shit. Share their shit! Don’t forget to give credit where credit is due if you quote from their work. And for the love of Goop, don’t get them banned because they upset you with the facts of their existence.