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Rotman Insights Hub | University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

The patriarchal Wellness Industrial Complex

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Jennifer Gunter, Sarah Kaplan

Transcript of the video:

Sarah Kaplan: You talk about the wellness industrial complex which is now 4 trillion dollars, I think that’s U.S. dollars and you’ve written about that in your book, can you say a little bit about what that Wellness Industrial Complex is?

Jen Gunter: Yeah. Well, there’s a lot of money to be made in vaginal shame, so I’ll just put that out there right there and when we can’t talk about vaginas and vulvas and clitorises and orgasms and lubrication in adult ways because there are just things that happen and they’re body parts, that creates gaps and when you can’t say words it becomes shameful and if something is shameful how do you ask for information about it?

So you start to go to more clandestine places. So these clear gaps where medicine has a hard time talking with women and I’m trying to work on that, so it had been really picked up by the Wellness Industrial Complex.

So they are selling the same useless products, they are selling the same misogynistic messaging, they’re just attaching it to, you know, what we call God words like pure and clean and natural and agency and empowerment, words that we give the benefit of the doubt to, right. And so, medicine because we deal with like cancer and disease and illness, we’re stuck using devils words right at the beginning, so we are like behind the 8 Ball. So, you know, wellness is like moving right in with their propaganda and they’re all over it.

Sarah Kaplan: Right and a lot of people are making a lot of money off of that. So the media has called you the number one enemy of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, which sells products like jade eggs and healing stones and vaginal steaming and stuff whatever that is, tell me why you are, I mean I don’t think you have anything out particularly for Gwyneth Paltrow, so like tell me why that has or maybe yes, so tell me a little bit about that, like what you’re trying to do by calling that out.


Jen Gunter: Oh, I hate predators, right. So I see women in my office and they come in and they’ve tried products that are useless and might be harmful, they’re desperate, they’ve tried 20, 30, 40 things, whatever they’ve tried and they’ve gone to places that they thought were offering them good information. So, you know, when you see someone who, I mean there are many people who can’t talk about the kind of sex they want to have, there are many people who aren’t having the kind of sex they want to have, there are people suffering with pelvic pain. And so, they see somebody like Goop being willing to have the conversation, so they go there.

Now, the fault with medicine is that we didn’t make it available for them to have the conversation with us. But, so, you know, these jade eggs, the vaginal steaming, it’s so fascinating to me because they play off so many patriarchal tropes, but it’s advertised as feminism and that rebranding fascinates beyond belief.

[3.09 minutes]

This video was filmed at the Rotman School on November 5, 2019.

Jennifer Gunter is a Canadian-American gynecologist, a New York Times columnist, an author, and a specialist in chronic pain and women’s health.
Sarah Kaplan is a distinguish professor, director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy, and professor of strategic management at the Rotman School. She is a co-author of the bestselling business book, Creative Destruction as well as Survive and Thrive: Winning Against Strategic Threats to Your Business. Her latest book, The 360° Corporation: From Stakeholder Trade-offs to Transformation was published in 2019.