A New York Times columnist, OB/GYN, passionate feminist and a dedicated defender of women’s reproductive health, Dr. Jen Gunter discussed Gwyneth Paltrow, conspiracy theories and the g-spot as she promoted her new book The Vagina Bible at a Willard Fireside Chat Tuesday.
Dedicating three hundred pages to important information about vaginal health, Gunter has also written for The Hill, USA Today as well as other publications.
Proudly displaying her “Vaginal Anti-Christ” T-shirt, Gunter’s intelligent sarcasm and amusing anecdotes garnered laughs from all corners of the room. In investigating depictions of pubic hair within Western art, Gunter said she brought her children along.
“When I was writing this book, I went to quite a few museums to look at statues,” Gunter said. “I became obsessed with the idea that there were penises and pubic hair on male statues, yet just crossed legs and mounds for women. Every time we would go to a museum my kids would realize we had come only to look at statue genitalia and say ‘Oh my God, Mom. Please no.’”
Gunter said misrepresentation and information about women’s bodies is not unique to pubic hair. In fact, the spreading of harmful messages is a large problem for many facets of health.
Wellness is a belief system, she argues. Many products sold on wellness websites are unsupported by science. To generate profit, it is necessary to first gain support for the myths on which such products are based.
“The more conspiracy theories you believe, the more likely you are to buy supplements,” Gunter said. “Why? Because we know that up to 70 percent of supplements are adulterated. You don’t need them unless you have had surgery, or are trying to get pregnant. We also know that supplements are very common cause of liver failure.”
Because the facts don’t support the product, conspiracy promotion becomes a of the business plan, Gunter said.
She said women’s health is often particularly affected. For example, take vaginal steaming.
To Gunter, the success of vaginal steaming products first requires the belief that a woman’s reproductive tract needs to be cleaned. In fact, it is a long-held belief.
“This is why in multiple religions women are considered dirty when they are on their period, and are not allowed to do certain things,” Gunter said. It is a very effective way to keep women out of religious services, to keep them out of educational areas, to keep them from contributing to society.”
Gunter said she often finds herself pushing back against editors who are unsatisfied with an answer that doesn’t fit their story. An article introducing great foods for the vagina is interesting. Except, there are none. Gunter’s best advice is to eat lots of fiber.
“I guess that doesn’t sound very sexy,” she said. “A lot of times editors are very invested in perpetuating these myths because they sell.”
Students in attendance said they appreciated her emphasis on wellness as a system of beliefs.
“I had never thought of it like that,” Medill freshman Tina Huang said. “It was extremely interesting to see her dig into these myths and look for the truth.”
Medill sophomore Prin Baskar also said he enjoyed Gunter’s challenges to mainstream beliefs about health.
“I thought it was interesting to hear her dispel much of the pseudoscience that many of us accept as true,” Baskar said.