The Case Against Gwyneth Paltrow

Once upon a time, I actually considered myself a fan of Gwyneth Paltrow.

This was back in the late 90s and early 2000’s.  I was swept away by Shakespeare in Love as a sixteen-year-old, and decided she was everything a famous actress should be – beautiful, poised, talented, and always dating the hottest Hollywood actor.  I was already aware of the Gwynnie hate circulating at that time, but thought it was a simple matter of jealousy.

Then a couple of things changed.  First, she had a kid and named her Apple.  Now, I don’t consider myself a very judgmental person, but if you name your child something stupid, I totally reserve that right to judge you for being a total idiot.  My name may be standard and one that 5,000 other people around the country possess, but it was one less thing for my bullies to make fun of in school.  Is she really that out of touch?  If you really want to get creative with names, get a dog.  Dogs are meant to have crazy, stupid names.  It’s a lot safer to call a dog “Apple” than a child.

Then once she married Chris Martin (the Coldplay lead singer) and moved to London, she started saying disparaging things about Americans – how stupid they are, for one.  Now. I do not think that being an American means you can’t criticize your own country.  Of course not.  I’ve met plenty of stupid Americans.  I prefer listening to the BBC over CNN any day, because the journalists are so calm and soothing and don’t constantly yell and interrupt the other like American journalists do (plus I’m a sucker for the accents).  Growing up as a child of immigrants means you hear comparisons of your native country to the United States all the time, both good and bad.  (“The United States has a lot more opportunities than Italy did,” versus, “American girls keep their rooms messy, not Italian girls.”)

However, I’m against generalizing a nationality, especially when that nationality is your fan base, and especially when you haven’t offered any concrete evidence that you do not belong in the category of said “stupid Americans.”  But the final straw was a comment she made comparing the Brits’ grief to 7/7/05  to the Americans’ response to 9/11/01. “There were no multiple memorials with people sobbing as they would have been in America,” she said. Hold the phone right there, bitch.  You consider multiple memorials and sobbing an inappropriate response to the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil?  To an attack that still literally gives me chills every time I think about it, even nearly ten years later, even though I didn’t have any loved ones affected by it?  That sealed the deal.  Gwyneth Paltrow officially became an insufferable bitch.

So luckily, she disappeared from the public eye for awhile to raise her unfortunately named children.  Then she returned with GOOP.  GOOP is her style and lifestyle website. It’s perfectionist Martha Stewart-like advice, except on crack.  Her motive for the site is supposedly altruistic, to “help” us plebeians understand the virtues of a Master Cleanse and gifting someone with thousand dollar watches.  I halfheartedly attempted to spoof it in a blog called “FLOOF” but gave up after 2 or 3 entries because I do not possess that level of even faux pretension.

This week, she has released a newsletter showing how she and two other “working moms” – including Stella McCartney – handle the stresses of having a job while being a wife and mother.  Now, a couple of qualifications.  I’m not a wife nor mother, but I can rely on my experiences of being a child of a middle-class working mother for comparison purposes.  And I’m not taking away from the fact that these women have worked hard to make a name for themselves.  But if she wanted to reach the majority of her audience, I don’t think asking advice from three multi-millionaires really cuts it.  The only one who came off as likable was Stella McCartney, because she didn’t even bother with doling any advice.  I think she’s the only one on that newsletter who legitimately understands that with her place and privilege in life, she doesn’t have a lot in common with the traditional working mother model.

But Gwyneth and the other woman, Juliet de Baubigny, let all the ridiculous advice fly.  Juliet de Baubigny is a venture capitalist and reading her entry was exhausting.  She is of the uber-efficiency model, and discuss the various ways she schedules every single activity in her life. I’m surprised she didn’t discuss what days/times she has scheduled for sex.   I acknowledge that some level of time efficiency is necessary in order to be a functional human being.  But maybe this is my inherently lazy side speaking out, but shoot me in the head if I ever get so busy that I have to schedule every single waking moment of my day, down to what times I get to see my hypothetical children.  There has to be more spontaneity, or else what kind of life is it?  She also recommended that to save time, you have your personal trainer meet you on Monday mornings and get blow-outs every week at the salon to save time in the mornings.  Because, you know, every woman can afford that.

Gwyneth’s entry was more hilarious in what she considered “manic” – dropping off the kids to school, going to the gym, having telephone interviews, picking out clothes to wear at her movie premiere, then girl’s night out. Again, I’m not saying she doesn’t work, but it’s hard to compare what she considers “work” to other’s definition of it.  To most women, her day sounds like something out of a fairy tale.

My memories of my mother working are quite different.  We would all wake up before it was light outside so that she could drop us off at school early.  Usually my mother would clean the house before leaving, so that everything would be spic-and-span.  Then we would get home, she would cook, we would watch a little TV, and she would fall asleep early, exhausted.  She didn’t have the time or energy to indulge in a “girl’s night out.” Even when she was at home raising us as kids, her day wasn’t full of indulgences.  If you asked her what she did that day, a typical answer would include, “mopping,” “cleaning,” “laundry,” “grocery shopping,” and “making dinner.”

Maybe people will think I am writing this missive because I, too, am jealous.  I have nothing against people who are more privileged than me.  Despite my depressing student debt and modest upbringing, I consider myself privileged simply due to the family I was lucky to be born into, and the opportunities to get a great education.  I just dislike the level of pretension that Ms. Paltrow has in deigning us with her “advice.”  She should accept who she is instead of pretending that her life is anything like ours – like she said, she can’t pretend to make $25,000 a year, nor should she.  But a genuine, positive attitude could work wonders, and it’s my advice that she work on her sincerity and less on advising us to buy winter boots that cost hundreds of dollars.


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