Don’t Let Gwyneth Paltrow Tell You Shit About Life: The Rhetoric of Self-Care, Alternative Medicine, and the Politics of Experience

Date of Award

May 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication and Rhetorical Studies


Rachel Hall


alternative medicine, ethopolitics, experience, goop, the postfeminist sensibility, the rhetoric of self-care

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Utilizing what I am calling an intersectional feminist rhetorical analysis, I examine Gwyneth’s Paltrow’s lifestyle brand goop, the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative’s consumer education campaign My Birth Matters!, and Indie Birth, an organization dedicated to helping pregnant women have “freebirths.” Through my analysis I will be forwarding the concept of the rhetoric of self-care, which I argue is articulated through all of these sites. I define the rhetoric of self-care as self-centered, gendered, and utilized to encourage women to optimize their corporeality by participating in what Nikolas Rose calls “ethopolitical” practices. This thesis puts forth a theoretical contribution by bringing together Rose’s concept of ethopolitics and the postfeminist sensibility in order to better explain how the rhetoric of self-care operates. I argue that ethopolitics helps us recognize that the rhetoric of self-care becomes legible because many feel a responsibility to manage and alleviate perceived risks to their health. The postfeminist sensibility allows for an even more nuanced critique by illustrating that the rhetoric of self-care is gendered, and that it uses the language of feminism to persuade its audiences to partake in regimes of self-care under the guise of “empowerment.” By incorporating race and class into my analysis, I expand on both ethopolitics and the postfeminist sensibility, which does not take either into account. In the end, this thesis endeavors to show that the rhetoric of self-care straddles ideologies and ultimately masks health disparities and reinforces ethopolitical rationalities about health and risk management as tasks to be taken up by the individual.


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