Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
In the neoliberal context of women’s high-end self-care, caring for oneself is made legible through consumptive practices and bodily aesthetics; if you take care of yourself, using the right products, it will be manifested through a trim body, clear skin, shiny hair, a calm, white-toothed smile. On the other hand, feminine discourses of self-care often emphasize more private, inward-facing approaches such as meditation, diet, and emotional healing, as well as the ways in which such efforts, ultimately, put one in a better place to care for others. Drawing on three site visits to the ‘In GOOP Health’ wellness summits, open-ended interviews, and textual and media analysis, I consider the tension between self-care and self-indulgence that is discernable in how people at these events talk – and laugh - about their own regimes of self-care and about the much-maligned GOOP brand and experience. Four strategies of humor - self-mocking, teasing, pun, and innuendo - are deployed by ‘In GOOP Health’ presenters, vendors, and participants, to discursively decenter GOOP’s explicit focus on beauty and consumption, and to give more credence to spiritual, nutritional, emotional, and physical wellness. Ultimately this paper highlights the gender- and class- inflected nature of ‘self-care’ and how some practitioners manage these valences - and their reputations – through laughing at themselves and one another.