Jack isn't a "One-Man Goop." He's just a rich weirdo.
If you’re not dunking your frail human corpse in an ice bath first thing in the morning you may not even want to bother trying to get famous. That is, after all, the way our billionaires start their days. Last week, The New York Times Fashion section ran a piece by Nellie Bowles titled ”Jack Dorsey Is Gwyneth Paltrow for Silicon Valley.” Bowles compares Paltrow, founder of the lifestyle brand Goop, to Twitter founder Jack by diving into his personal wellness routine, which involves a lot of walking, being cold, meditating. Jack’s ascetic routine is more or less enabled by various types of technology like an infrared sauna and an ice bath, in which he alternates for short periods in the morning before work. The main point of comparison between Jack and Paltrow is that when they endorse a product, piece of technology, or type of meditation, their respective legions of followers rush to purchase their own sleep tracking devices or try out intermittent fasting.
Jack and Paltrow are influencers, analogs in their own deeply strange, moneyed subcultures, and their evangelism drives sales of everything from silent meditation retreats to vagina steaming. What the article pays less attention to, naturally, are the ways this analogy between the two rich white CEOs falls apart under the realities of Jack and Paltrow’s very different roles as “influencers.”
The article acknowledges, “[i]t’s unlikely that Mr. Dorsey can embrace his wellness guru role as fully as Ms. Paltrow.” That’s because Jack has a “real job” as the CEO of both Twitter and Stripe, where’s Paltrow’s Goop is both her job and her conduit to her followers. Jack seems to mostly mention his fasting techniques or a new piece of wellness tech on other people’s podcasts while Paltrow has her own podcast — and her own well-attended (and expensive) wellness seminars, and a magazine, and a website that directly sells the products she endorses.
Obviously, both Jack and Paltrow are credulous rich weirdos, but it’s notable that both the article and the people who hang on his every word perceive Jack’s personal habits and painful vacation preferences as having the same amount of influence and clout as a multi-million dollar brand with the express aim of generating influence. It illustrates the ease with which individual men acquire authority while women must build an infrastructure of authority around themselves to achieve the same result. Jack can be “a one-man Goop” while Paltrow heads up a media empire.
If the article doesn’t spend much time on the way that gender functions in the analogy between Jack and Paltrow, it may be because it spends more time on how it functions in the comparison between Jack and Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX. Jack (thin, retiring, probably cold) is positioned in opposition to Musk (large arms, a loud buffon), each as avatar and director of the two poles of the Silicon Valley spectrum of bonkers billionaire masculinity. Musk is what we expect from billionaire tech CEOs, what with the flamethrowers and the rockets and the launching of the sports car into space. This casts Jack as a different kind of tech-bro, whose masculinity is more stoic, expressed as austerity and restriction in the face of Musk’s excess.
This typology of Silicon Valley masculinity makes Jack seem more in sympathy with the overtly feminine vibe of Goop, even as the two are opposed on an axis of which lifestyle seems more fun. Bringing Musk’s aggressive physique and even more aggressively obnoxious behavior into the comparison downplays the way that Jack’s preferred lifestyle tech and habits are as gendered as Goop’s marketing of jade eggs. The restrictive, self-sacrificing nature of Jack’s lifestyle (walking 5 miles to work each day, forgoing food at stretches, cryotherapy) has a long history in the masculine cultures of technology. The single-minded computer genius, forgoing both the pleasures and the responsibilities of conforming with mainstream society, is a trope that dates back to the earliest days of computing. Jack’s methods are popular among the tech set because it promotes productivity, giving men in the Valley the ability to work smarter, harder, and longer. Goop seems to focus on the time outside of work and is less about optimization and more about self-care. The hard rationality of men at work is in opposition to the soft indulgence of women at home, where they are steaming their vulvas and cooking vegan lunches for their children while men are microdosing LSD and dousing themselves in ice baths to squeeze an extra hour or two out of the finite workday.
Jack’s wellness cult-following is the result of our irrational tendency to believe that success like what Jack enjoys is something that has a pattern that can be emulated — if we act like billionaires, we can optimize ourselves for the destiny of wealth and prestige that the American Dream hollowly promises to us. Out here on the blasted heath that is late capitalism, the most we can ask from the wealthy elite is a little bit of honesty and self-reflection about what it is they do. So, if nothing else, I can respect Paltrow for at least acknowledging that the lifestyle Goop sells is in fact a product. Comparing her to Jack is just another way women’s hard work, even in the service of spectacular grift, is erased the second a man shines some light bulbs on himself early in the morning before work and mentions it to a journalist.