Gwyneth Paltrow, purveyor of many questionable vagina-related products, has reached new depths with her latest: A “Hands Off My Vagina” luxury candle meant to support abortion rights. Goop released it just ahead of the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide and is in real danger of being overturned this summer.
The candle costs $75—which is unfortunately about the going rate for luxury candles—and $25 from each one sold will go to the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, until the limited-edition candle sells out or July 1, whichever happens first.
“The word ‘vagina’ holds a lot of power,” Paltrow wrote on Instagram. “And yet, there is a recurring need to say: Hands off. Hands off our vaginas in any context where they’re not invited. Your reproductive organs; your choice.”
When most people talk about bodily autonomy in the reproductive rights context, they say things like “hands off our bodies” or, more specifically, “hands off my uterus.” A quick look at pro-choice protest signs reveals all kinds of references to the uterus, where a pregnancy actually implants.
For a person whose brand extensively covers sex and sexuality, Paltrow loves conflating reproductive parts. Recall a previous vag candle, “This Smells Like My Vagina,” a wax creation that is more likely meant to refer to the vulva, or the outer part of the genitals. (Also, that candle exploded in a British woman’s living room.) She appears to be obsessed with the word, and has even yelled “VAGINA! VAGINA! VAGINA!” to a room full of Harvard students.
Anatomy aside, there’s a larger issue with this charity candle. Yes, I’m glad she’s raising money for abortion rights. The ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project does amazing work and is currently involved in the lawsuits over the Texas abortion ban, and many other restrictions. But legal groups like the ACLU and Center for Reproductive Rights, and political ones like NARAL, don’t help people who need abortions right now. The groups that do that every single day are called abortion funds, and they help people pay for everything from the procedure itself to childcare, food, and gas money, all while helping them navigate a dense web of restrictions that may force them to travel out of state. They are the difference between having a right and accessing that right.
These local abortion funds get a fraction of the donations that national groups do. A January 2021 report found that, of the money philanthropic foundations donated reproductive rights issues, just 20 percent went to abortion specifically and a mere 3 percent went to abortion funds.
Paltrow could donate another $25 from each candle to abortion funds in Mississippi or Louisiana, where 15-week abortion bans could go into effect as soon as July if the Supreme Court upholds Mississippi’s law. Or split the additional donation among funds in the 12 states that have trigger laws in place to ban abortion outright if the court overturns Roe, which is frighteningly possible. Or rather than selling anything at all, she could have started a fundraiser and mailed donors “hands off my body” stickers, or simply posted a screenshot of a monthly recurring donation and asked people to match her. Merch is cute, especially for people who want to virtue-signal on Instagram, but she could have made a much bigger difference for people seeking abortions. There’s still time to make it right, GP.