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Why Is Bette Midler Going After Canadian Gynecologist Jen Gunter?

New Age author Marianne Williamson is involved, too.
Dr. Jen Gunter in photographed in Toronto on June 5, 2019.
Chris Young / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Dr. Jen Gunter in photographed in Toronto on June 5, 2019.

The internet is a vital lifeline that connects us all to more information than we can even fathom. But so much of social media is also just endless ranting. At the end of a very hard year, when so many of us are tired and irritable, maybe we should consider just logging off.

Case in point: legendary actress and singer Bette Midler launching an extremely ill-considered attack on Canadian gynecologist Dr. Jen Gunter, calling her “alt-right” because of her criticism of self-help author and former Democratic presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson. Even for 2020, that’s a mouthful.

Gunter is a gynecologist who’s made it her mission to provide clear and de-mystified information about women’s reproductive health. She’s advocated for straightforward and non-judgmental language around abortion, written a book called The Vagina Bible, and earned the wrath of Gwyneth Paltrow for her searing and often laugh-out-loud takedowns of Goop’s bad ideas about health, including vaginal steaming, “wearable stickers” and the infamous jade egg. Those credentials don’t exactly scream “far right politics.”

Watch: Jen Gunter is taking on “big wellness,” one vagina myth at a time. Story continues after video.

Let’s back up a bit. It seems this whole thing started on Saturday with one of those innocent Twitter prompts, where someone photoshopped pictures of everyone who ran for the Democratic nominee for president in the 2020 election and asked which two Twitter users would rather get high with.

One person picked Marianne Williamson and Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota senator who dropped out of the race in March, and who memorably once ate salad using a comb.

Perhaps because of that episode, or her alleged near-abusive behaviour of her staff, Williamson responded that she would rather not partake with Klobuchar. Fair.

That tweet got a lot of attention, particularly because Williamson wasn’t actually tagged in the tweet that named her, leading many to speculate that she may have been searching her own name. (Many people, of course, brought up the comb story.)

That’s likely why Williamson’s name started trending, prompting Gunter to take aim at her.

Why is Marianne Williamson controversial?

Before she got involved in politics, some of Williamson’s wacky views were more easily brushed off, given that she was seen as a slightly weird New Age hippie and Oprah’s “spiritual advisor.” It’s when she wanted to run for president that many people — Gunter among them — took issues with her past statements.

Williamson’s propensity for alternative medicine and her rejection of some areas of established medical knowledge represent a lot of what Gunter has spent her career fighting against — even though Williamson did start to backtrack a little once she decided to run for president.

Williamson had previously said that parents shouldn’t have to vaccinate their children if they don’t want to and that mandatory vaccines are “Orwellian.” She’s said clinical depression is a “scam” by Big Pharma, and that anti-depressants contributed to Robin Williams’s suicide and may be linked to mass shootings.

Williamson also wrote in her 1992 book, Return to Love, that cancer and AIDS could be cured by prayer and positive thinking, another stance she has since distanced herself from. (Despite that clearly incorrect view of terminal illnesses, Williamson did lead support groups and charity drives for HIV-positive patients in the early 1990s.)

Another quirk of Williamson’s is that she’s a big believer in Jesus, despite having been raised Jewish. Return to Love, which she promoted to great success on “Oprah” the year it was published, is her interpretation of A Course in Miracles, a book written by Helen Schucman in the 1960s. As Williamson explained to Oprah, A Course in Miracles serves as the basis for Williamson’s beliefs. Schucman believed the book was literally dictated to her by Jesus.

When Williamson started responding to her more controversial past statements in the summer of 2019, Gunter went after her for the way she wrote about obesity in her 2010 book, A Course in Weight Loss. She quoted several questionable passages in the book, including one stating that a hot fudge sundae would “feed cancer” and cause “food allergies” as well as an outsized focus on female “modesty.”

Enter Bette Midler

So now we get Williamson’s New Age career pushing mysticism and natural medicine, and Gunter’s natural resistance to all of it. So, why is Bette Midler so defensive of Williamson and so sure Gunter is a representative of the far right? We know Midler is a supporter of Williamson’s, but it’s puzzling because Midler has spoken up for abortion rights, much like Gunter, and they share an acerbic wit that make them seem like natural allies.

There are a few possible theories.

Given Midler’s charge that Gunter takes orders from “alt-right bosses,” it seems likely that she may think Gunter is someone else — although it’s hard to tell who. Could she be thinking of conservative political commentator Jennifer Rubin? She’s right-wing, but like Midler is no fan of Donald Trump, and certainly couldn’t reasonably be called a member of the alt-right. Was she thinking of Edmonton Sun columnist Lorne Gunter, who’s palled around with far-right media personality Ezra Levant? It seems deeply unlikely Midler would be that acquainted with the inner workings of the Canadian media.

Or is Midler just sticking up for Gwyneth Paltrow, a frequent target of Gunter’s ire? They both appeared in the underwhelming 2019 Netflix show “The Politician,” and Midler has defended Paltrow before, when a tabloid named her the world’s most hated celebrity in 2013.

HuffPost Canada has contacted Midler’s representatives, and will update this story if we get more information. And as always, please feel free to reach out if you know anything about 2019′s most mysterious feud: Paul Anka’s vendetta against Drake.

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