Julie Gunlock is director of the Culture of Alarmism project at the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) and author of a recent book, From Cupcakes to Chemicals. Ms. Gunlock was gracious enough to answer a few questions for NeW about her new book, discuss the conservative movement, and offer up advice for conservative women. Read her interview below!
What initially prompted you to research and write about the culture of alarmism?
It was the birth of my first son that inspired me to write this book. After deciding to quit my job and stay home with him, I found I had a bit more time to read mainstream media stories and visit mommy, parenting, health, and cooking blogs. I also started watching a bit of daytime television (I admit it, I used to watch Oprah and the View!). And what I was seeing, hearing, and reading really shocked me. I was stunned to learn about all the things that could harm me and my child. I’m not talking about hurricanes, and tornadoes and bird flu and escaped prisoners. No, I’m talking about common, everyday things, like hand lotion and shampoo, my makeup, my son’s crib sheets and mattress…his toys and just about everything I was feeding him. Of course, I’ve always been a bit of a skeptic so I decided to educate myself a bit more about these so called dangers. What I found was a very sophisticated partnership between radical, left wing environmental and heath advocacy groups, the mainstream media desperate to drive traffic to their news sites, and politicians and regulators eager to look like the hero with the solution to the scary problem (otherwise known as regulations, bans, and taxes).
When I realized what was happening I knew I wanted to tell other women about this system—a system that prays on women in an effort to grow government and regulate the way we eat, shop, live, and raise our kids.
What kind of reception have you received since publishing From Cupcakes to Chemicals? Have you gotten push-back from liberal groups? How have conservatives responded?
It’s interesting. People have been very supportive, especially other moms who often feel overwhelmed by the amount of scary and often misleading information they read in the news every day. Moms just want information they can trust and they expect the media to be able to detangle these dodgy “scientific studies” from agenda-driven junk science that help push regulations. Unfortunately, the mainstream media fails women in this area. That’s why I’m hoping to fill the void. And while there has been a bit of anger from some activist organizations and one or two mommy bloggers who profit on scaring moms, conservatives seem to get it automatically. They have a clearer sense of the system at work and seem to understand the need to push back on junk science.
Are there any changes you wish you could make to your book now? Any other topics you would have liked to address?
Honestly, I wish I’d dedicated a chapter to examining what I consider the most dangerous alarmist issue today: the anti-vaccine movement. What’s interesting is even though I skipped the topic in the book (aside from one hard-to-resist swipe at anti-vaccine queen Jenny McCarthy), vaccine-related questions come my way most often. I think that people really crave reliable sources on this important topic — particularly moms who dread these decisions, especially if they believe the utter nonsense promoted by Hollywood stars like McCarthy as well as more recently, Alicia Silverstone (who perhaps prophetically is best known for the big screen hit Clueless). Silverstone’s recent statement that she forgoes vaccinations for her son but protects him by feeding him miso soup (I’m not kidding!) might be dismissed as lunacy by some reasonable women, but you wouldn’t believe the support she gets from seemingly reasonable women. Moms need to understand that every single legitimate, peer reviewed study has certified the safety of vaccinations. It’s hard to convince some people, but there’s clearly a need to provide moms trusted information on this important topic.
What value do you think groups like NeW add to the public discourse?
I think NeW is one of the most important groups out there today. The support NeW provides young women who might just be forming opinions on public policy and the role of government is critical. My college years were tough because I didn’t have the support I needed and wandered a bit, trying out this political trend and that political trend. I eventually made my way home but it would have been nice to have NeW around in the Dark Ages (when I went to college).
What message would you like young women in college or recently graduated to take from your book? What advice do you have for young conservative women today?
Become a skeptic. Demand evidence. And don’t believe all the terrifying things you hear in the mainstream media. Understand that you are a powerful force in the economy. Women are the leading consumers of everything from groceries to electronics to cars, and take on the lion’s share of responsibility for cleaning the house, caring for the kids and paying the bills. Because of this, organizations work hard to convince women that they need to buy only the products and make the choices, which comport with the organization’s vision. As a result, women end up paying more for products that claim to avoid the threat — whether it be a preservative, a packaging material or a common ingredient — even if that pricy product does little to advance the well-being of their families.