I went over to Oprah’s website in an attempt to find something stronger than what the general internet had to offer. I was surprised to find ONLY four videos relating to feminism and NO audios at all. There were article but rarely any written by Oprah, herself. I did this because my aim is to research on all the major aspects of Oprah’s empire in an attempt to find where exactly has Oprah Winfrey posed feminist ideas to the public. This was the probably the hardest part of my research because it took a lot of time going through so many videos trying ot find what I was looking for. Unfortunately, I didn’t find much at all. There weren’t any episodes or interviews where Oprah talks about being a feminist, or about rumors regarding her being a feminist, or about feminism at all. Although there were a couple of articles based on the subject matter.
One of the most important event when oprah was criticized for abadoming her so-called feminist side was during the 2008 elections. When almost every women stood up to support Hillary Clinton, Oprah supported Barack and as expected the women did NOT like it. Oprah’s website was attacked with comments of “treason” and “bigotry.” Someone commented “For the first time in history whe actually have a shot at putting a woman in the white house and Oprah backs the black MAN. She’s choosing her race over gender.” Oh please! I think some retarded people are just out to get her. If thier not criticizing her for being a feminist, then their critisizig her for not being one. What is wrong with poeple. Oprah has millions of viewers and she cannot live her life and make choices that would please them all. Like Bill Cosby said, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.” Cant’ a woman do anything according to her own will. This little paragraph said a lot,
“The symptoms are obvious. Since these women are so bigoted themselves in favor of Hillary- entirely because she happens to be female-they assume that Oprah is also guilty of bigotry. But, since it’s not thier brand of bigotry, she is a traitor to the cause.”
There we go. This does not only prove that Oprah is not a feminist but is fair and I think more than half the country (including myself) would agree that the US isn’t ready for a female president. Oprah, then and now, has continued to support what she has alwaya supported justice, equality for all and positive attitude. But these extreme feminists weren’t looking for anything but a WOMAN. According to the author, “They put the lie to thier own doctrine, showing all the world that they dont want equality, they want superiority. Women first. Women all.” And Oprah has not worked towards this sort of agenda. Because if she was, she probably wouldn’t be helping Hillary to the president’s seat but running for presidency herself!
So, as we now know Oprah’s life wasnt some piece of cake. She had gone through some very terrible times before emerging as this highly repected and reputable woman. Honestly, I dont think the words “highly respected and reputable” are the right words to describe Oprah, but right now I have so much on my mind to put into this blog that I dont have time to find the perfect phrase. The one thing the captured me most was the five years of her life when she was raped continuously by the only men she knew before her father stepped into her life. I dont think anyone can imagine what she went through in those five years. Heck, if she really was a feminist I wouldn’t blame her. When Oprah was running her show according the typical morning show model by “employing sensational stories and outrageous guests to attract viewers” no one thought of her as a feminist. But when she decided to hit other isses such as weight, healthy diets and “self-help” suddenly people think she’s turned into a feminist? Why? Is it because all these subjects are streotypically concerned with WOMEN ONLY. I saw her episodes on weight loss and let me tell you it ddi not have to do with just women. Yes, the percentage of women was higher but it’s not Oprah’s fault that men are too lazy to tackle their weight. Because according to this video there is a MAN on board the Weight Loss Boot Camp. (video) She’s done shows on spiritual values, inviting both male and female guest speakers to talk on the subject. Oprah has invited people like Rosie O’Donnell, Elizabeth Lesser, Micheal Bernard Beckwith and Eckhart Tolle. If more females are listening to these spiritual speakers that DOESN’T MAKE OPRAH A FEMINIST! Oprah discusses matters that relate to both men and women, I dont know when people inferred that Oprah changing her course in her show ( by changing her course I’m reffering to her biography where it mentioned that she changed her track from the ”typical morning show” model to discussing issues that people other than celebrities can connect to and adopt to make thier lives better) meant that she was becoming a feminist.
At this point I actually decided to look up definitions of Feminism from The Feminist Resource Website. Here are a few, others can be found on my sources page.
Womanism: Advocacy of or enthusiasm for the rights, achievements, etc. of women (1863).
“I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute…” –Rebecca West, The Clarion, 11/14/13
“The reason racism is a feminist issue is easily explained by the inherent definition of feminism. Feminism is the political theory and practice to free all women: women of color, working-class women, poor women, physically challenged women, lesbians, old women –as well as white economically privileged heterosexual women. Anything less than this is not feminism, but merely female self-aggrandizement.” –Barbara Smith, 1979
Feminism has as its goal to give every woman “the opportunity of becoming the best that her natural faculties make her capable of.” –Millicent Garrett Fawcett 1878
So far during my research the only thing I found that some idiot might refer to as feminism is the fact that she opened up an “All Girls” school in Africa. Now why would Oprah do that? Well m aybe because there aren’t enough educational oppotunities for girls in Africa. African societies are still, to this day, very patriarchal societies. Therefore, the few opportunities that are available for moving forward in life are given to the men. Plus the issue of child molestion is still there. When Oprah opened this lavish private schol there werem many criticisms. I found this interesting piece online.
“At the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Leadership Academy, Winfrey recieved mcuh criticism surrounding the “extravagnce” of the school, with mention, among other things, about the nedd for high thread count sheets for the dormitory beds, a beauty salon, two theaters (one outdoor, one indoor) and a yoga classroom to educate girls inan impoverished region of South Africa. In an articel about the schools unveiling, Allison Samuels of Newsweek questioned whether the $ 40 million dollars spent might have benefitted a far greater number of students had the money been spent with less emphasis on luxurious surroudnigns and more emphasis on practicality.
Winfrey defended her decision to establish the Ledership Academy in South Africa by the following observation:
I think the reason not just Africa but the world is in the state that it is because of a lack of leadership on all levels of government…and particularly in regard to schools and schooling for poor children…the best way to effect change long term is to…give children exposure and opportunityand nurture them to understand thier own power and possibility.”
Rebecca Traister of Salon.com argued that the criticism Winfrey recieved for daring to builf a private school in Africa was predictable:
Winfrey might have known that news of her students swank surroudings might not wash with Americna critics, who dont bat an eye on white hotel heiresses daning on banquettes, or relaity shows about sweet-16 parties at budgets that could build a home for a Katrina victim. But impoverished black girls sleeping on nice-ish sheets? That didn’t go over so well. The affronted sense that these girls deserve only bare-minimum accomodations and that a private citizen’s money should have been used to educating them in bulk rather than in gracious individual style reflects our own beliefs that the bare minumum is all poor (black) girls need.
I think that this argument says it all. Just because Oprah opens up a luxurious school for GIRLS, it’s sucha big deal. She’s helping these girls out just like she helped out poeple (in the US) to lose weight, bring out their spritual side or gave them advise through various speakers about living healthy.
I dug into some of the books that were selected by Oprah in recent years. I didn’t get a chance to completely read the books but I did get time to read enough to write a quick summary. So,here’s what I found out:
The book recently selected (in 2010) is one we’ve all probably heard of and maybe even read in high school called Great Expectations: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. This book is a combinatoin of the two most well known novels in English Literature; Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities. A Tale of Two Cities is about an ageing doctor named Doctor Manette, who after eighteen yearas as a political prisoner, is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There the lives of two very different MEN, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, an unappreciated brilliant English lawyer, become involved through thier love for Lucie Manette. “From the tranquil roads of London, they are drawn against thier will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of hte Reign of Terror, and they soon fall under hte lethal shadow of the guillotine.” Great Expectations is about a series of fortunate and unfortunate events that change an orphan kids life named Pip; an encounter with an escaped convict in a graveyard on the marshes, a visit to Ms. Havisham and beautiful, yet cold-hearted Estella and the surprising generosity of a mysterious benefactor. It is truly intereting to see Pip transform into a gentleman “as he discovers the true nature of his great expectations.”
This second book, called Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, was also selected this year. Patty and Walter Berglund were the perfect couple. Patty was like the ideal negibor who was always there to help her fellow neighbors be it from recycyling to getting the cops to do thier jobs right. “She was an enviably perfect mother and the wife of Walter’s dream.” Walter was an environmental lawyer,c ommuter cyclist and the perfect family man. The berglunds grew mysterious in the new millenium. All kinds of questions were popping up; Why has their teenage son moved in with the Republican family next door? Why has Walter started working at Big Coal? Ehat exactly is Richard Katz, who is Walter’s best friend and rival, still doing in the picture? Most of all, what has happened to Patty?Why has she turned into a “very differnt kind of negihbor?” Jonathan Franzen gives the readers the story of “contemporary love and marriage.” It is story from where lesson are to be learned of “how to live in an ever more confusing world.”
This third book is called Say You’re One Of Them by Uwem Akpan. It was selected by Oprah’s book club in 2009. Uwem Akpan tell the true stories of Africa. An eight year old boy is eager to attend school and so is a narrator of “An Ex-Mas Feast” while his twelve year old sister is on the streets helping out. Both the children are still not able to raise enough money because of other more basic needs like food. His poor family lives in a shelter in Nairobi. The other story is also about a poor Afican girl, who witnesses the worst situations between their parents. These stories of Akpan were chosen as finalists for the Caine Prize of African Writing in 2007.
This one was chosen is 20008. It’s a story about boy who is born mute and lives on a farm with his parents in remote northern Wisconsin. It si the Sawtelle’s family tradition to raise and train ” a fictional breed of dog” that posses a remarkable gift of companionship. Edgar has one such friend and ally named Almondine. Edgar is eager to carry on the family tradition but when a catarophic event takes over the family. Hef lees into the wilderness where he lives with three dogs, his only companions. Until one day he is forced to decide whether to leave forever or return home to work on unifnished business.
This book was also selected back in 2008. It’s called A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. According to Tolle, who is the narrator as well, humans are on the verge of creating an new world by a personal transformation that takes us away from our “ever-expanding ego.” The author presensts us with the honest state of humanity. Tolle describes in great detail how our current ego-based state of consiousness operates. Then, in very practical terms, he leads us into this new consiousness. The reader comes to experience who we truly are which is much greater than what we think we are.
Now judging from all that I’ve read and everything I learned I dont see a single place where I could point my finger and say “Aha! This is what Oprah is trying to tell us throug this reading, which indirectly is connected to femisnim.” I mean these are very general books with very life like themes. None of these books were about powerful women or how women should be or not be treated or about women’s rights. Because from the denifitions I’ve looked up in my previous post, feminism has alot to do with equalizing women. Oprah is simply giving us the oppurtunity to have a good read during our leisure time and I’m sure these books are read by both men and women alike.
Before I go any further I’d first like to give a brief biography of Oprah Winfrey, so we understand where she came from and how she got there. Oprah was born to an unmarried “teenage mother” in a small town in Mississippi. In other words, she had absolutely no father figure at birth or even until she was fourteen. Fortunately, her grandmother took good care of her.
“Her world changed for the worse at age six.” She moved to Milwaukee where her mother found work. (So far six years of her life, and she has no idea what it feels like to be under the protection of a responsible male figure). While her mother was out of the house, Oprah was “molested repeatedly” by her male relatives and mother’s friends. This disturbing phase of her life lasted about five years. At the age of fourteen, she gave birth to a child who died as an infant. After this incident she moved to Tennessee with her father. (About time!) Oprah’s father was a “strict disciplinarian” but gave her the protection and education she needed. Oprah herself states, ”As strict as he was, he had some concerns about me making the best of my life, and would not accept anything less than what he thought was my best.” Success, in all forms, started to pull Oprah out of her misery from the age of seventeen; she became an honor student, won a bueaty pageant and got her first job at a radio station called WVOL. Oprah continued to at the radio station during her first years at college and later earned a job as an anchor and reporter on a local television program.
She co-hosted her first show “People are Talking” in 1976. In January 1984, she hosted another show called “AM Chicago” which was later renamed “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” By 1987 “The Oprah Winfrey Show” had already recieved three Daytime Emmy Awards. Oprah was the youngest host ot receive the “Broadcaster of the Year Award.” She also earned nominations for an Oscar and Golden Globe Award for her role as Sofia in The Color Purple. Her role in Native Son was highly acclaimed by critics.
In 1986, Oprah started her own production company called Harpo Productions Inc. that worked behind many television productions, magazine and internet publishings. By 1988, Oprah was the first woman in history to own and produce her own talk show by taking it under Harpo Productions. Through Harpo Productions, Oprah produced and appeared in shows such as The Women of Brewster Place, There Are No Children Here and Before Women Had Wings. The Oprah Winfrey Show became ever popular when Oprah started to ariculate shows concerning “spritiual values, healthy living and self help.”
Her childhood misfortunes inspired her to start a campaign “to establish a national database of convicted child abusers.” The “Oprah Bill” was passed in 1993 during Clinton’s presidency. Oprah Winfrey became one of the “100 Most Influential People of the 20th Centruy” and given the Lifetime Acheivement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
When Oprah started her Book Club in 1996, her “influence over the publishing industry exlpoded.” Books selected by the book club became “instant best sellers.” Oprah has written five books herself. The Oprah Winfrey show is aired in 140 countries around the world. She also established the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Africa.
“In the 2008 presidential election, Winfrey publicly endorsed a political candidate for the first time, hosting a fundraiser for Senator Barack Obama and appearing with him at campaign events.” It is publicly known that Oprah’s support played a big role in Obama’s success as president. In 2011, she declared that she was going to close the chapter of The Oprah Winfrey Show. Judging by her monumental success and power she has been acclaimed as “the most powerful woman in the world.”
I was just sitting on my bed watching an interview of Chris Rock on The Late Show after giving up on my final pitch. I just couldn’t come up with a topic that was specific and interesting enough to do a project on, until the last two minutes of this video (below). When I heard what Chris Rock had to say about Oprah, it just hit me! Is Chris Rock trying to say that Oprah is a feminist?I sat back back and started to think, hard. Does oprah really convey feminist ideas? Does she empower women in a feminist way? Has she ever talked about feminism?
No doubt Oprah is one of the most powerful woman in America and she does deal with a lot of women issues such as weight loss, sex and relationships, beauty and abuse. Although men can also fit into almost all these categories , Oprah seems to target women much more. But does this in any way prove that Oprah could be a feminsit? Maybe she does what she does because she has the power. I think no one deals with women issues better than her and I believe she realizes that. Empowering women especially through the media, which is run under a patriarchal society, requires A LOT of power. Oprah has that power!