Oprah flashes the Secret Sign of the Vulva to her fanatical cult followers, probably a signal to go see the new Tom Cruise movie (photo O Magazine, June 2005)
Despite the worldâ€™s vast reserves of sublimely crappy literature that remain largely unmocked by my giant brain, over there on the floor of the Twisty laboratory lie the remains of the June 2005 issue of O, the magazine of condescending consumerist heterosexual domesticity as prescribed by Oprah Winfrey.
Holy moly! I hate to admit it, but this magazine may be too big for one lone patriarchy-blaming blog. If, in handling the object, I had not sensed the toxins of white male supremacy leaching into my system through its poisoned ink, I believe I might have been able to spew out an impressive body of work on the thousand-and-one ways in which this single issue, with its sadistic leitmotifs and opprobrious subtexts, functions as a de facto instruction manual for the straight woman who pursues total assimilation by the patriarchal mothership. As it is, I only ingested only a few articles before I involuntarily emitted an unusual noise and chucked the thing against the wall. Iâ€™d osmosed enough patriarchy to compel me to check out my butt in the bathroom mirror, but not so much that I hated myself for discovering that Iâ€™d had my sweatpants on backwards all day. It was a close call.
The June issue contains a â€œspecial reportâ€ on, what else, men. But this is Oprahâ€™s magazine; no mere reportage here. No. In fact, Oprahâ€™s vital and clairvoyant information will â€œchange forever the way you think about menâ€ (emphasis mine). That is, if you had previously thought of men as sentient beings, you no longer will. It turns out that men are â€œNeanderthals,â€ and if your lifeâ€™s dream is to amass a repertoire of bogus tips and tricks that promise to make life with the â€œmonosyllabic male of your choiceâ€ bearable, youâ€™ve come to the right place.
Having studied in my lab the magazineâ€™s advertising, content, and tone (in searching the rich canon of womenâ€™s magazines, the aficionado of patriarchal propaganda will be hard-pressed to find a match for Oâ€™s tone: a bizarre coalescence of the authoritative, the slumber-partyal, the glib, and the insipid), I have determined that the magical world of Oprah is populated by just such a species of tip-and-trick-seeking woman. She is in her 30s, white, middle class, desperately miserable, with a deep sense of isolation from her distant, inscrutable man, and a pathological compulsion to shop. Judging by Oprahâ€™s near-universal appeal, such women must exist in droves, the inevitable product of the dominant cultureâ€™s disdain for them as receptacles, as well as its enthusiasm for producing both distant, inscrutable men and shopping malls. But Oprah can save them! Every page is like a bright yellow box of Empowerment Bonbons (Youâ€™re Special! Youâ€™re Strong!), but with Crispy Cockroach Centers (Now change your impossibly inadequate self into a sleek, professional manâ€™s woman! Hereâ€™s how!).
According to Oprah–well, not the celestial Oprah Herself, but the more earthly harem of avuncular shrinks and sassy sexperts and shopping editors through whom Oprah speaks–the white heterosexual woman must study, and study hard, to become a tool of the patriarchy. She must manipulate. She must buy the right bathing suit. She must say the right things at the right times. She must flush her non-relationship interests down the crapper and express a fascination for his non-relationship interests. Like the 4th Earl of Chesterfield once said, no doubt addressing his irate Pops after getting sent down from Cambridge, â€œthe knowledge of the world is only to be acquired by reading men, and studying all the various editions of them.â€
So too must the Oprah Woman employ a repertoire of cunning techniques to bring about the desired result (which result appears to be the ability to tolerate her miserable oppression). Here are a few samples of the cunning techniques. I swear I didnâ€™t make any ofâ€™em up. How do these people write this crap with a straight face? Itâ€™s 2005!
- Donâ€™t try to talk to him during football season.
- If he tries to cook, get out of the kitchen until itâ€™s time to clean up.
- Donâ€™t be argumentative.
- Admire him for being tough.
- Shut up.
- Acquaint yourself with the career of Peyton Manning.
- â€œMeet every protest and argument he makes, no matter how ridiculously false, with the observation that he is absolutely correct…in boxing this is called rope-a-dope.â€
- Rent a Steven Seagal movie.
- Accept that the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is one of his favorite things.
- If you want him to fix the shower drip, whatever you do donâ€™t nag; instead, remove the shower head, bring it to him and say â€œuh-oh, stupid me, I tried to fix it myself but now the drip is worse!â€ Then offer to bring him his power drill.
- If you want to comfort your man, donâ€™t try to soothe him with a home-baked pie; for the lovagod, tell him how powerful he is.
The centerfold of O The Oprah Magazine is a calendar for the month of June. On it is a picture of Young Elvis posing on a surfboard. Printed in each square, so youâ€™ll have an extra little slice of patriarchy every day, is either a professionally-crafted, patriarchy-affirming inspirational quotation (â€œHe looked at me, bestowing beauty, and I took it for my ownâ€) or patronizing words of advice (â€œMen often feel compelled to help fix whatever is bothering you. So unless youâ€™re ready to hear solutions regarding your annoying coworker, save the moans for your female friends.â€).
Hereâ€™s a good one: â€œWhatever you need to say to the man in your life, donâ€™t hem and haw. Just say it before heâ€™s tempted to tune out–men appreciate brevity.â€
How is it possible to read a thing like that and not be an idiot? I mean, the act of reading it literally confers upon the reader actual idiocy. Either you believe that by moulding your behavior to encompass this odious Dr Phillian worldview your life will improve, which makes you an idiot, or you are reading it in spite of knowing that itâ€™s horseshit, which makes you an even bigger idiot. Idiot, I tell you, either way.
And by â€œyouâ€ I of course mean â€œme.â€
Addendum: naturally, because I am an idiot, I forgot to address the one issue I set out to address, namely, why do women who like syllables hook up with men who don’t like syllables? Or if, after discovering that the dearth of syllables in their lives is killing them quietly, why don’t they just leave the anti-syllabite motherfuckers? It’s because of Oprah-fucking-Winfrey, that’s why, and all the rest of patriarchy’s brown-nosing buttmunches. Yaaah!
Addendum II: Thanks to Deana Jo for this link to Flea’s take on this very same issue of O. She undertakes to apply the advice contained in an article entitled "How To Get Through To A Man," with hilarious results!