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May 09 2006

Oprah, Televangelist

oprah_prostitute.jpg
Oprah releases choke-hold on tearful ex-prostitute after brainwashing is complete.

I just can’t stop being grossed out by Oprah.

The other day she did a show called “The Life of a Young Prostitute” or something like that. Lots of “very candid interviews” with ex-whores talking about their appalling lives, and of course Oprah making sure the women titillated her whitebread audience just enough with stories about “guys who like feet” and BDSM. And of course, the requisite “shocking footage.” Then she had some talking head chick “go undercover” at a prostitutey truckstop to film a sting operation. The talking head chick kept calling the women “suspects.”

What about the pornsick fucktards who buy the women, or the lowlife maggots who traffick’em? Why no “sting operation” where the talking head chick photographs johns and plasters their mugs all over national television?

Well, since shocking footage of exploited women (or, as Godly Oprah calls them, women who have “fallen from grace”) is a lot more gripping than almost anything, the talking head chick only devoted about two minutes to chatting with some prick who was doing 8 years for pimping teenage girls. Why, asked the talking head chick, suddenly stricken with a great notion, did the pimp think it was OK to sell women? He guessed he didn’t know, unless, well, maybe it was money. Brilliant stuff!

Back at Oprah HQ, with his stunningly ugly picture as a backdrop, Oprah’s jocular comment was that this fat bald warty white guy sure didn’t look like a pimp to her. Pimps always wear pink suits! Ha! She flapped her 3″ leopard-print Manolos in the air.

But I must tell you about the creepiest part! When the final prostitute, tear-stained and pathetic, finished telling her horrible tale of drugs and oppression, Oprah suddenly developed a lustrous golden halo, grabbed the woman by the head like some wacked-out Jim Jones character, got up in her face, and insisted that God had great plans for her.

“I want you to say it. Say, ‘I am not all used up!’” she ordered. The woman, used to being bitchslapped, asseded to her Svengali’s wishes. But it just wasn’t good enough. Oprah made her say it louder. I can’t HEAR you, crack-ho! Mercifully, I nodded off before Oprah could reward the poor woman’s compliance with a free 6-week hitch at Hazelden, or a new Buick.

I could maybe cut old high-heeled, lyin’-author-lovin’ Oprah some slack, though. Why? Come back in time with me now as we revisit South St. Louis in the year nineteen-eighty-something. I was sitting in my kitchen listening to the relentless, demoralizing thuds of books bombarding my windows. The bombardier was my insane abusive alcoholic boyfriend. I’d really steamed him this time, boy, by criticizing some insane abusive alcoholic thing he’d done, such as smashing in my front door in order to menace me with a butcher knife because I’d gone out for drinks with a friend, thus proving that I was an unfaithful cunt who didn’t appreciate his undying love for me.

The books he had chosen as missiles to express this wonderful undying love—you’ll enjoy this—were the prized self-help library he always carried around to authenticate his claim that, since joining AA, he’d become a great fucking award-winning sensitive peach of a guy. That dude just loved AA, probably because it did all his thinking for him, and the other drunks gave him what he stupidly believed was “unconditional love,” and he could excuse all his asshole behavior by saying, “but I’m in AA,” and after a while he they gave him his own acolyte to boss around. He talked about it incessantly, referring to it as “The Program,” which gave me the creeps. I actually went to a meeting with him once. I never saw so many deluded cult-smacked assholes in my life. I fled screaming. I have since learned that my instincts were correct; AA is a fucking bogus con. But that’s another post.

Meanwhile, back in my kitchen in the 80′s, as the biblioclasm continued unflagging, I happened to hear Oprah’s dulcet tones on the TV in the next room. She was still Fat Oprah back then, not yet the Voice of God, so she was sensibly advising some woman “Dump him, girl!” rather than menacing her with old-tyme religion. Her audience erupted in supportive sisterly applause as Anne Wilson Schaef’s Co-Dependence smashed through my window.

Whereupon a celestial choir began singing “aahh” and a brilliant light shone down and lo I did say unto myself, “Dump him? Brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that?”

So I called the cops, and that was the end of that asshole. Thanks, Oprah! A few years later I heard he’d relapsed after working his way up the AA hierarchy to Asshole-Suck-Up-In-Chief or something.

Anyway, I can maybe credit Oprah with being the right disembodied voice of pop-psychological reason at the right time, perhaps hastening the long-overdue cure of my Stockholm syndrome. Although I wish it had been Jerry Stiller screaming “Serenity Now!”

82 comments

4 pings

  1. Hattie

    I don’t watch Oprah, but my mother in law and her caregiver do, every day. Once in a while I descend to join them in the female ghetto. But the hee-hawing and other hoo-ha drive me away pretty fast.
    Then there is that gag-o-rama fest, Dr. Phil. What a homely dude he is.

  2. grrr kitty

    I loathe dr. phil with a white-hot intensity that causes fire to shoot out from one of my nostrils while ice shoots out the other.

  3. Dr. Free-Ride

    It might have been the Universe speaking through fat-Oprah long ago. I think the Universe is rather more skittish about delivering messages through the vehicle of a televangelist-ish human. (The track record at this point leaves something to be desired, and the Universe, while mysterious, prefers not to be regarded as bat-shit crazy.)

  4. Pony

    Damn I said I’v gotta get a tv. Then I rememberd the brilliant narrative was Twisty not Oprah.

    I did see her a couple times about 2 years ago. Both times out she was giving head to that corpulent godbag she worships. What’s with her anyway? From one bizarre cult to another. Why doesn’t she settle down on something, like Scientology or Cryonics?

    Long since stopped expecting anyone but a feminist blogger is going to handle prostitution with any truth. Even a feminist writer working mainstream media isn’t going to, because they wouldn’t let her. They’re only in it for the ad sales.

  5. norbizness

    I think I’ve caught 12 minutes of Our Lord and Savior in the past 20 years. In that time, she compared the parents’ emotional pain at having lost of a young child to the emotional pain she felt when Beloved bombed. As far as I could tell, her friend Toni Morrison had not died as a result of the box office performance, so I was a bit confused. Then I remembered that she’s fucking crazy and dangerous and holy shit she’s probably reading this now. END TRANSMISSION. {P.S. Ditto Dr. Phil, who is in essence a defrocked psychologist currently poisoning more minds than several large organized religions and every single illegal drug put together.)

  6. Qusan

    I saw the episode. I enjoy Oprah most of the time and have probably been watching her show since she came to the city to host AM Chicago. On the upside, I think she exposes things that average Americans have no clue about or don’t want to think about. Everytime I think I am nauseated by people who seem to hang on her every word, I remember that sometime she (as sometimes we all are) is the final voice people hear before they do drastic and/or destructive things to themselves or their lives. I still cannot get over the woman who got a pair of Oprah’s shoes at an auction or something and used to stand in them whenever she felt like a nobody. That may not be where I am in life but if one person per show feels like she helped them, who am I to snark.

    And, as feminists, aren’t we over the weight thing. Why is it that a woman who is a multi-billionaire is still being reduced to her former wieght – by both men and women?

  7. perinteger

    Question Pope-rah? I’m shocked. Shocked!

  8. finnsmotel

    I thought it was funny when Tom Cruise was on Oprah’s show and everyone was focused (rightly) on how crazy he was. I couldn’t help but note that Oprah was sitting right there condoning it all… soaking in it like Palmolive… it doesn’t matter what the post-freakout press release said (I didn’t read it; don’t bother quoting it), if anyone thinks she didn’t go along with it, if not plan it out herself… I mean, come ON!

    She’s a nutjob just as big as Tom Cruise or any of the other celebrities who have taken the Western ideal of success and exploded it and exploited it. Any normal human being, when given that kind of wealth, would have the decency to refuse it for the common good. It’s the truly wacked out muthafucka who assumes the mantle in the name of something er other (always a cause they deem worthy or good) and pretends to fight the good fight.

    The reason I like Twisty is because she isn’t pretending to save anybody. She’s just calling bullshit on the whole lot of ‘em.

    Blame on.

  9. finnsmotel

    “Pope-rah”

    Excellent!

    She IS infallible, after all… at least my aunt thinks so…

  10. Pony

    I kind of like what Paul Newman has done with his celebrity. I kinda like his pasta sauces too, lots of which I just poured cold from the jar on my linguine. Some days.

  11. BCollie49

    The second that someone feels that they can “save” me or that they know what is “best” for me is the second that I skeedaddle far, far away from them, never to return.

    I don’t watch Oprah or any of those other talk shows as they give me a ripping headache from their ignorant blathering.

  12. rumblelizard

    Funny quote from Whoopi Goldberg: “Condoleeza Rice is now the most powerful black woman in the world.” [Significant puase, eyebrows raised] “…That can’t sit well with Oprah.”

  13. rumblelizard

    That mangled word would be “pause.” IBTP for no preview!

  14. AoT

    “biblioclasm”

    I only hope that someday I have the ability to coin words with not only the frequency that you do, but also the greatness.

    “The reason I like Twisty is because she isn’t pretending to save anybody. She’s just calling bullshit on the whole lot of ‘em.”

    A-fucking-men.

  15. Hattie

    What I especially don’t like about Oprah is that she has bought up huge amounts of land in Hawaii. Just because she has the money to play around with. I think she should give all her wealth away.

  16. Puffin

    Surely there is some graduate student out there somewhere, perhaps in an American Studies program, who has devoted a few years to writing a thesis about that which is Oprah? Surely there must be.

    I stopped watching Oprah the day she had Terrance Howard from Hustle & Flow on her show and they spoke tenderly about how tough pimps have it. Both Oprah and Terrance teared up a bit at the plight of the American pimp but then it was all just shits and giggles talking about the Annual Pimp Ball. Ha ha ha, funny zany pimps. How hard it must be for a pimp, thank god they have a Ball, those cah-razee ragamuffin pimps.

    One day we see Oprah giving away dolls to African children orphaned by AIDS and the very next day Gwenyth Paltrow teaches Oprah how to make fat-free banana pudding. One day she’ll have an episode showcasing all her ‘Favorite’ crap you can buy if you’re rich like her (like a jar of facial lotion that costs more than most families spend on food in a month) and the next day it’s a show called “The Great American Debt Diet.”

    I would like to say that this is the American popular media at its most absurd. That’s what I’d like to say.

  17. ae

    Jesus Christ! Thank god you dumped that fucking asshole, Twisty! Shit.

    I’m not throwing Oprah out w/ the bathwater. 90% of what she does is good; I’ll forgive the periodic overweening “spiritualism” and televangelism and the f*cking capitalist excess of her current incarnation. As Twisty noted, sometimes a disembodied, caring voice from the ether is what one needs, and Oprah’s been helping women, by focussing directly on the material circumstances of women’s lives, for years. She’s brought discussions of rape, spousal abuse, body image, financial responsibility, &c., &c., into women’s living rooms, living rooms momentarily free of male influence and male filters (at least at that time of day). It may be CR-lite, but I’ll take it. I’m no apologist for the faux-women’s advocates, and I wouldn’t say this about just anybody, but Oprah reaches 16 million people per day, the overwhelming majority of whom are women, the overwhelming majority of whom do not have the benefit of skipping the feminist primer and commenting here. One step at a time. Hopefully, those gals will one day graduate from Oprah to Twisty.

  18. Sara

    Seriously, you watch Oprah because…?

    I mean, that’s great that a confluence of tidbits including her voice saying just the right words at just the right time helped cause you to see the light and leave my ex-husband’s twin brother, but that was then. You’re still watching her now because…?

    You can leave her, too, you know. You can just not watch. You can. Honest.

    I hope no books come sailing through your window while I type this.

  19. stekatz

    I will always admire Oprah for her business acumen and for her achievements. Years ago, about the time she became diet obsessed, she lost her connection with her audience. She certainly lost me.

    I really don’t think she cares though. Oprah’s goal has been to beat the honkys at their own game. That’s what matters to her. As long as she has more money than most of us, it’s mission accomplished as far as she’s concerned.

    I miss the fat Oprah. The fat Oprah was far more real and had nothing to feel ashamed of.

  20. Twisty

    I should clarify, and assuage your fears: I am not a regular Oprah watcher. I’ve seen her show maybe two or three times in the past year, and every time I do, I regret it. In fact, I rarely watch daytime TV at all. Yesterday afternoon, however, circumstances (such as my not being able to walk on accounta that goddam dog) aligned themselves such that I was lying on the couch and the book I’m reading was upstairs in my bedroom and the TV remote was closer. And there was Oprah and her shocking footage. It was a case of “it’s horrible, yet I can’t look away.”

    Neither am I an Oprah fan. I agree with Finn that she is a nutjob, and with Puffin that the insane mixed messages she sends don’t do women any favors. I tell that story about Oprah and my dry-drunk ex because I think it’s funny, not because I attribute any kind of special savioresque powers to her. I had already achieved near-escape velocity, as it were, such that Larry Flynt could have come rolling in at that moment and said “Dump him” and the result would have been the same. It wasn’t anything my friends hadn’t been telling me for months.

    “Biblioclasm,” by the way, is an actual word, however much I’d like to claim it. Although it refers mainly to the destruction of bibles.

  21. Sara

    Oh, good. I was worried that you watched her out of some sense of feminist duty or something, kind of like with that show on HBO. I had no fear that you attributed “savioresque powers” to her, if that makes you feel better. I think we all know you’re smarter than that.

    I like that expression “dry-drunk.” It perfectly encapsulates our president as well in all his confabulating grandiosity.

  22. june

    Please do share your insight on AA. Some of us would appreciate it.

  23. emma goldman

    I have to disagree with you on AA. It is not a bogus con–though not everyone who attends meetings absorbs and lives the lessons available there.

  24. Pony

    Could someone please explain this Pingback Trackback thing to me? Please?

  25. sage

    I agree with Twisty that AA’s a con with cultish undertones. I’ve seen a few independent research reports that show a lower success rate than shear, personal willpower. (Cognitive behaviour therapy has the highest success rate for addictions according to these studies.) Now, even with low success, it certainly works for some people. If you or someone you know is one of those it works for, than stay with it. But it does have some serious flaws.

    I also want to second my annoyance with Dr. Phil. I watched his t.v. special on toilet training; he claimed new training techniques he personally developed himself that work better than anything ever before in the history of the world. It was exactly the same info as in my “Toilet Training in a Day” behaviour modification, smartie-addiction-development book written in the 70s! Liar, liar, pants on fire!

  26. Jodie

    I agree with Emma. AA can be a good program, and it’s helped some people stay dry (I personally know two people who have passed the 20 year mark). It’s certainly not going to cure any personality disorders, however, nor is it going to bring back the years lost to drinking when the person should have been maturing…so a 50 year old who started drinking heavily at 16 but who has just quit does not have the maturity to deal with life at 50; he’s got all the coping skills of a 16 year old. And those are not pretty.

  27. CafeSiren

    Dr. Phil… brrr… Did anyone see his diet book? One has to look at the guy, and think: “Is this someone who I think has found a successful way to lose weight?”

    Twisty, did the big O ever take on the patriarchal structures that have made prostitution a going concern throughout the ages? Because that would be something.

    On the AA topic, I have to say that I’ve seen it work quite well for many people. I’ve also seen meetings that are creepy, like the ones Twisty describes. In theory, it’s supposed to make you less of a jerk, not more of one, but there are people in AA who seem to think that it absolves them of any accountability, and that everybody should just stand up and cheer, and they get very cranky when people don’t — as Twisty quite rightly didn’t.

    And that was such a run-on sentence that I’ll just drop the AA topic, especially since it doesn’t directly link to patriarchy-blaming.

  28. ismnotwasm

    I agree about Oprah. Something about her constant spiritual smarminess irritates the crap out of me. I read nothing on her book list on purpose, which is probably childish, but I don’t care. Exploiting prostitutes on her show makes me sick, and I’m glad I missed it. Yelling at prostitutes about self esteem ain’t gonna cut it. It’s an ingrained patriarchy-driven industry related directedly to male demand for constant sexual access to women. And she just made some money off the backs of that industry.

    I don’t agree about AA, but what the hell.

  29. CafeSiren

    I think we need to ask ourselves about why people tune in to these things — why do *women* tune in to these things, in particular? It would be great to be able to think that programs like this raise the consciousness of women who realize that they’re part of a sex class (to borrow Twisty’s phrase), but I’m afraid that just isn’t the case. So why tune in? My thought is that it lets the typical Oprah-viewer feel self-satisfied. The prostitute becomes an exotic other, and whether she’s the object of pity, or puritanical revulsion, or even Oprahfied you-go-girl-ism, the important thing is that she isn’t us. She is the sex class; we, by extension, are not.

    And that state of mind is just dandy with the patriarchy.

  30. Dinosaur Mom

    Long-time lurker, first-time Blamer. That was so, so righteously expressed. The Cult of Oprah is scary.

  31. jc.

    I catch some minutes of Oprah as I surf on, she can truly be scary. Especially when you consider her audience. Other talk show audiences can easily be dismissed with an elitist judgement of them as trailer/ghetto trash who today are the audience, tomorrow the guests but her audience looks like the veritable backbone of what passes for accepted inteligent female normalcy in our civilisation.
    Last time I caught some minutes of Oprah she was anouncing her personal Jihad to out all pedophile fugitives hiding in our neighborhoods and put them in jail.
    Don´t get me wrong this is a serious concern for everyone but she scared the shit out of me and I don´t even like kids, sexually or otherwise.

  32. cypress

    Pony – i looked this up in Wikipedia, for you and for me, cause i couldn’t figure it out either:

    Pingback is a method for Web authors to request notification when somebody links to one of their documents. This enables authors to keep track of who is linking to, or referring to their articles. Some weblog software, like WordPress, support automatic pingbacks where all the links in a published article can be pinged when the article is published.

    who knew. i’m still not entirely sure i understand this though. since Twisty uses WordPress seems likely that this is an automatic thing.

  33. cypress

    and then i went back to Wikipedia to fix the typo.

  34. scratchy888

    Don’t like the commercial fakery of Madame Oprah. Can’t imagine what Doctor Phil is or why anyone needs him.

    Am in despair concerning the lowbrow nature of contemporary culture — and I do include contemporary moral culture.

    http://mynewhorse/blogspot.com

  35. scratchy888

    http://mynewhorse.blogspot.com

    pardon!

  36. Erin

    The last time I turned on Oprah, it was because I was waiting to see whether an Old Testament style thunderstorm was going to hit my house or swerve and head toward the suburbs, and Oprah’s on right before the local afternoon news here. And that is the story of how I watched the infamous (and truly, truly creepy) Tom Cruise episode of Oprah. At the time I had no idea that I was watching talk show TV history; I just thought it was really scary that he hunted Katie Holmes down in the green room and dragged her out on stage. After that, I had to turn the TV off, and decided just to let the storm hit if it was going to hit. I couldn’t take any more.

    The only time I ever watched Dr. Phil, I was home with pneumonia. It was one of those family-wants-to-get-out-of-debt shows. He made them take all of their pets to the animal shelter, and crowed about the hundreds of dollars they would be saving on veterinary bills. Oh, I loathe him! Had there been self-help books to hand, I would be minus a television set right now.

  37. Amber

    Pony, basically a trackback is when I read a post here at IBTP and it makes me wanna write something on my blog, either reacting to it, or linking to it or whatever. The trackbacks on this entry,

    # Suburban Guerrilla » Oprah, Televangelist Pingback on May 9th, 2006 at 2:12 pm
    # 2 Hatin’ on Oprah at PunkAssBlog.com Pingback on May 9th, 2006 at 9:03 pm

    Both link to Twisty’s post. Now I could just come over here and make a comment like this. But sometimes people want to further elaborate on their own blog instead. Basically it’s just a traffic generator for both parties.

  38. nursepam

    Look. I love Oprah. I love her for the same reasons I cry when I hear the Star Spangled Banner. Forgive me. I’m over 50.

    When a poor little black girl can grow up to be the emotional leader of the free world, I have to give her her props. Even if she has reached the point of the ridiculous. It all just goes to show that anyone can be corrupted by the patriarchy.

  39. finnsmotel

    CafeSiren sez:

    “I’ll just drop the AA topic, especially since it doesn’t directly link to patriarchy-blaming.”

    I think there are fewer than six degrees of separation, myself. I would blame the patriarchy quite directly for AA and its cultishness.

    See “Higher Power” for more information.

    I’m not saying AA doesn’t work for some people. It does. It tends to work for people who were probably ready for some (more) religion anyway. And, when I say “work” for them, I mean it keeps them from drinking alcohol for a while. It does not, however, “work” at assuring they aren’t just alcoholics who don’t drink. Instead, it just gives them a different ‘bar’ to visit and a new cult to belong to.

    The step that involves making amends is very similar to Catholic confession. That’s no accident… and in my mind, carries with it the same freaky absolution concept… as if the slate is wiped clean and none of those horrible things ever happened. Sorry, I have a hard time with that. (You did it, accept it and accept the fact that your friends and family have a right to be pissed about it as long as we want. If you really want to make amends, cut my grass for a year and wash my car every Saturday.)

    AA is a religion. And, in my book, if you’re cool with religion, you’re probably just a step or two away from cultishness. Of course, they don’t think it’s cultishness since they believe it’s going to save them. But, the only difference I can see between a religion and a cult is the number of congregants and the likelihood of a mass suicide.

    Don’t get me wrong… in their presence, I will pretend to be happy that they’re saved… because the crazy bastards are in charge of everything, what with yer Republican president, but secretly I will feel sorry for you for being duped by a patriarchal behavior management institution.

    I blame Man for creating God.

  40. joolya

    Don’t you people understand that Dr. Phil and Oprah just want you be the best you can be? They love you! They want to help! You are searching for answers and they have those answers. All you need to do is humiliate yourself before the congregation – I mean audience – and they will lay their hands upon you and the light of salvation will burn from within you! Now, set down an offering of milk and honey before your TiVo and they will be with you always.

  41. Pony

    I have been variously amused and crazed at the ability of the patriarchal media to shore up alcoholic editors (it’s considered a macho-required for the profession) who continue in their DDT absences and generously banked time-outs to be promoted to editors-in-chief and publishers, so they can come back and carry on fucking everyone over until they get a buy-out at about 55 (they gave so much during their long careers) but not be able to somehow put daycares in the newspaper buildings so women can give so much during long careers and become editors-in-chief and publishers.

  42. saltyC

    The message I took away from Twisty’s story of dumping the alcoholic batterer, was not how useful Oprah is, but How useful police can be.

    It’s amazing how helpful they can be in certain situations. I have to give them that.

    Not that they are not part of the patriarchy.

  43. Pony

    DT’s. Not DDTs. Although, now that I think of it why not?

  44. rumblelizard

    It was one of those family-wants-to-get-out-of-debt shows. He made them take all of their pets to the animal shelter, and crowed about the hundreds of dollars they would be saving on veterinary bills.

    Chripes. Before, I just didn’t like him, but now I want to kill him. Pets aren’t like fricking cable, a luxury you can shut off when you need some spare funds. What an evil cobag! Can any of you imagine following the advice of some smarmy know-it-all telling you that you had to send your pets to the pound just because he said so? Why don’t you put your kids up for adoption, that’ll save you a ton of money too!

    I always knew Dr. Phil was horrible, but I had never watched any of his stuff because I found him so hideously irritating. Now I know my gut reaction to him was dead-on. EVIL!

  45. Sam

    CafeSiren said, “The prostitute becomes an exotic other, and whether she’s the object of pity, or puritanical revulsion, or even Oprahfied you-go-girl-ism, the important thing is that she isn’t us. She is the sex class; we, by extension, are not.”

    This conundrum is a real dilly of a pickle to figure out how to overcome. The emotional distancing from women abused by men, and the more horrific the abuse the further distancing, means prostitutes are pretty much invisible as victims of extreme systemic sexual violence. A reasonably sane person wouldn’t want to identify with her, a woman raped by men so many times she’s lost count, when there’s the archetypes CafeSiren outlined to fall back on to distance themselves from her anguish; pitier, reviler, savior.

    The best I’ve come up with for avoiding that common trap is exemplified in Twisty’s statement:

    What about the pornsick fucktards who buy the women, or the lowlife maggots who traffick’em? Why no “sting operation” where the talking head chick photographs johns and plasters their mugs all over national television?

  46. LauraBora

    I have mixed feelings about Oprah. On one hand, she is a hero of mine for the SHEER FACT that she was sexually abused, abandoned, poor as hell and self-hating and through her determination and deep down belief that she WAS somebody overcame what keeps so many people defeated and afraid to even shoot for things in life to become the pretentious, isolated-by-her-immense-riches frightening influence she is today.

    I was disgusted by her whole, “I don’t feel guilty about how rich I am after just leaving poverty-stricken Africa! I’m going home to sleep on my 70,000 count sheets!” I know she worked hard for her money, but that seemed imperious and thoughtless.

    I admit I’ve read her magazine (we get it free at work) and this past month she was speaking with Mary J. Blige who’s done a little hard travelin’ in her life as well. I’m paraphrasing but at one point Oprah pretty much said that she’d never think to have Mary J. on her show because Mary J, was a boozy cokefiend and Oprah thought she was ghetto. Mary J. at one point said she was glad that Oprah never interviewed her before because “it would have stunted my growth.” After working on herself and getting off the drugs, Oprah can now validate her existence. PUKE PUKE PUKE.

    I also have to say that AA IS very flawed — what thing made by human beings (and mostly men) isn’t?? It saved my life but LUCKY FOR ME I had a very sane person to point out the pitfalls and dangers that I have avoided. Everything that Twisty and the commenters have mentioned are true. Some people use AA as an excuse to justify their assholism — they use their “amends” to pretend they weren’t major fuckwads when drinking and being selfish. Some use it as a substitue for drinking to the point where they are extremely rigid and browbeat all those who don’t “work the PROGRAM” the way that they think they should.

    Some men are very predatory to female “newcomers” particularly because very newly sober women are extremely vulnerable and their self-esteem tends to be at an all-time low. I was surrounded by amazing women who pointed out all the dirtbags and they were like a protective forcefield. That’s the thing, I have a great network of kick-ass sober women that I never would have met any other way.

    If you want to read something that would make you scream through gritted teeth, check out the chapter of the book everyone in AA calls “The Big Book” titled “To Wives.” Quintessential patriarchal emissions.

    AA has a low success rate — alcoholism is a bitch. I don’t know where the “AA” indoctrination ended and my own personal willpower and desire not to have a shitty life took over but I’ve been clean from 10 1/2 years and have no desire to use or drink at all anymore. I don’t even care WHY it worked for me, I’m just glad it worked or else I would have probably ended up on that particular episode of Oprah and she would have been casting demons out of me while I would be dying to get out of there so I could get stoned.

    I am sure that Oprah meant well but OPRAH as an entity has this huge life of its own that is comepletely out of control. Dr. Phil is a tool and I don’t bother with him.

  47. Pony

    “…plastered all over national television.”

    It can be done, but plastered all over blogs, something like the HollaBack sites. Take pix of the girls at the john’s vehicle, with the license plate visible. And post them. You’ll need an slr with a long lens, or a similarly equipped digital slr, because you’re going to need to be invisible while doing this. Neither the act of doing it or posting it on the web is illegal, but you likely won’t be safe doing so openly.

  48. hedonistic

    I have to say it – - – “I don’t watch TV” – - – so I’ve completely missed the televangelism of talk shows like Oprah, Phil, and whomever. (Does Geraldo Rivera still have a show?)

    It all seems too much like church to me, and I don’t do church. As others have mentioned . . . it’s CULTISH. It seems some people need it. Some people benefit from the advice. But I can’t but feel that just as many people are harmed by taking nonoprofessional advice from talking heads who DON’T KNOW THEM or the gravity of their situations.

    Take the advice: DTMFA, or Dump The Motha Fucka Already. Easy to say when you’re in a relationship with a sort-of-normal person. But what if the advice you really need is GET A RESTRAINING ORDER ALREADY? A girl can end up dead from badly finessing a break from a flaming psycho asshole.

    Oh, and Twisty: A BOYfriend? noooooooooooooooooooooo . . . I must go shower now, and try to recover.

  49. Twisty

    A spinster aunt has facets, Hedonistic. Or, at least, she used to.

  50. Hattie

    This god stuff is ruining women’s lives.

  51. Violet

    For all her talk about “issues”, Oprah has done more than any other media figure to de-politicize her audience. For this reason she is the darling of the political/corporate establishment, who can count on her to deliver them millions of untapped consumer units, eager to be molded and branded in her image. It’s hardly an accident that her gospel of self-love and sensible dieting leaves no room for meaningful political dialogue. Why blame the patriarchy when they are giving away free cars?

  52. zoe_k

    Twisty,

    Long-time reader, first-time writer, as they say. Much as we are fascinated by the flaws of great men and women, I am fascinated—and somewhat relieved—to hear that even Twisty has been brainwashed in the past by the patriarchy, as I’m sure many of the rest of us have.

    I am only recently seeing the light as to how the patriarchy seeps into every facet of my life like kudzu, and I’ve found your blog both edifying and comforting.

    So, thanks for sharing. Thanks for being an unapologetically ranting genius. And thanks for being Twisty. I heart you.

  53. CGG

    I must be the only woman in American who doesn’t have an opinion about Oprah. I get what Twisty is saying, though I also hate to see a successful woman being torn down on a Feminist website.

  54. Pony

    I don’t think anyone’s tearing her down, but (as parents are wont to say) her behaviour. If the pimp wears skirts it’s still a pimp.

  55. finnsmotel

    “I get what Twisty is saying, though I also hate to see a successful woman being torn down on a Feminist website.”

    Why?

    If a person, man or woman, becomes successful by playing on the oppressive team, wouldn’t you call bullshit on his/her success?

  56. Kristen from MA

    I’d be curious to know, Twisty, which line earns more hate mail: the line about your shooting Bert, or the fact that AA is a con.

    Please, do tell.

  57. emma goldman

    AA is not necessarily religious–the steps talk about a higher power or a deity as one understands that concept, and there are groups/meetings that are explicitly atheist. (I agree that some of the writings are god-centered, but I’ve also heard one of the founders of AA talk about insisting on being nebulous about the deity, precisely so it wasn’t the imposition of a particular religious worldview. And it’s still possible for individual meetings to be more religious.) AA provides tools–and I would argue that they are, in some ways, quite similar to cognitive behavioral approaches–but that doesn’t mean that people will use those tools properly; people don’t always take antibiotics properly, either. Another advantage to AA is that it’s everywhere–you can be wherever and be able to find a meeting. Plus, it’s free; not everyone can afford to find a cognitive behavioral therapist, for example.

    The thing is, as a commenter above noted, the maturing process stops about when the drinking and/or drug use start, which means a lot of people are stuck at about the age of 16, some for a very long time. Some get beyond that, especially if they learn how to be honest, learn how to deal with making mistakes, etc. The other thing to keep in mind is that, for many people, while they may not be the ideal members of humanity we would all like to know, the AA-attending person is still often a damned sight better than the stone drunk.

    (In case anyone cares, I’m not an alcoholic, but I used to work for a substance abuse treatment organization, and I know quite a few recovering alcoholics and drug addicts.)

  58. E.

    Puffin, the department to look for that Oprah dissertation in is Communications, I think. There are probably at least a hundred Communications dissertations that touch on or center around Oprah. Just a guess.

    Yeah, in terms of babies and bathwater, I would say that AA is not without its merits (having two alcoholic aunts who got sober in very sane, not creepy cultish ways with the help of AA). But it can definitely be abused. If you’re an inveterate dickwad or a thoroughgoing narcissist, you can take any program, theory, or belief system and turn it into a steaming pile of oppressive bullshit. (I’ve even known some particularly foul and sneaky-smart men to do it with feminism.) Maybe AA is easier to do that with than some other programs or theories, but that doesn’t mean it’s worthless.

  59. carlagirl

    Violet, I wouldn’t say she’s de-politicizes her audience, though she proclaims to be non-partisan. I don’t even own a TV, but not long after the recall election here in California I caught a snippet of her aftershow on Oxygen, and an audience member asked her about having had Schwarzegger on her show the week before the election. She just kind of shrugged and said, “Oh, gosh, I wasn’t endorsing him. He’s just a friend of mine.” Not only do I think she helped swing the female vote toward him (astonishingly, given his history), but she had the nerve to act as though anyone would believe she didn’t realize–or in fact intend– it. I’m a black woman, and if she’s supposed to represent us, like Condoleeza Rice, I’d say we’re better off invisible.

  60. carlagirl

    Uh, I meant Schwarzenegger.

  61. la Beylita

    Hedonistic, you mention getting a restraining order already, but how worthwhile is that after Castle Rock v Gonzales? SCOTUS pretty much said “that’s nice, lady, but it’s not reasonable to expect any actual enforcement of a restraining order. Now why don’t you be a good girl and head on home to your new husband.”

  62. deja pseu

    For all her talk about “issues”, Oprah has done more than any other media figure to de-politicize her audience. For this reason she is the darling of the political/corporate establishment, who can count on her to deliver them millions of untapped consumer units, eager to be molded and branded in her image. It’s hardly an accident that her gospel of self-love and sensible dieting leaves no room for meaningful political dialogue. Why blame the patriarchy when they are giving away free cars?

    Nail, hammer, bang. She does a great job presenting issues that have broad, systemic causes then presents the solutions as a matter of individual “self improvement”. Ageism in the workplace? Look 10 years younger with our makeover! Lost your good job due to corporate downsizing/outsourcing? You too can build a million dollar business making lollipops right in your own kitchen! Public schools collapsing due to lack of funding and infrastructure? Find a millionaire philanthropist who will adopt your child’s school!

  63. Ellasgrannie

    I wrote an alternative to the 12 steps of AA as an undergrad. It was geared toward women. I felt as if the steps of AA was very patriarchal. It was full of powerlessness and self-blame as opposed to responsibility.

    It seemed important to me that women reclaimed their power. The 12 steps keep encouraging them to give it away.

  64. Mickle

    I both admire and dislike Oprah. It’s hard not to admire what she has accomplished. It’s hard not to like her when, after Katrina, she provides more accurate information about the state of things than many newshows. It’s really hard not to hate her though, when she does one of her many shows on child molesters – and once again completely focuses on strangers rather than the most common culprit. You’d think, as someone who was raped as a child by an older cousin, that she wouldn’t have to be told that most children are molested by family members.

    Sometimes I think she does shows like that – and the one mentioned by Twisty – as a way of convincing herself – right along with her audience – that as long as we can keep our children (and ourselves) away from “certain people”, everything will be alright.

    Something else that I couldn’t quite put my finger on has always bugged me about her shows, though. Violet is exactly right, she’s de-politicizes everything. The purpose, of course, is not to avoid affecting politics – it’s to affect poltics by pretending that it’s not politics at all. So, I see what you are saying carlagirl, but I most definitely think she de-politicizes her audience – for a political purpose. Its a very powerful and dangerous sleight of hand.

    AA is not necessarily religious–the steps talk about a higher power or a deity as one understands that concept

    Umm..I kinda think any talk of “a higher power or a deity” makes it religious. Just, you know, not a specific one. But well, that’s what it’s got its own rules for.

  65. Mickle

    Ellasgrannie,

    (you posted while I was writing)

    That makes a lot of sense to me, actually, having just read In a Different Voice. (Books are my religion. Which one? Whichever one I just finished.) This is highly generalized, but Gilligan argues that boys in adolesence learn to make stronger connections to others, something boys and men tend to see as a loss of power. Girls in adolesence, however, learn being responsible for others must include caring for oneself. So it would make sense if some men (obviously not Twisty’s ex) found a program that encourages them to give up some of the power they are hoarding and reach out to others, helpful in beating addiction. Women, however, may find it a lot more useful to concentrate more on respecting themselves and taking responsility to the point of standing up for themselves.

  66. Alex

    I hate Oprah so much. I watched one of her crap cakes shows a few weeks ago, which featured a woman who had survived both breast cancer and brain cancer. What did Oprah focus on? That’s right, the fucking scar on the woman’s head from the brain surgery, and how her perfect set of tits were ruined (this coupled with before shots of her breasts). Hideous.

  67. finnsmotel

    “one of the founders of AA talk about insisting on being nebulous about the deity”

    Isn’t the inclusion of any deity an insinuation of religion?

    Hey, don’t get me wrong, AA does manage to help some folks get cleaned up long enough to get their act together. Similarly… it’s true a person could hop on a bus and be delivered from a bad neighborhood. Doesn’t mean the bus system doesn’t suck.

    My problem with AA is that it tends to supplant one type of dependence for another. Seems like the solution is to teach independence.

  68. firefall

    I loathe dr. phil with a white-hot intensity that causes fire to shoot out from one of my nostrils while ice shoots out the other

    I have to say, kitty, that sounds a lot more entertaining as a TV show than Oprah

  69. kelleysholler

    Twisty, I just LOVE you! Your wit makes my day!

    I’ve been lurking for quite a while, and decided to “come out” because it is very obvious that some of the commenters do not have first-hand experience with AA and seem to be really quick with their barely-informed opinions. I would like, if I may, to clear up some of the misunderstandings of AA from people on the “outside”.

    First of all, I, too, thought AA was a cult in the beginning. But, being that I was brought to my knees, I really didn’t have any other alternative than to start attending meetings.

    Over the past 16 1/2 years, I have grown to understand what the AA Program REALLY is about. It’s NOT about going to meetings everyday to get a “sober” fix. It’s NOT about being perpetually recovering and never well. It’s NOT about using alcoholism as an excuse for abhorrent behavior (“So what if I was an asshole to my family! At least I didn’t drink today!”). It’s NOT about religion.

    There’s a lot of rhetoric in the AA meetings nowadays that didn’t come from the Program of AA, which is in the Text _Alcoholics Anonymous_, aka “The Big Book”; it came from Treatment Centers and people who are really clueless to what the program is about.

    Finnsmotel’s comments are a perfect example of how people tend to be misinformed. The Amends Step is NOT a confession step. It’s exactly what it says it is. It’s an amends step. There’s no easy way out of this. If Finnsmotel wants to have his alky perp mow his lawn and wash his car for a year, that’s exactly what the AA member would do. And, ultimately, it DOES teach independence. On the surface, and many alcoholics ONLY touch the surface of AA — all they do is “don’t drink and go to meetings” — it Looks like they replace drinking with meeting attendance. But a person who has worked the steps as they were intended to be worked, go to meetings TO HELP OTHERS — NOT to get their “fix”.

    As far as the language in the book is concerned, yes, it is very patriarchal. But I, as a woman, have been able to get past the 1930′s language and find the actual message that is underneath. I leave gender out.

    A commenter mentioned that she wrote 12 steps for women because she felt it was full of “powerlessness and self-blame as opposed to responsibility”. Again, this is a misinformed statement.

    The ONLY thing an alcoholic is powerless over is alcohol. No matter how hard s/he tries, s/he can’t stay off the sauce. S/he will inevitably drink again, and once s/he starts drinking, it will be impossible to stop.

    The Inventory steps are designed to show the alcoholic WHY s/he behaves the way s/he does (self-centered fear) and WHAT s/he can do about it. There’s no guilt-ridden blame here. It’s DISCOVERY.

    In a nutshell – Trust HP, Clean house, Help others…

  70. BCollie49

    Found on HuffPo today:

    http://news.aol.com/entertainment/tv/articles/_a/the-divine-miss-winfrey/20060511070709990001

  71. Tatiana

    I ran a brief search in Dissertation Abstracts, which covers doctoral-level dissertations and many masters-level theses completed at universities in North America. I found ten works on Oprah (and about as many more that mention her, but are not about her). Dates on these range from 1997 to 2005.

    Oprah Winfrey’s Age 30 Transition: A Levinsonian life cycle developmental study
    “That’s what books can do”: Difference, therapy, and value in middlebrow literature
    Conceiving images: Racialized visions of the maternal
    Disconcerting bodies: Female celebrity and contemporary American culture
    The hand of a woman: Four holiness-pentecostal evangelists and American culture, 1840–1930
    Divas of the silver screen: Black women in American film, 1950–present
    The “Oprafication” of literacy: Reading Oprah’s Book Club
    The rhetoric of feminism: Reading and writing women’s experience from Oprah to composition classrooms
    Ethics in the first person: New American confessions by Carver, Wojnarowicz and Winfrey
    Oprah and her book club: More than mass media money-maker

    Most of the abstracts are so full of academese that I couldn’t begin to understand why anyone cares about the topic.

  72. rumblelizard

    Never been to an AA meeting, but have seen the program help a dear, cherished friend from committing suicide one bottle of booze at a time. AA might have its problems, but I’ll always be glad it exists, if only because my friend is alive and able to function and stay sober.

  73. finnsmotel

    “it is very obvious that some of the commenters do not have first-hand experience with AA”

    Please don’t play the “ill informed” card. My comments come from having first-hand experience with people in the program. I’m too polite to name names and tell stories.

    That’s my whole point about the “amends” step. Those of us who are not in the program are too polite to do anything more than nod along and let the programee think that they’ve made amends. How could we do anything more?

    We are confronted about a laundry list of issues, all at once, at a time of the abusive person’s choosing, not our own, and the pressure is on to forgive them, since they’ve already made the big jump to seek treatment. I would guess it’s a rare occurrence for the ‘forgiver’ to truly hammer the treatment-seeker and ask for the real penance they deserve. In my case, I probably already forgave them long ago for simply being human. But, I won’t be canonizing anyone for switching from Jim Beam to Zoloft any time soon.

    By playing the role of vulnerable victim, the AA member works an angle to gain absolution by default. Only a triple-asshole would call them on it during their time of weakness… during the climb toward redemption, right? Or, maybe you’re not seeing it from the other side. From this side, it’s as clever as a car dealer’s script and about as transparent.

    Hey, I’m glad that some folks have found redemption via AA, don’t get me wrong. And, if they end up in a better place, great. But, it’s not often that the ends justify the means… at the very least, I’m suspect.

    “The ONLY thing an alcoholic is powerless over is alcohol.”

    In my experience, the people in question had other problems they were self-medicating with alcohol. The trip down forgiveness lane was a nice diversion from the real problems that, to this day, have not be addressed. And, who’s gonna call them on it? Do you want to be the jerk that upset them enough to send them back to the bottle?

  74. ryan

    Another vote to hear that post about AA being a fucking bogus con. Please.

  75. ProcrastinatingABD

    Twisty,
    In the name of all that is blamingly good in the world, PLEASE do share your thoughts on AA. My own experience with AA is that the groups are quite diverse, yet it is a rare meeting where the patriarchy doesn’t rear its ugly head. I attended meetings religiously (meaning implied) for almost ten years and, ironically, only got sober about a year after I stopped going. Cultish? Certainly. Most meeting rooms include the proverbial sign that reads “Think, Think, Think” which allows those with more “experience” to walk the newcomer to the sign and alert them that the sign “is not for you, because your thinking is what got you here.” I should have listened to the alarm bells that went off when I was told to not think. Ten years later, after my sponsor committed suicide, I started thinking on my own again. Although I tried different groups over the years, there were some similarities among all – including the 13th Steppers that see unsuspecting new females as prey. The faulty logic of THE PROGRAM in many ways revolves around one accepting the commonly used cliche of “It works if you work it.” In other words, if one does what one is told and doesn’t drink, one won’t drink. True enough, and I’m happy for those people who got sober as a result. I wasn’t one of them. Fortunately, AA is not a necessity for sobriety.

  76. Ellasgrannie

    Well, AA is good because it lends support to people any time at any level. That is what I see that is good about it.

    I have a friend who is part of a group like that and she uses AA phrases like psychological AK 47′s to blast all of us lesser folks. Sees alcoholic demons in every doorknob.

    I still contend there may be something better than the 12 steps, but probably nothing better than support on a consistent basis. Since I only worked on them and wrote an alternative, but never tested them, I cannot attest to their effectiveness.

    Since drugs and alcohol are not my thing, I am not a good candidate to test that. But, I can tell you that what I wrote were steps that I took to work on my emotional addictions.

    I certainly would not want to wrench from someone something that worked for them. But, I have seen enough good and bad to come from AA that I really do not think it warrants treatment as if it were a sacred cow of sorts.

  77. hedonistic

    Bottom line folks: AA is not an “institution” that works or doesn’t work.

    AA is JUST FOLKS. Folks doing their best to help each other whatever ways they know how. Bless their hearts for trying! The ones who managed to sober up could have walked away from the AA scene, but they didn’t. They stayed behind to help the next influx of messed-up folk trying to change their lives.

    Just imagine the scene: 10-20 people, each up to their neck in their own shit, their coping toolkits near empty, in a bunch of chairs in a circle with coffee and lotsa cigarrettes and . . .

    . . . jeez, what do you expect? It’s a crapshoot what kind of group a person will walk into. It could be a functioning group or not. Recovery is a crapshoot too.

    (I’ve never been in recovery myself but a close family member of mine has. He’s still sober today.)

  78. finnsmotel

    “AA is JUST FOLKS. Folks doing their best to help each other whatever ways they know how. Bless their hearts for trying!”

    I really want to agree with you, but the logical side of me sees group therapy as the blind leading the blind into deeper dependence of a different element. I do tip the hat to anyone who is trying to improve. [And, if it worked for you, please don't flame me. I'm criticizing the concept, not your life.]

    I’ve done individual therapy… you know, the kind with a trained professional in the room and nobody else. I got a lot out of it (like, mostly how if I stopped bullshitting myself, I could see the elephant in the room). She got a lot out of it, too. $80/hr.

    In a group, who knows what motivates the people to be there. And, in the case of AA, anybody who wants to show up can do so. That just creeps me out. And, maybe I’m crass for saying so, but I have a tendency to think that real help comes from someone who has the academic credentials and who wouldn’t be there if you weren’t paying them. At least that way you know the motivation.

  79. finnsmotel

    I could’ve said it shorter:

    AA is the chiropractor of addiction therapy.

    Flame away, you crazy chiropractors!

    ;-)

  80. Sampanicattack

    The patriarchy runs riot in AA, not to mention sick, self righteous, spirtiual squeaky cleanness, that is merely hypocrisy pretending to be help. You’re right to say it is a cult and a very damaging cult at that. I was in AA for five years and in that time I was judged for using prescribed meds, picked at for the way I dressed (not feminine enough) and told I had to find my part in the sexual abuse I suffered as a child. I was also told it was not a religon but when I came out as an atheist I was told I had to get god and get with the program or some such rubbish. Guess what, I didn’t stop drinking, in fact it only got worse, I even ended up in a treatment centre, where I felt like a criminal, my post was opened and searched, I was searched, I had no privacy and on it goes.

    I left AA four years ago and haven’t had a drink since, no thanks to them. I got myself some good therapy, which addressed the problems that made me feel that drinking myself stupid was the only answer. I gave up drinking because I couldn’t stand myself anymore and didn’t want to die. Willpower and common sense worked where getting god never could. Thanks Twisty for reminding me of what a lucky escape I had. I’m not an arsehole today, I try to take responsibility for my own actions, simple really, when you think about it.

  81. ProcrastinatingABD

    “The ones who managed to sober up could have walked away from the AA scene, but they didn’t. They stayed behind to help the next influx of messed-up folk trying to change their lives.”

    Unfortunately, my own experience suggests that altruism was not generally the driving force for why so many “stayed behind.” Many of them had some pretty intense emotional and mental obstacles that kept them around for more sinister reasons. Not every problem dries up with the alcohol, and those who ARE sober longer head on up the AA hierarchy, gaining respect from others for no other reason. All the while, they carry and spill their other and sometimes more destructive baggage along the way. To quote a phrase often used among AA: “I can only share my own experience.”

  82. CafeSiren

    I have a tendency to think that real help comes from someone who has the academic credentials and who wouldn’t be there if you weren’t paying them.

    Possibly true in some cases, but in my experience, it’s nice to be able to benefit from the experience of people who had gone through some version of what I went through, which is sommething that no academic credential can provide (although that’s not to say that some people can’t have both). My one experience with a “professional” involved me going to her office, looking for tools to cope with my problems, and her repeatedly (over the course of several sessions) pushing psychoactive drugs that I neither needed nor wanted, in spite of my protests.

    I sympathize with those who have had negative experiences with AA, and I applaud you for finding a way that works for you. AA is, by definition, populated by unwell people, but I have always been able to find some people in meetings who seemed to have their shit together more than I, and who were willing and able to help, in a nonjudgemental way.

    And as for predatory men in AA meetings, I think it’s more appropriate to Blame the Patriarchy (yay!) than AA. Sick-and-not-getting-better jerkwads preying on women who they know are emotionally vulnerable should be strung up by their balls, in my opinion.

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