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Jan 03 2007

Dimple Appreciation Studies 101

By now you will have heard that Oprah has opened a “state-of-the-art $40 million school” for disadvantaged girls in South Africa. Her intention is to export firstworldy Opraliciousness to an impoverished, AIDS-ravaged nation through a few hand-picked middle-schoolers.

The premier featured Hollywood celebrities autographing books for the library.

Before I elaborate on what could possibly be wrong with a celebrity autographed library and a nice school for underprivileged girls, allow me to (a) remark that schools in general are counter-revolutionary and oppressive in nature (more on this in a subsequent post) and (b) rag on Oprah a little more.

Once an earthy, essentially harmless TV blob, Oprah rose to prominence by cleverly winning the hearts and minds of millions of invisible, voiceless housebound American drudges. She turned this mighty influence, not, as would have been the optimal scenario, into an attempt to liberate the aforementioned, but into a personal fortune that would embarrass a Rockefeller. She appropriated the same oppressive cultural doctrines responsible for her own famously disadvantaged childhood (capitalist excess, worship of feminine beauty, consumerism, Christianity, romanticization of marriage and motherhood) and whorled’em together as the foundation for her “product”: the Oprahfied self-improvement dogma. The dogma fetishizes the concept of “self-esteem,” suggesting that this ultimate goal is attainable if you only work at it hard enough, and get the right haircut. She uses it to brainwash her acolytes into either gladly accepting their oppression or blaming themselves should they fail, in spite of their best efforts, to find fulfillment as members of the sex class; the whole patriarchy-affirming ball of empowerment nonsense — complete with cautionary “shocking footage” of those who run afoul of patriarchal doctrine — is beamed every afternoon at 3 PM into millions of marginalized brains that, if you ask me, really ought to be hearing more about the invisible pervasiveness of misogyny than about “what not to wear” if they have fat thighs.

Lately Oprah’s been marinating herself in the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter sauce of Hollywoodism, drinking her own Kool-Aid, and anointing herself Divine Televangelina of the Megatheocorporacratic Deity.

Even though Oprah is kind of tough to swallow, what with her makeover fetish and the fact that she unleashed the ghastly Dr Phil on an already-tormented public, it’s hard to argue against a school for impoverished South African girls, even one of which the South African government has washed its hands the grounds that it is “too elitist”; intervening on behalf of these disenfranchised girls is an act of heartwarming decency.

“I wanted this,” declaimed the noble deity in a Newsweek interview, “to be a place of honor for them because these girls have never been treated with kindness.”

Well, that’s just sweet.

But, uh-oh. Oprah, her obsession with her own appearance having culminated in a glam shot on the cover of American Vogue, appears to have mistaken education for the patriarchal beauty ideal.

“They’ve never been told they are pretty or have wonderful dimples.”

That’s right. The school will have an on-site beauty salon. I’m not making it up! I read it in the Austin American-Statesman.

Sure, megarich white dudes chuck their money and influence around like this all the time. You expect pink-faced captains of industry, when endowing their schools for the disadvantaged, to demand the inclusion of time-honored elements of patriarchy-worship in the curriculum. But somehow you wish that one of the few women ever to have achieved Oprah’s degree of power and visibility might use $40 million worth of that omnipotence to help fight the idea that femininity ever does anything but oppress. Of course, the feminist revolution that might have prevented her crappy childhood would only hurt her now.

124 comments

1 ping

  1. Pinko Punko

    Also, I don’t think it is a bad faith question to ask whether the Oprah School District boundaries could have been a little bit larger in area without the salon. I understand that there will always be unfortunates that cannot be helped while some can, but it is not unreasonable to wonder if indeed this is being done is this the optimal way of doing it? Nobody is asking that Oprah disburse her entire Pyramid of Cheops sized-mound of cash to the poor- and I would probably add that Oprah both gives more money but gets more shit about her charity work than say average white billionaire, but average white billionaire probably doesn’t cultivate the persona of Actual Angel of God either or have AWB magazine.

  2. maribelle

    You know what, Twisty, I’ve been on your side from long before the blowjobs wars through the Recent Unpleasantness, but holy smack:

    Once an earthy, essentially harmless TV blob,

    I could barely stumble past this–”blob” is a word you use to describe another woman? You are attacking her via her weight because you disagree with her values?

    invisible, voiceless housebound American drudges

    marginalized brains

    Blobs, drudges and marginalized brains–oh my. Do you have any idea how many millions of American women you have just debased with those words? For the sins of a. being fat and/or b. liking one of the top female tevevision personalities of all time?

    I can barely get to or read your point through all that objectifing negativity.

  3. yankee transplant

    My question is what are the criteria for being hand-picked?

  4. cycles

    I’ll let Twisty speak for herself, but I personally read “blob” as “mound of useless organic material,” not necessarily in reference to her weight. Much like Paris Hilton is a blob.

    Twisty, thank you for blogging on this. I heard the story on NPR this morning, and I was almost ready to think Oprah wasn’t such a bad blob, until they mentioned the beauty salon. Really, that got my gall. What other serious institution of higher learning boasts something like that? Great football team, sure. Best party school, yeah. Hair and nail salon? Hell no.

    Hearing her and the students speechify about how “girls are going to change the world” and “I want to be president because women can do anything” (both paraphrased) made me a little sad. Such fresh unsullied optimism. Sigh. And perhaps THAT is why I will never be president. I don’t have that can-do ‘tude. Maybe Dr. Phil will do a personality makeover on me and I can come out the other end squeaky clean and in infinitely medicated denial.

  5. Friggas Own

    The blob thing hurts my brain too. Oprah has committed many sins in the name of self aggrandizement, but being a fat woman was never one of them. One of the things that always makes me extremely sad is how she beat up on herself for not conforming to the patriarchal mandate to be a super-skinny sex object. It saddens me even more, now that she has lost the weight, that she uses her show to routinely prey on the fears of other young women who do not conform to the stick-thin sexbot mandate.

    Either people have a right to own their bodies or they do not. Either they have a right to be fat or they have a responsibility to conform to a narrow set of guidelines due to their weight. If you believe that being fat isn’t some moral transgression, then you don’t get to use fatness as an insult.

  6. Tanya

    Oprah interviews all the girls and chooses the ones with the most moxie, whatever that means.

    What I got out of the article is that Oprah has zero understanding of the way the minds of middle school children work. Immature brains care about Ipods and sneakers, why is that surprising? Big whoop.

    Oprah is just another tool of the patriarchy. She really believes that she is doing the best thing for these girls, by letting them feel like beautiful movie stars, when that same pile of money could have been used in a much more efficient manner.

    Maybe someone needs to send Oprah a link to this site. I have always despised her stupid show.

  7. uccellina

    I haven’t read enough about this school to have an opinion, but I thought it worth mentioning that Oprah is routinely cited by Men’s Rights Asstivists as a prime example of how feminism ruins the American woman.

  8. octogalore

    So there’s a salon at the school as well as “computer and science laboratories, a library and theater” (Salon). Salon also terms the salon a “wellness center.” Whether it’s got mirrors or barbells, is it really an issue? After all, it’s not a typical school — they are living there, so presumably they’ll need mirrors and changing facilities. With the articulated goal of helping to train in leadership and economic development, how are a few mirrors going to hurt. This seems awfully picky.

    Finally, about the “dimples” comment — since Oprah’s mission here seems to be focused on learning predominantly, what’s the matter with acknowledging that kids want to be told they are attractive, and that these poor kids deserve that too? I don’t know any parent, even my mom, who takes care of my daughter part-time and is militant about making sure all influences are gender-neutral, who wouldn’t tell their kids they are cute, and who wouldn’t point out a neat set of dimples when faced with one.

  9. Pinko Punko

    I wonder if the “marginalized brains” is more the traditional “TV as medium for sapping intelligence/zombification” deal- a criticism of the effect of TV on a person. If you are going to argue that television (and forms of marketing) are bad, and that they have pernicious effects on people, it can’t be a victimless crime. It is difficult to describe what you believe the pernicious effects of television would be on a person without sounding as if you were criticizing the person (because there is always the implication that they are watching by choice). Some may argue criticizing people is valid, if your thesis is that they have led/or are leading “unexamined” lives. On the other hand, you are probably going to offend huge swaths of people. I’m just thinking out loud here. Oprah creeps me out, but it is also possible that the acidity is a little tart at the ranch today.

  10. norbizness

    The “somebody giving a shit” is the enemy of the perfect.

  11. cycles

    The NPR story mentioned that many of the students are orphans, who probably didn’t have caring mentors to encourage them with compliments while growing up: smart, cute, athletic, dimpled, kindhearted, observant, whatever.

    However, the answer to “They’ve never been told they are pretty or have wonderful dimples” is not to give them makeovers so that they become more attractive to strangers and assorted members of the patriarchy, who may feed them the compliments they’re yearning for. That’s kind of like blaming the victim: nobody told you you’re pretty because you’re ugly.

    Having a mother or father figure tell you you’re pretty is a lot different from actually possessing a patriarchally approved pretty appearance and having it acknowledged by said members of the pat. The girls are yearning for people to look up to and encourage them, not better haircuts.

    Well, actually, I can’t speak for what the girls want, but I’d like to think that moxie means something more than willingness to shoehorn yourself into a narrow definition of femininity for material gain. I could be wrong.

  12. maribelle

    but I personally read “blob” as “mound of useless organic material,”

    Oh dear, cycles–is that better or worse?

    If you believe that being fat isn’t some moral transgression, then you don’t get to use fatness as an insult.

    Exactly, Friggas Own.

    she beat up on herself for not conforming to the patriarchal mandate to be a super-skinny sex object.

    And this fact awakens my compassion for her. This does not make me want to deny her humanity, or god/dess forbid her “use”-fullness. It makes me empathetic towards her, having had similar experiences (few here haven’t).

    Are we to take the well-intentioned actions of decent, albeit damaged-by-patriarchy women, carrying the scars and strained priorities of patriarchy, and mock them because they don’t conform to your own (admittedly “radical”) views of taste, style and oppression?

    Or do we say “good on her for doing the best she can and making the most spectacular success of herself possible in the patriarchal world and swinging for the fences for women and girls everywhere. Now here’s another thought about that beauty salon…”

    It just seems like here’s one more thing women cannot do without being viciously mocked in public, along with: going out dancing with friends, wearing “grannie” panties, not wearing panties, wearing thong panties*, going to work, staying home, having babies, adopting babies, adopting babies from an impoverished nation (if you are a sexy female celebrity, don’t. even. think. about. this.)

    And don’t you dare, DARE build a non-radical-feminist-approved-school for girls in Africa, you “patriarchy-affirming” appearance-obsessed blob you.

    Is the Revolution here yet? Did I miss it?

    *dear god/dess will someone please put out a panty primer, STAT?

  13. scratchy888

    Once an earthy, essentially harmless TV blob,

    A blob is surely somebody whose brain is dough.

  14. octogalore

    Cycles said “What other serious institution of higher learning boasts something like that [beauty salon]?”

    MIT. Back in the ancient era when I went there we had a nail salon in my dorm. A few of us still managed to emerge with engineering degrees.

  15. B. Dagger Lee

    I love me some Oprah! Well, not the dieting, shopping, decorating and celebrity shit. But the crying and testifying and carrying on shit–love it.

    I’m watching it right now. Spitefully.

    yrs, BDL

  16. cycles

    I should have said “hateful” or “vile” organic material. I didn’t mean “useless” in terms of any economic or utilitarian context. Just a general purpose insult implying that I don’t particularly admire her.

    This is a radical feminist friendly blog, so she’s going to catch some flak for actions that promote the beauty standards that many of us revile. She has kicked the pasty-white-man system in the butt and succeeded financially and influence-wise, and she deserves (and has received abundantly) recognition for that, but in making yourself one of the richest, most recognized people in America, you become subject to more scrutiny than average folk.

    I do think it’s wonderful that she has built this school that will maybe eventually provide its students with a diploma that will open doors; the NPR story said all students are eligible for full tuition at any university anywhere in the world, and however you feel about the merits of the sheepskin process, having one gives you more options than not having one. But, damn, at the bottom of my heart, that beauty salon thing just made me wince.

    By the way, the NPR story said specifically “… with state of the art everything, including a library with a fireplace, and a beauty parlour.” Perhaps the “wellness center” that the Salon.com article mentions is something else entirely. I know my school had a very nice student fitness facility with weight rooms, ball courts, etc. that it was quite proud of and which, of course, being a lazy churl who didn’t care a whit about health, I never utilized.

  17. deja pseu

    She appropriated the same oppressive cultural doctrines responsible for her own famously disadvantaged childhood (capitalist excess, worship of feminine beauty, consumerism, Christianity, romanticization of marriage and motherhood) and whorled’em together as the foundation for her “product”: the Oprahfied self-improvement dogma. The dogma fetishizes the concept of “self-esteem,” suggesting that this ultimate goal is attainable if you only work at it hard enough, and get the right haircut. She uses it to brainwash her acolytes into either gladly accepting their oppression or blaming themselves should they fail, in spite of their best efforts,

    Yep, this is my primary gripe with Oprah. I think she means well but just can’t extricate herself from the dominant paradigm. She takes what are cultural, systemic issues and turns them back on individual women. (Sort of a backwards “the personal is the political.”) She’s turned consumerism into a form of high religion, yet she was one of the first people in mainstream media to bring attention to FGM.

  18. slade

    Can we please pick on Donald Chump now…you know the biggest drudge and/or blob of them all. A man who owns the Miss USA Pageant.

    I get the feeling that Oprah thinks by giving these young women a makeover at the salon she will reduce their chances of ridicule. I would imagine that Oprah believes that’s why she had such a miserable childhood…I don’t know.

    But I much prefer picking on the boys. After all, they’re the ones who need to be taught.

    Maybe ‘beauty salon’ means running HOT water, a bathtub, and indoor plumbing? You’ve seen where these young girls live, right?

    No matter what a woman does, it’s wrong….right boys?

  19. mearl

    Perhaps what Twisty is getting at is that, if Oprah were to start a school for underprivileged African boys, would it have a grooming school for them? Would the boys get pedicures and haircuts and the chance *sob* to be told *sob* that they are HANDSOME? Because these things are important, you know. Little boys who don’t get told that they are handsome lose SO much self-worth.

    Education and looks go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other: ask Bill Gates. And lord knows that without Oprah, those pathetic poor people have to go around looking like their hideous natural selves, instead of being given the opportunity to get extensions and grow manicured claws and de-wrinkle and load themselves up with expensive products and then spend years maintaining all this, shitting themselves when they grow a jowl or get a scar, like the free women of America.

    The only benefit I could see in having a salon anywhere in South Afria would be for the purpose of getting one’s hair didz. From what I understand (I am but a semi-knowledgeable white bread), hair is a huge part of black culture, and having resources for doing hair makes things easier. HOWEVER, if Oprah wants to fund hair salons, she should do that and be honest about what her focus is.

    The other thing I noticed is that Oprah sounds like she’s going to the pound to pick out a new puppy, and picks the energetic one with the most “moxie.” I assume that, in true Mickey Mouse Club competitive fashion, the kids who aren’t as full of “moxie” get left in the dust to rot away with their lousy downtrodden lives. Serves them right! They should have tried harder. Maybe Oprah will have a reality show added to this, where America’s viewers can vote for the South African kids they like best (the cute ones, of course), and that’s how the selection process for the school’s candidates will go. Simon Cowell can get on board with that one, I’m sure. And Oprah will make a killing.

  20. Buttercup

    She’s turned consumerism into a form of high religion

    And that is my main beef with Oprah.

    When Oprah was in The Color Purple as Sophia she was amazing. Just amazing. Incredible presence, wonderful actor, she owned the part.

    When you compare that with the well-publicized photos from her most recent “birthday party”, or spend-fest not seen since the Tyco Birthday Bash, (or Imperial Rome) you wonder if you’re even looking at the same person.

  21. scratchy888

    Perhaps what Twisty is getting at is that, if Oprah were to start a school for underprivileged African boys, would it have a grooming school for them?

    Maybe she would start a school for little warriors. The zulu boys could thus regain some of their traditional identity. This is precisely what should be started for the girls. It has both ethnic and gender-skewing political advantages.

  22. Twisty

    Jesus tap-dancing christ, yall, I wasn’t even thinking about Oprah’s weight when I wrote the word “blob”. I meant blob, as in “amorphous excrescence,” not “woman who weighs more than 98 pounds.”

    Look it up.

    The drudge thing was meant sardonically, Maribelle. The sordid truth is, I don’t hate women.

  23. slade

    That mtf is a blobby drudge.

    I don’t hate men.

  24. Twisty

    Octogalore, it is a sad day for women’s liberation when the ultimate kindness you can show a girl is to compliment her fucking dimples.

    Naturally some readers will be eager to assume from my post that I am against educating impoverished girls or something, probably because I hate them or something. Those readers are invited to kiss my entire ass.

  25. Ms Kate

    Drudge? My mother uses that as a screen name and her e-mail address.

    As for the beauty salon, that makes me cringe. I think of all of my husband’s vocational students being channelled into the “cosmo” track for “cosmetology” so they could learn beauty salon stuff. Sure, these girls did seem to like that sort of thing, but it was always interesting to see how many latinas, blacks, and sicilians and brazillians “seemed to like that” and were shuffled into that track without much thought to their other options.

    On the other hand, there are cultural aspects to this, particularly if this is a boarding school and these ladies will be living far from their families. An African emigre colleague of mine was showing pictures of her pre-wedding braid-a-thon, where she and all her attendents were braiding each others hair and having their hair braided by her female relatives. It seemed like a bit of a batchelorette party, really. This isn’t something that needs to be taught vocationally, necessarily, just facilitated if that is the case.

  26. antelope

    Well, if what she really wants is to turn these girls into “leaders” in the sense of political and/or media creatures, then yeah, they will need to be experienced at looking good. Even dudes can no longer make it all the way to the presidential level without having their army of hair and makeup people. I’m not saying it’s right, just that it is in fact a big part of how most westernized or westernizing countries now do “leadership.”

    I question the value of leaders in general, and of encouraging girls to go that route, though. I worship Mandela and Tutu as much as the next vaguely informed ‘Murrican, but the next generation of leaders will probably be a lot more like ours – media creatures full of hot air creating a distracting front while the masters of patriarchy and capitalism operate in the background. Leave it to the boys, I say. Train the girls to DO stuff, and to keep their eye on the man behind the curtain, not the Wizard of Oz.

    Since Oprah sees herself in these girls, I wonder if she is also fantasizing that one or more of them see themselves in her – and will grow up to be the Oprah of South Africa. Just what they need.

  27. PhysioProf

    “She has kicked the pasty-white-man system in the butt.”

    Kicked?

  28. Beard

    Someone once asked Indira Ghandi (not an altogether nice person, but a female Head of State nonetheless) to what she attributed her success.

    She said that her father had told her, “There are two kinds of people in the world: those who do the work, and those who take the credit. She should try to be in the first category, because there’s a lot less competition there!”

  29. Ginger Mayerson

    I wonder how many poor, working poor, and middle class poor kids of all shapes and genders 40M USD could feed and educate if it were spread around existing South African schools or NGOs instead of this elite institution of future alienation Oprah proposes.

    I’m not terribly well versed in how the social system in South Africa works, but I suspect no one comes out of nowhere and becomes a “star” in the sense I sense Oprah hopes these dimpled cuties will. I mean, even Nelson Mandela is from some super-fancy clan and that’s why people followed him. He’s also male. I don’t think South Africa is a hotbed of Western individualism, can-do, lookee-me, celeb-obsessed idiots, which is what it sounds like Oprah is pushing with this school. Can her hand-picked orphan student girls succeed? I certainly hope so! But probably not in South Africa or maybe anywhere in Africa. Other than the estranged Mrs. Mandela, can anyone name me a woman in leadership anywhere in Africa?

    So, I would add cultural insensitivity to Oprah’s blob of sins, as well as obtuseness. If she wants to help some other needy girls, well, there’re plenty of them a lot closer than South Africa, and in a society that supports at least one or two successful women of African heritage.

    I LOVED her in “The Color Purple.” But what has she done for me lately?

  30. Diane

    I cannot stand Winfrey because of her active promotion of animal abuse (having as a regular and honored guest a man who has been cited numerous times for laboratory animal abuse, as well as the constant showcasing of fur). The oopsie with Frey, in which she showed very poor judgment, then tried to hurry and correct her error, did little to endear me, either, and we won’t even get into Dr. Phil, who makes my skin crawl.

    Winfrey is now an institution, for better or worse. Her gestures are all grand, and the girls’ school is one of them. I am fine with her building a school, and I understand the beauty parlor thing. Those who have nothing want what the dominant group has, or so we have been made to believe. It is probably also important to Winfrey to give the girls what we take for granted, rather than throwing crumbs at them.

    And that is the nicest thing you will hear me say about Oprah Winfrey.

  31. jami

    though i haven’t watched her since my triumphant escape from republicanland in 1993, and brief glimpses of dr. phil give me the heebie jeebies, i like oprah. in my utopia, no one needs television or feminist blogs to soothe hurts. but in reality, a lot of women and girls hurt (perhaps you’ve noticed). oprah does a lot to help and encourage those women and girls, beginning with helping them realize that what’s keeping them down isn’t all their fault.

    true, i do always take my school libraries beauty-parlor-free. but schools are built with stupider amenities all the time. free weights, anyone? soda machines? football fields?

  32. KTal

    What gets me most is the attention given to one single act from one single celebrity here and there, a proverbial drop in the bucket and nary a scratch on the surface of the real causes of poverty and oppression world-wide.

    But then, I don’t expect much more from celebrities, who I would imagine, in order to make their climb to the top a success, they must breath in deep the thick air of the oppression they wish so much to escape. Those who conform are rewarded and once rewarded I’d imagine they can’t help but to believe that indeed, the ‘system’ can be successful for everyone.

    Oprah was a revolutionary perhaps, like so many others, over her own shortcomings, but unfortunately, that does not transfer to collective success for the rest.

  33. mearl

    Ginger: Nenadi Usman, the most recently elected Minister of Finance in Nigeria, is the only one I can think of off the top of my head.

  34. eb

    Uh…what’s the saying? “Behind every great fortune is a great crime.” POprah thinks she’s different but she’s not. Using poor African girls to make yourself even more money than you already have is a tad on the criminal side. $40M? Pshhhh. She’ll make that back two-fold in the publicity she’s getting out of all this.

    I wonder if the girls had to sign a non-compete clause? I wonder if any of them will have that ah-ha moment and figure out they’ve been used. Can anyone get hugely wealthy without using the poor? So many questions, so little wine.

    As Leonard Cohen says…

    “Old black Joe still pickin’ cotten for your ribbons and bows, and everybody knows”.

    P.S. – Yeah, I read the stinkin’ rules…so sue me.

  35. zawadi

    In response to Ginger Mayerson:

    I agree with your point about the elitism of this institution.

    However, in answer to your question, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a woman, is president of Liberia. (Others I can remember right now: Charity Ngilu is a very prominent former opposition party leader in Kenya and is currently health minister. Also, Wangaari Maathai from Kenya.)

    I understand that most readers here are American or from the ‘global North’, and that you did say that you’re not highly versed in the social system of South Africa, so rather than going on about why I disagree, I will just point out a few things (as an African, who has spent a lot of time in South Africa in the past couple of years).

    Re: women’s political participation in South Africa: ( from http://www.wedo.org/library.aspx?ResourceID=130 ) in 2004, women were 42% in the cabinet and 33% in parliament. I’m not too well versed on US politics, but I somehow doubt that women are much more politically represented in the US than that.

    My point is that efforts towards girls and women’s participation in Africa isn’t a lost cause, and diverting those efforts to the land of the “free” isn’t going to get better value for money.

    South Africa has one of the most progressive consitutional courts in the world, which recently legalised gay marriage. Regardless of whether marriage is a good thing for gay people, it represents a recognition of basic legal protection for gay people that has not yet been achieved in the US.

    As for Nelson having been followed because of having been from a fancy clan: just, no.

    Africa is infinitely varied. The big cities in South Africa for example are unfortunately all about the growth of elitism, inequality, western-type celebrity culture, and fashion – but also are some of the most vibrant centres of art, music, creativity, and academia in the continent.

  36. Ginger Mayerson

    To mearl and zawadi:

    Thank you for the information, I’m glad to know there’s more opportunity for women in Africa than I knew. I’m sure Oprah’s girls will succeed, but I still think that money could have been better spent, whether in South Africa or elsewhere.

    zawadi: Yes, I know Nelson Mandela’s clan wasn’t the only reason he was followed and ultimately triumphed.

  37. scratchy888

    I’m not saying it’s right, just that it is in fact a big part of how most westernized or westernizing countries now do “leadership.”

    I actually don’t think that all westernising countries have sunk that low.

  38. justtesting

    Those readers are invited to kiss my entire ass.

    Would you be needing them to compliment you on your dimples while they’re at it ?

    More seriously, regarding this school of Oprah’s, the question is who did she get advice from, is it what the people who are living and working in SA want ? Is it what the reformers and progressives and educators working there are asking for as being useful ?

    There’s a couple of lines in the Newsweek report that struck me:

    fron Oprah

    “We plan to give them a chance to earn money to buy things. That’s the only way to really teach them how to appreciate things.”

    and a comment by the reporter

    “…she is building this school for herself…”

  39. HermitWithAVengeance

    eb: I applaud your subtle usage of the term “POprah.” You should submit that to the next Washington Post made-up words contest.

    Speaking of educating the children, y’all, I just posted a nifty educational tool on my bloggular corpuscle. I call it: “Baby, Be A Brain Surgeon!” I also call it my retirement plan.

    http://katelynsack.com/visiopoetics/?p=97

    Maybe the illustrious Ms. Winfrey is simply having doubts about the viability of her stock portfolios, and is diversifying her retirement plan accordingly?

  40. zawadi

    Hey Ginger – I just read my comment again and yikes – sorry about my tone.

    jesttesting – ya, that “earning money to buy things” quote is really odd. Also I wonder about the “moxie” requirement, which seems to translate as drive, confidence or saying cute/challenging things to Oprah (though it’s possible that the articles gave the wrong impression). I wouldn’t think many AIDS orphans or seriously deprived kids would have enough moxie left in them to impress.

  41. kelleybell

    Every celebrity is going to have fans and critics. Nobody can please everybody.

    Oprah is doing it her way, and that’s cool. She is using her money, her success, and her platform for the greater good in HER view. And thats her RIGHT.

    As a T.V. personality and former reporter, she knows the lesson William Hurt taught Albert Brooks in the movie Broadcast News…Remember that?

    Brooks gets a shot as anchor man and sweats himself right out of a job:

    Jane: People called in complaining about your sweating?
    Aaron: No, NICE calls, worried that I was having a heart attack.
    Jane: It wasn’t UNPRECEDENTED, was it?
    Tom: Not unless you count “Singin’ In the Rain”.

    _________________

    Oprah knows what Tom’s character knew. To be successful, you need guts, gusto AND grooming. It’s a package deal.

    I seriously doubt Oprah’s intent is to teach these girls to be shallow barfie dolls. She is teaching them personal hygene as an element of success.

    Like it or not, that’s what it takes, and Oprah wants these girls to succeed.

    __________

    That said, I would like to bring up a more important issue:

    Twisty, I love ya. I love your snarky voice. I love your blog. I love the cause you fight for…BUT…

    The biggest enemy of Feminism is the feminists.
    I cant tell you how many times I have seen women attack each other instead of the common cause we all fight against.

    If we want to break free of patriarchy so we can live our lives the way we see fit, then dear dog, lets not attack the women who succeed.

    So what if her way aint your way? She’s doin her thing, her way, just like you’re doin your thing your way. We should support that.

    I mean, critisizing a black woman for Patriarchy is kind of like blaming the woman for being raped.

    Women represent 50% of the world population. We are the largest PAC on the planet, but we get nowhere politically because we can’t unite.

    Take a chill pill, have some tacos, and turn that fabulous patriarchy blaming eye of yours back on the real enemy darlin.

    -With love,

    Kelbell

  42. FamousSovietAthlete

    I love me some Oprah!

    I can take Oprah or leave her alone, but I love me some B. Dagger Lee!

  43. FamousSovietAthlete

    Kelleybell, it’s great to see someone finally standing up for the Poor Oppressed Successful. My heart also breaks for this despised class, so unfairly resented for their good grooming.

  44. Twisty

    jami:”oprah does a lot to help and encourage those women and girls, beginning with helping them realize that what’s keeping them down isn’t all their fault.”

    See, I believe she does the exact opposite. Out of one side of her mouth she says “be the best YOU you can be!” and out of the other she shills for the beauty industry, the weight loss industry, the god industry, the celebrity industry. She says what keeps women down is their own bad choices. She calls prostituted women “fallen women,” for chrissake, as she flexes her Manolo-shod foot.

    and “i do always take my school libraries beauty-parlor-free. but schools are built with stupider amenities all the time. free weights, anyone? soda machines? football fields?”

    Are you kidding me? You view athletics as stupider for than asinine Western beauty practices?

  45. Twisty

    Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson (or Johnson-Sirleaf, depending on who you’re talking to) has been the president of Liberia for the past year. Remember? She was mentioned along with Bachelet and Merkel in that Salon post about sex in 2006 because a world leader with a vagina is supasexay.

  46. Ginger Mayerson

    Kelleybell: The biggest enemy of Feminism is the feminists.

    I wonder. Seems like the biggest enemy of Feminism and women is the dominant social group that allows one woman, who is acceptable to them to succeed, and then ram her down the rest of our throats, thereby keeping us “squabbling” amongst ourselves. I believe that criticizing Oprah for being a clueless tool (sorry for the cliché but I gotta get to work) is the struggle.

    zawadi – No hard feelings. A character from “The OC” probably could have done a better job writing my first post. (Full disclosure: I’ve never seen “The OC,” but I’m from it [not of it].) And, hey, I know more about leadership-type women in Africa from reliable sources than I did last night.

  47. norbizness

    If she could just harness her vast mind-control powers to get her viewers to send money to African AIDS charities rather than to renew subscriptions to O Magazine or Oprahburo-approved self-help books…

  48. Twisty

    Kelleybell, the most influential celebrity in the US cannot be immune to feminist critique just because she’s a woman. Besides, it is not as though I have equated her with Hitler. I have merely suggested that she suffers from hubris and has become rich promoting the concept of femininity-as-empowerment, which I see as a bogus concept.

    I enjoy your commentary, and I appreciate what you’re saying, and I obviously don’t expect everyone to agree with all my opinions (on Oprah or anything else), but you must realize that the goal of this blog is not to blindly support anyone and everyone with a vagina, but to promote revolution. One of my tactics is to expose the presence patriarchy where it has heretofore enjoyed fruitful and insidious invisibility. It is my belief that so doing might contribute, in some small way, to women’s liberation. There can be no liberation if women cannot become aware of the ways in which they are enjoined to participate in their own oppression.

    I might be wrong, but then again, I might not.

  49. kelleybell

    Twisty,

    You are both, and so am I, and so is Oprah for that matter.

    As a fellow fighter for the revolution, you have my sword.

    I luv ya, but I luv Oprah too.

  50. jami

    regarding athletics vs. beauty parlor: okay, free weights are not nearly as bad.

    but american football fields, meant for overweight males and beauty-schooled cheerleaders only, at schools meant for both genders, are stupider than a beauty parlor at a school for girls. yes. i’d rather the girls at oprah’s school have a real football (soccer) field than a beauty parlor, also yes.

    i’d also love it if oprah pushed more hardcore feminist stuff on her show, and i’m sure my 31-year-old college-educated self would disapprove of more oprah than my 16-year-old rush-limbaugh-listening self did.

    but the self-help she does espouse is better than no help at all. my knowledge of the show is 13 years old, and “fallen women” is indeed harsh, but back in the day, she was not blaming the victims. what i heard her 80s and early-90s show saying was: “it’s not your fault your second cousin’s step-uncle was a pervert. now go get ‘em, sister!” that was new to the red states back then — way before dr. drew and love line.

  51. octogalore

    Twisty, I do not disagree that, if indeed there is a full-on beauty salon, rather than simply a fancy bathroom, at the facility, there may be some question as to messaging. I really don’t think, though, that we have enough information to say that, and I think attempting to do so is nit-picking. It’s been pointed out that it could be part of a cultural tradition, that it could be part of a gym facility, etc. We really don’t know.

    Moreover, Oprah’s money quotes from the article are just items Newsweek thought would be buzzworthy, not necessarily the sum total of her discussion of what this school is about. Analyzing a Newsweek article so as to condemn Oprah for focusing on femininity-training is hardly a sound way of distilling her motives. Your claim that she is saying that “the ultimate kindness you can show a girl is to compliment her fucking dimples” is completely unsubstantiated by anything in any of the articles. She only said when she was a child, she would have enjoyed hearing something like that. I think that’s fair.

    I am not endorsing everything about Oprah, and since I have maybe watched two minutes total of her show, I’m not qualified to pronounce on her in general. And I wholeheartedly agree with you that we shouldn’t “blindly support anyone and everyone with a vagina.” Your goal of promoting revolution, and your execution, are both superb. But I think a post like this, pulling out a few lines from an article about an otherwise noteworthy project, and isolating some questionably patriarchic aspects, isn’t your highest and best use.

  52. Hattie

    I thought a lot about what this whole Oprah phenomenon means. She represents to me a grotesque inflation of the stock “Mammy” figure. Behind her huge facade are all the other women of color who fail to measure up to her perfection and are therefore just bitches.
    Not to mention the white bitch who puts on airs but is no better than she ought to be, and the compliant Asian woman who is cheap and durable like a Toyota car.
    Little wonder that Oprah has been rewarded with undreamed of largesse. She keeps the world the way it is for our lords and masters in the big house.
    My mother in law worships Dr. Phil. Little good that does her. Is he going to reach out of the tube and hug her, poor old thing? And yet when I go over to see her if Dr. Phil is on I might as well not exist.

  53. finnsmotel

    Great post, Twisty. Oprah is so far up her own ass, it’s scary. She has become The Man.

    I barely read enough to be considered intelligent, still, I know about microfinancing and how it would be a far greater way to help an impoverished nation. Of course, it probably won’t sell magazines with her blob on the cover, and it won’t convince anyone to watch TV. Instead, it actually just might work.

    That’s why the guy got the Nobel Prize for pioneering it:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6047364.stm

    -finn

  54. Cassy

    I started watching Oprah in college, I see her as a mother figure. She raises awareness on topics that are important to mothers such as predators and dangerous food contaminants. The make-over shows are billed as empowerment, but they miss the whole point. Women don’t want to look unkempt, they look that way because they are exhausted. They need a mate who pulls their fair share not a new haircut.

    Oprah is a tool of the patriarchy or she couldn’t be successful in this society. I don’t fault her the success. The platform for social change she has right now is huge. If it is not used for changing society at large for the better than that power is squandered.

  55. finnsmotel

    From the article linked above, a relevant bit:

    “Today it has 6.6 million borrowers of whom 97% are women.”

    Most of the loans are less than a hundred bucks. Because that’s all the more most of the folks need to improve their lives on their own terms. This sort of assistance assures less cultural meddling, too, as the money is loaned without the need to prove one’s moxie (which, best I can tell, is how many times a person claims to want to be President) to a windbag from TV.

    I’m sure there may be holes in the concept, but, it seems like the best way to help while adhering to the Prime Directive.

    -finn

  56. cypress

    Oprah’s project is only ‘noteworthy’ because it is Oprah’s project. What would happen if her foundation board had decided to contribute 40 million dollars to helping the dimpled girls of South Africa deal with the consequences of rape, or providing health care for children with AIDS, or relieiving the appalling conditions of life for the grandmas and babies left behind as the young women of south africa [and indeed much of the continent] die in droves as a consequence of AIDS.

    The history of colonization and imperialism shows that education is largely a project of assimilation training, particularly when it is the imperialists who magnamiously offer to provide it. Into which image would Oprah like to see the students grow, at the school her foundation owns? That seems to me to be the question.

    I’ve never watched Oprah’s television show. Dr Phil gives me the serious creeps. I live in Canada. I wonder why that school isn’t in Chicago, myself.

    Women’s Liberation, revolution indeed. That’s the project I’m working on. It doesn’t seem likely to me that Oprah, or her foundaiton board, would describe their school in South Africa as a project of Women’s Liberation.

  57. finnsmotel

    Sorry to keep tacking on to the comments here, but, I’m trying to add some perspective on the Oprah thing.

    The article about microfinancing said that 6.6 million borrowers had made loans averaging less than a hundred bucks. That means the program funding averages out to about 700 million, tops.

    Oprah spent 40 million on her school.

    If my math is right, had she put the 40 mil into microfinancing, she could have helped about 400,000 people, 97% of whom would be women.

    Of course, it’s her money and she can do what she wants with it. But, if a simpleminded turd like me can figure out a better way to be charitable just by using Google, it seems more than fair to question her motives.

    -finn

  58. octogalore

    Finn, technically, a loan doesn’t equate to a full education. So comparing number of people helped is hardly an accurate analysis of what’s a “better way to be charitable.”

  59. Cassy

    Most people can’t go out and open a school for children for 40 mil. With a different example the outcome could be different. Viewers may be able to donate $100 for a micro loan and change a families’ life for the better.

  60. kreepyk

    Re: Microloans

    Sorry to disappoint, but like many capitalist schemes, microloans are not all good. Like anything, they are subject to abuse and corruption. Not to say they are all bad, but they are certainly not panacea.

    Check it:
    http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn10202006.html

  61. B. Dagger Lee

    FamousSovietAthelete: As it happens, I’ve been wondering where you were. Despite my relentless commenting (it stings, it stings!) of the last few days I actually consider you to be my commenting model—rare, brief, witty—why your very name says all I need to know.

    Besides, I’m sure that you’re probably the only person taller than my nine feet because I know you people got up to some fucked up experimental shit over there behind the iron curtain. “Sports vitamins” and stuff. So I like it when you’re around.

    yrs, B. Dagger Lee

  62. kreepyk

    Oh, almost forgot.

    Oprah may be think of of this salon/wellness center as a de-stressing spa sort of thing that offers massages, theraputic soaks, etc. If so, it may mitigate the beauty industry bullshit somewhat. I’m guessing these girls could use some serious stress reduction.

  63. B. Dagger Lee

    Octogalore,

    I’m starting a counter-revolutionary book club, and this month we’re reading BOTH of Shulamith Firestone’s books. Join me? Then we’ll all hit the mat.

    yrs, B. Dagger Lee

  64. finnsmotel

    “Finn, technically, a loan doesn’t equate to a full education.”

    An education isn’t an education if it’s actually an indoctrination.

    What Oprah appears to be doing isn’t much different than what Bush is doing in Iraq, IMO. It’s cultural warfare. With nice nails and hair.

    “So comparing number of people helped is hardly an accurate analysis of what’s a “better way to be charitable.””

    The micro loan represents a more hands-off way of assisting people out of poverty. It’s not perfect. All financing schemes are prone to corruption. But, it’s less corrupt than the status quo in these places.

    “Not to say they are all bad, but they are certainly not panacea.”

    The article you cited was full of logical fallacy that I don’t have the time or interest in exposing. One example, though, is this bit of junk logic:

    “In the homeland of the Grameen Bank, about 80 per cent of the people live on less than $2 a day. A UN Development Program study in the early 1990s showed that the total microcredits in Bangladesh constituted 0.6 per cent of total credit in the country. Hardly a transformation.”

    That’s twisted-ass logic. Show some small numbers and claim that nothing happened. Yet, the article I cited clearly documented how many people were helped.

    Even if we accept the numbers in your article to be accurate, it’s what the writer implies from the numbers that’s fucked.

    The people live on $2 a day. Did the micro loan program decrease or increase that amount? The writer uses a number that appears small to our American eyes ($2), but, carefully neglects to mention whether that’s an improvement or not.

    And the 0.6 number can also be turned around to explain what it really means. What it really means is that 99.6% of the nation’s credit is hoarded away from the people who really need it.

  65. finnsmotel

    whoops. 99.4%

  66. Twisty

    Hey B.Dagger, you totally scooped me. Just last night I was lying in bed staring at a beetle crawling across the ceiling and thinking it would be a hoot to get a gang together to read The Dialectic of Sex.

  67. kreepyk

    “The article you cited was full of logical fallacy that I don’t have the time or interest in exposing…. Show some small numbers and claim that nothing happened. Yet, the article I cited clearly documented how many people were helped.”

    I’m not denying that some were helped, but as Cokburn points out (a) microloans have not systematically attacked the roots of poverty and (b) these are high interest loans and when the borrowers fall behind, the lenders sometimes hound them for repayment. Thus NOT charity, just a different type of regular old capitalism. So Oprah could loan out her $40 mil in tiny portions and get a nice return on it since these loans have high interest and a high repayment rate. Sounds like a winner to me, financially.

    Microloans (as I stated before) are NOT all bad, but they will not uproot poverty. They maybe a great thing to help some people but they will not spark mass change (or at least they have not already).

  68. octogalore

    Finn: “An education isn’t an education if it’s actually an indoctrination.”

    The proof of this is? Do you have a copy of the syllabus? Also, it appears that they would get tuition-free college education. Based on the generally well read and well spoken population here, many of us have benefited from this. Have we therefore been indoctrinated?

    BDL – you’re on.

  69. vera

    Twisty, B.Dagger: I’m in. I’ve ordered The Dialectic of Sex and I’ll start reading just as soon as it arrives in the mail.

  70. curiousgirl

    “those readers are invited to kiss my entire ass”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

    ha. ha. whooo.

    As for the blob thing, or even the blow job thing…there are lots of blogs with boring feminist writing on them. This aint one of them. My 15 year-old brother would say that the “the haterz are just mad at your skillzz.” And I would heartily agree.

    And Twisty, i would while I enjoy kissing you’re entire ass, I gave up on such degrading political statements when I read your blog, renounced lipstick, high heels and blow job. Of course, we all have bad days. Call me.

  71. KTal

    I did some quick looking online, apparently Oprah expects to spend up to 50m on the school. The website for the school has point and click donation pages for each and every aspect of the student’s life even the top biller where a donor can support a student for an entire year for $15,000. It is good to see Oprah putting in the infrastructure to hopefully see the school last by encouraging donations.

    I’d imagine people would scream foul if donations were asked to support a kid in the Bronx or in New Orleans for $15,000.

    Of up to 3500 applicants, 152 were chosen with a max goal per year of 450. Meritocracy hardly feeds nations.

    On another note, the fully printed AP article on the ribbon ceremony, printed on AOL News took notice of the important facts that 1) Oprah was wearing a pink ballgown and jacket the day of the ribbon cutting 2) That Oprah has no children (in a sentence about her intention to visit the school often).

    I didn’t find the Newsweek (?) article that a commenter said had this hideous dismissal of the value of living without lumps of disposable cash, “We plan to give them a chance to earn money to buy things. That’s the only way to really teach them how to appreciate things.”

    Why didn’t I know? My poverty has caused me to lose appreciation for ‘things’ and thus I just don’t know anything anymore, hell its a wonder I manage to make it to the john every morning.

    Which brings me to Kelleybell’s comments:

    “To be successful, you need guts, gusto AND grooming. It’s a package deal. I seriously doubt Oprah’s intent is to teach these girls to be shallow barfie dolls. She is teaching them personal hygene as an element of success.”

    So not only is the world impoverished because they don’t use their scarce cash to appreciate ‘things’ enough, they also apparently have been stunted by their lack of “hygene”[sic]., which I can only assume means their improper or lack of use of hairspray and beauty products.

    Oh and in my experiences in the African American community, hair care, including braiding was very much a community act. Of course, with poor folks, a lot of things are community acts in order to share/expand resources. But then again, what who needs that silly free community crap when we’ve got CASH!

  72. I Heart Twisty

    I work in philanthropy at a foundation started by an insanely wealthy family (who are no less weird or captured by patriarchy than Oprah, but less self-aggrandizing). The foundation I work for gives a shit-ton of money to education. I’m not an expert on education, but $40 million for a single school? One starting with only 150 students? Is the $40 mil supposed to be the permanent endowment, so that they actually only spend $2 mil a year or something? I’m not sure it’s fair to say “She should help thousands through microlending instead”. If she wants to start a school, fine; but $40 million seems like an insane budget for a single school. Oprah does give a way a ton of money, but that doesn’t mean she’s a thoughtful or smart philanthropist. A lot of philanthropists/foundations like to do big splashy vanity projects that they can brag about– I’m sure it’s much more fun than doing the carefully analyzed boring projects (like those I work on) where you track cost-per-intervention and evaluate results to check for program effectiveness before you hand over the next check. It seems to me a lot of Oprah’s giving is more about self-aggrandizement than results… she can dress it up as “I want everyone to know about this cause” but there’s a strong undercurrent of old-fashioned, patriarchy inspired “disease to please” behavior (hasn’t Oprah done shows about that– she should know better!?). She does this with her audiences too– I mean giving away cars to the audience… she clearly has issues with approval seeking behavior. The school is merely the latest in a long line of Oprah’s public attempts to prove that she is really a good girl. How’s that for an Oprah-esque, cult-of-self-esteem inspired critique of Oprah herself?

    I don’t think Oprah is pure evil (though Dr. Phil clearly is– shudder) but she clearly does not see how The Man has her in its grip and is using her as its tool. While Oprah does some good with her show, some of the feminine bogosity and materialism promoted by the show is truly loathsome and mind-boggling. Which is why Twisty needs to point it out, in ass-kickingly blamer fashion. I DO heart you Twisty.

    Jess

  73. mearl

    ” Based on the generally well read and well spoken population here, many of us have benefited from this.”

    Octo, you forgot “weal-THY.” Education for all is certainly a good thing, but it takes a LOTTA dough and a LOTTA work and a LOTTA exploitation to get together a whole nation of people who are well-off and educated enough to critically assess their own education (not like we’re doing a great job of that anyways – thanks, patriarchy). Oh, yeah, and Oprah didn’t get to where she is without the backdrop of a coupla revolutions spearheaded by civil rights defenders, hairy-legged minorities and other wise oppressed groups at opportune points in recent history. Liberation for women didn’t just sort of ooze into favour. Radical feminist theory HAD a point, somewhere along the line….geez, I can’t remember what it was though…*runs for dusty copy of “Dialectic”*

    It isn’t up to Oprah to save the children of South Africa, and at least she’s doing SOMETHING, but Twisty has a point about the Oprah conitnuum that is reminiscent of Jerry Springer’s “My Daughter Dresses Like a Boy, Acts Like a Slut and Needs a Makeover at Bootcamp” specials. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t Dr. Phil give away free breast implant surgeries on the show to help “boost women’s self-esteem?” Given the usual tone of Oprah’s show, if we’re going to make assumptions I think it would be more accurate to assume the “beauty parlour” is NOT, in fact, a gym or a relaxation spa. Twisty posted pretty recently about how Oprah gives out makeup kits at a hospital in Africa. This is akin to saying, “Hey, savages, you can have pots and pans and blankets and medicine, but not if you don’t convert to christianity first!” The Western world may be better off in terms of health and technology, but some of our ideals are lacking. Especially the whole concept of feminism as it has morphed since 1980. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Grand High Poobah Cheerleader for Women Oprah consulted with some experts on sustainable development and quit punting the lipschtick?

  74. maribelle

    Twisty, I never said you “hated women”, nor would I. Please don’t mistake me for a member of the anti-Twisty brigade holding forth on other lists. In fact, I jumped in on several of those threads in your defense. (Not that you need my piddling support, just so you know where I stand.) Although on some blogs apparently one’s comments are not released if you don’t tow the party line (i’m talking to you, brownfemipower.)

    The question I raised was not whether Oprah is “immune to criticism” by virtue of her vagina, but of denigrating word choice, and whether describing a woman who has publicly, in humiliating detail, struggled with her weight as a “blob” is the best way to make your point come across.

    As I stated, I couldn’t even get to the meat of your message because of that particular word, and the other ones stung more because of “blob.”

    Kelleybell, the most influential celebrity in the US cannot be immune to feminist critique just because she’s a woman.

    And I hope an influential blogger is not immune to criticism about her word choice just because she’s on the side of the feminist angels.

    but you must realize that the goal of this blog is not to blindly support anyone and everyone with a vagina, but to promote revolution.

    I think the best way to promote revolution is to ally ourselves to powerful women allies, who have a voice in the world and a platform. Things move slowly in the revolution business; you have to turn one screw at a time.

    No ill will on this side, happy new year to you and yours.

    Maribelle

  75. maribelle

    finn–I too have read about microloans and am impressed by your success.

    But I wouldn’t be so quick to tell women what to do with their money. How much money have you donated to this company that gives microloans?

    Just because a…er–what did you call yourself? Oh right- “simpleminded turd” (ouch!) has figured out how to use google doesn’t give you the right to tell any woman shit about shinola.

    An education isn’t an education if it’s actually an indoctrination.

    All education has an element of indoctrination; comes with the territory.

    1st definition of indoctrinate from thefreedictionary.com: 1. To instruct in a body of doctrine or principles.

    What Oprah appears to be doing isn’t much different than what Bush is doing in Iraq, IMO. It’s cultural warfare. With nice nails and hair.

    Um, excuse me but WTF? How has this statement not gone unchallenged? That makes Luckynkl sound like a Sunday school teacher. Invading a foreign country illegally and killing thousands of people–right up there with a rich TV star putting beauty schools in poor schools.

    Jebus Christmas, finn–get over your own male privileged self.

  76. Twisty

    You are welcome to criticize my word choice. I regret that it fails to give universal satisfaction.

    I regret even more that you are an anti-blobbite; “blob” is one of my favorite words, which I suppose reveals somthing about me, such as that I am no poet. For example, one of my telephones is named “Blob” (don’t ask). Here I describe myself as a blob, and here I use the word to describe a human embryo.

    Seriously, I couldn’t give two shits about Oprah’s, or anybody else’s, body mass index. In fact, not giving two shits about anybody’s body mass index is one of the founding precepts of the Twistolution. That women are compelled to alter their appearance to appease patriarchal ideals is crappy. That Oprah’s melodramatic weight-loss struggles were so public (and so lucrative) was her own choice.

    Thank you, though, for your support. I do appreciate it.

  77. emma goldman

    Twisty, while I enthusiastically click on IBTP every day to see what you’ve said next, and while I even more eagerly await the lights (and sarcasm and analysis) you shine on the formerly invisible aspects of patriarchy, and while I completely agree that this is a useful and necessary part of the revolution, another part of the revolution has to be doing something, creating an alternative, imagining an alternative, trying to build an alternative. Unfortunately, as we have learned so well, patriarchy so permeates the very air we breathe that it’s nearly guaranteed that any alternative up with which we come is likely to have more than a whiff of patriarchy about it. If patriarchy is as totalizing and all-encompassing as I believe you have argued, then our efforts to imagine and create alternatives will have to take place in stages, and all of our efforts will need improvement. It’s necessary to sit back and critique the efforts, but I think it’s also necessary to recognize that everyone’s efforts will be imperfect and to go ahead and do it anyway (or encourage others to do it anyway).

  78. Twisty

    Ah, Emma G, but I do imagine alternatives. Nobody wants to hear’em. “I can’t live without my gender!” “I can’t live without lipstick!” “I can’t live without being dominated!” “I can’t live without ritual!” “I can’t live without marriage!” “I can’t live without Oprah!”

  79. aymayzed

    I have commented here before, but since there is now a registration routine I think I’d better be more formal before opening my mouth.
    Howdy yall. What a nice welcome in the registration pages.
    Blaming the Patriarchy was my holiday fun last year and it’s proving to be some more fun this year.

    Quoting Twisty, today at 2.23pm “Hey B.Dagger, you totally scooped me. Just last night I was lying in bed staring at a beetle crawling across the ceiling and thinking it would be a hoot to get a gang together to read The Dialectic of Sex.”

    Won’t somebody think of the children!
    A Twisty Book Club?
    Run by the spokeswoman for Albanian Sworn Virgins?

    With a pomo deconstruction of class “woman” having been uttered in these pages so comprehensively, I do believe it’s about time that O Winfrey is outed as the patriarch he is.
    He’s chosen to belong to class “powerful/patriarch” at the centre of the promulgation of the dominant paradigm of Capital (teeveeland) and the logic of the commenting paradigm in here (currently, but this deconstructioney activity can be so slippery that I rush to comment lest the pieces be rearranged from under me) compels the decision that anybody who choses their class must be accepted right into it. If not partly woman or developmentally woman or biologically woman, then surely not partly patriarch/powerful.

    So an anti Oprah book club is a piece of activist recursive demonstration of the integrity of the revolutionary backbone of the Twisty club. Probably. Well, for today’s bulletin for the happily swayed it could be. Maybe?

    I wonder what street theatre will be getting planned next holidays?
    Thanks for the light relief in this insane world.

  80. octogalore

    ”Octo, you forgot “weal-THY.” Education for all is certainly a good thing, but it takes a LOTTA dough and a LOTTA work and a LOTTA exploitation to get together a whole nation of people who are well-off and educated enough to critically assess their own education…”

    Mearl, that’s confusing to me. So because these people aren’t wealthy, education can’t be a first step? If people need to be “educated enough to critically assess their own education,” doesn’t that necessitate education as a first step?

    “Oh, yeah, and Oprah didn’t get to where she is without the backdrop of a coupla revolutions spearheaded by civil rights defenders, hairy-legged minorities and other wise oppressed groups …”

    Again, I’m not sure how this logically fits. Because Oprah and other women who’ve gotten to “where she is” or in the vicinity have had to go through various things, they can’t try to give others a head start?

    Emma Goldman: yes! I think it’s wrong to set too high a standard for altruistic, even if imperfect, plans of action. It’s easy and tempting to “imagine an alternative” but, as pointed out above, everything happens in stages.

  81. emma goldman

    Au contraire, Twisty; I DO enjoy hearing those alternatives, and I like the pondering of what they mean, both in my personal life and in a structural/social/political/economic way. Not everyone will be amenable to that brand of in(tro)spection. (And sometimes even I would rather consume a cold fermented beverage and/or get naked with my person(s) of choice than think about much of any of this). We could also discuss whether structural solutions–for example, Oprah’s school–however imperfect, attack the patriarchy in ways that one person giving up his/her gender/lipstick cannot. (You might argue that Oprah’s structural “solution” is more of a prop for patriarchy than an attack upon it, but I think that people are capable of doing all kinds of unexpected things with an education, especially people who might not otherwise get any “formal” education at all.)

    Now, about that fermented beverage . . .

  82. B. Dagger Lee

    Okay,we’re all on, but I said BOTH Firestone books; she published a book of short stories called Airless Spaces. It’s one of the things she’s been up to since 1970.

    yrs, BDL

  83. Twisty

    Airless Spaces sits on my bed table as I write this. Bring it.

  84. emma goldman

    May I join the reading group? Sadly, I’ve never read Firestone, and I would very much like to do so in the company of BDL and Twisty, among others.

  85. mearl

    Octo: Not an attack…I’m thinking about patronising/damaging colonialism and brainwashing as opposed to education and freedom, is all. That sums up my very mind-addling thought process and research on world systems theory, which I think I thought about too much, and which I don’t want to get into here. But for reference, check out Jared Diamond:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jared_Diamond

    Although this only touches on what I thought about in reference to feminism, radfem, libfem, Westernwhitebreadfem vs. Africfem, and capitalism. My head hurts. I’m going to bed.

  86. Buttercup

    There can be no liberation if women cannot become aware of the ways in which they are enjoined to participate in their own oppression.

    I think I’m having that phrase carved in granite and hung over my door.

  87. Hattie

    Well, I don’t care for Oprah, and that’s a fact. She told her audience that my island (Hawaii) had some of the best real estate bargains in the country, and all these people bought into a rural slum with no services. Will she descend now from on high and provide these folks with roads, running water, sewers, and electricity?
    I am just waiting for her to build an Oprahland in Hawaii. Something glamorous, you know, with a spa. She has bought up a lot of land here and on Maui.
    There is a piece about her on the Huff Post.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karen-russell/the-war-on-oprah_b_37825.html
    I think she might reflect on the explosive consequences of throwing large sums of money around.
    But of course she doesn’t care. I think someone up post nailed it. She’s a people pleaser, and when people like that get out of hand they do a lot of damage. She wants to give others the chances she fancies she never had.
    I have this picture of one of her elite girls returning to her village and mincing through the dirt and dust in her finery. I’m sorry if this sounds mean. I think you have to do for all the people, not pick some out to lavish special attention on. She wants to make these young women in her image. It is possible that she thinks she is god or at the very least Jesus.
    Maybe she is a genius and is looking for genius girls, but without any place to go, these girls could end up very badly. It’s all very weird and scary to me, the whole concept.
    Sorry for all this rambling, but it’s 3:30 a.m.

  88. B. Dagger Lee

    Emma, as far as I’m concerned, everyone is invited to the Firestone Festschrift. Perhaps a date in early February? –BDL

  89. finnsmotel

    “How much money have you donated to this company that gives microloans?”

    Zero. I don’t have 40 mil lying around.

    Ad hominem attacks are lame.

    Someone made the point more eloquently than I that it’s pretty easy to see that Oprah has more interest in self-aggrandizement than anything else.

    Education is whipped out as this noble cause. You can hardly take a swing at it without being sent to your room. But, I’ll take the heat. The American system of basic education is based on an outdated industrial-era model, built by the captains of industry to ensure a steady stream of mindless drones. What it has become is a Status Quo Factory built on peer pressure with a little Columbine sneaking out around the crust.

    The university system, while having many more potential bright spots, is framed within the context of the wealthy being correct and the poor being wrong unless they aspire to be wealthy.

    “Sure, you can get a philosophy degree if you want, but what are you gonna do with that?!” – everyone’s dad.

    Please don’t flame with defenses of your wonderful experiences in college. I’m sure we all had positive moments. Babies and bathwater and all that. I’m not saying the education system should be totally abandoned. Learning stuff is good, generally. But, it seems pretty obvious, at least to me, that Oprah Windbag’s version of patronage is more akin to evangelism than it is to philanthropy.

    She’s a culture warrior determined to make the impoverished people she ‘helps’ appear more pleasing to the American TV viewer. Is she trying to help? Yeah, she probably thinks so. But, she’s a deluded celebrity freak, obsessed with getting “ooohs” and “aaahs” when she has the ‘reveal’ moment in front of her TV audience. It’s Trading Spaces and What Not To Wear times 40 million.

    -finn

  90. KTal

    Finns, no doubt the American public school system has many faults most a reflection of the unequal wealth distribution which always falls along social lines since cash in fact is the tool of oppression in this society.

    This class representation/division continues on into college where, no longer restrained by federal statute, the class division becomes even more acute.

    Oprah’s ‘school’ imitates this paradigm on a micro-level. Like some kind of Saint of Capital, she comes into an impoverished nation and builds a missionary, complete with all the trappings to convert the chosen, who then will spread across the land and convert everyone else.

    Hattie’s image of a school girl playing at home in her uniform is well taken indeed. Imagine her going home for vacation, to find herself soiling her new clothes whilst fetching water and building the cooking fire if indeed she is willing to come home and participate in such mundane tasks of survival.

    The image points up the perversity of ‘charity’ like this. What if that 50 mil instead was used to build trade schools, elementary and secondary schools that all could attend? What if some were set aside for an elite college, but still others not left out? What if the focus were on books and instructors and not ‘wellness centers’ and marble countered kitchens?

    Like I said before, these successful people I think eventually completely buy into what has fed them and continues to feed them, blinding them to any capacity for objective analysis of the world around them, of which might I add, they no longer participate in on human level.

  91. maribelle

    Zero. I don’t have 40 mil lying around.

    You don’t need 40 mil, that’s the point of a MICRO loan. 50 bucks changes lives. Rather than critique Oprah, you could put your money where your mouth is. Sorry you felt attacked–but you equated OPRAH’S SCHOOL with GEORGE BUSH’S ASSAULT ON IRAQ.

    No question education should be carefully scrutinized. But
    If I did respond with tales of my college, it certainly wouldn’t be a flame, but a description of several “ah-ha” paradigm changing moments. Since you’re not interested, I’ll keep my memories to myself.

    Case in point: Finn’s use of the OPRAH/BUSH analogy is what I worry about when women like Twisty publicly censure other women; then men feel free to do the same thing, only more so. Twisty didn’t compare Oprah to Hitler, but Finn just compared her to the murderer and certified sociopath George Bush—on Twisty’s blog—all the while giving her a cheery wave and a “you go, girl.” That’s tough to take.

    Peace and happy new year to all.

  92. finnsmotel

    “what I worry about when women like Twisty publicly censure other women; then men feel free to do the same thing”

    What difference does it make if a man or woman talks about Oprah being a jerk? How do you know I’m not a male about to transgender into a female?! ;-)

    And, I’m no Bush fan, but, it’s not fair to equate Bush with Hitler. I hate when people try to exaggerate their point by bringing Hitler into it. I don’t think Oprah is Hitler. I think she’s just like any other well-meaning American who blunders across cultural boundaries trying to ‘help’.

    I do think Oprah and Bush are guilty of similar crimes, in varying degrees, of course. Bush and the neocons are trying to ‘spread’ democracy and The American Way through use of force. Oprah is doing it with money. Obviously different scales.

  93. notforsheep

    Twisty, you are such a tease. I wanted to trackback a post to you and your blog entices but does not deliver!

  94. cypress

    Stephen Lewis, who was the UN envoy for HIV/AIDs in Africa until recently, understands the horrifying crisis in sub-Saharan Africa, and recognizes, not in a token way, that the liberation of women is key to the survival of the people in the pandemic. He is a remarkable Canadian.

    The Foundation he operates has an interesting article from 2003, recounting the Foundation’s hopes from a visit by Oprah Winfrey to Zambia. I wondered while discussing the commentariat’s posts from yesterday with another blamer, whether Oprah and Stephen Lewis had ever met, and what she might know about Africa, and what her Foundation staff might know. This article sheds some light on my questions.

    “A Race Against Time” is the published version of the Massey Lectures, delivered in 2005 by Stephen Lewis. I do not hesitate to say that this man is clear about the existence and purposes of the patriarchy, and likely friend to blamers. Adding this slim little volume to the stack with Shulamith Firestone’s is a good plan.

    Thanks Twisty.

  95. cycles

    Actually, I’m a little confused myself about microloans. I spent some time on the Grameen website but didn’t see a way I could get involved. Perhaps it depends on the microcredit agency; smaller ones probably don’t have the eCommerce infrastructure to just take money over the web. It’s something I’d like to try, though. Do individual schlumps like me have the opportunity to add dollars to the microloan coffers, or is it something that’s done on a larger scale than my measly contribution? I know, this is way off-topic.

  96. octogalore

    I’m with Maribelle on the hypocrisy of criticizing a project that’s not to one’s particular fancy, when one isn’t contributing to other avenues that are. Oprah has admitted this is a pet project that’s not meant to be all things to all people. Her foundation does other things with more far-reaching impact. We all have vanity projects on whatever scale – we contribute lots of extras to our nanny and her family that could probably be used to help more people more efficiently, on a more micro level. With all the celebrities and non-celebrities out there doing bubkes for anyone, it seems full of hatred and, yes, delusion, to refer to Oprah as a “freak.”

    Also, the characterization of the American educational system as one which “ensure[s] a steady stream of mindless drones” is similarly exaggerated and flawed. All U.S. education is not created equal, and there are a number of schools with strong need-based programs while others are bastions of the entitled. A blanket condemning of the system as a “Status Quo Factory” may feel so oh-so-revolutionary but indicates to anyone with any diversity of experience with the educational system that the speaker is simply ignorant.

  97. Hattie

    How can Oprah be perceived as anything but self serving? Think of the hours and hours and hours of fascinating TV footage she will get out of this! Her dimpled charmers will pose in the latest fashions for her magazine. They will offer up all praise to her. Her advertisers will be thrilled! She’s a monster. Face it.

  98. finnsmotel

    “indicates to anyone with any diversity of experience with the educational system that the speaker is simply ignorant.”

    Really? Then, maybe you can enlighten me. Inform me how I might better educate my kids within the affordability of public education. They’ve been enrolled for about 8 years now and I battle daily to de-program the Status Quo their being fed factory-style.

    If there was a better way, I’d be glad to try it. But, I can’t afford it.

    Now, where’s my micro-loan?

    ;-)

  99. finnsmotel

    “schools in general are counter-revolutionary and oppressive in nature (more on this in a subsequent post)”

    Personally, I can’t wait for Twisty’s subsequent post on schools.

  100. finnsmotel

    “Actually, I’m a little confused myself about microloans. I spent some time on the Grameen website but didn’t see a way I could get involved.”

    You don’t have to get involved. That’s the whole point. People with lots of money should fund banks that have favorable lending practices toward women and other disadvantaged people. People who don’t have lots of money shouldn’t be guilt-ed into thinking they have to donate money before they can speak up about the wankery of celebrity.

    If you want to line up to blow Oprah, go right ahead. I’m sure that there have been some positive results from some of her programs. But, if those positive results mean we can’t queston her motives and methods, then we’re right back to comparing her to post-9-11 Bush.

    IMO

    Damn, I had resolved for 07 to stay outta the comment threads, but, I’m up to my arse again.

  101. octogalore

    Finn: “Really? Then, maybe you can enlighten me. Inform me how I might better educate my kids within the affordability of public education. They’ve been enrolled for about 8 years now…”

    The point isn’t whether our educational system is perfect, but whether it’s worthwhile in the absence of a more optimal one. As your kids have been enrolled for 8 years, seems like you’ve concluded the latter. So why criticize offering what you’ve given your children to others?

  102. cycles

    Oh, no, I’m not guilted by my disparagement of Oprah or any other wealthy celebs. I’ve been thinking about the microloan thing ever since Grameen won the Nobel. I’m glad it was brought up here. Every good thing has a dark side, and I’m sure there are problems with microcredit, but I’ve decided for myself that it’s something I’d like to get behind, as I have financial resources to make small contributions.

    And I just found an answer my own question: Grameen Bank is separate from the Grameen Foundation. The latter actually does have a way ordinary schlubs can get involved online, if interested.

    Or. I know some people who know people who hail from Mexico and are working in the States to earn money to start a small business in their Mexican hometown. Rather than working here and facing the dangers of being undocumented (not to devolve into a conversation about immigration, but the fact is, this family is good people and I hate to think of them working under a hidden illegal system that is exploited to squelch workers’ rights, and having to trek across the desert to see family), I’ve wondered if they wouldn’t just take a loan from me and my friends. Something like that, where one person with money directly loans money to another person who needs it, might be even more betterer. If you happen to know someone you’d trust in that way. Blah. Babbling.

  103. finnsmotel

    “So why criticize offering what you’ve given your children to others?”

    I already said it’s because I can’t afford a better option.

    The Man pulls the strings.

  104. finnsmotel

    “Oprah has admitted this is a pet project that’s not meant to be all things to all people. Her foundation does other things with more far-reaching impact.”

    Oh, how soon we forget things, like the James Frey story, for example.

    Good times.

  105. octogalore

    Re not being able to afford a better option: you’re admitting it’s to some degree a benefit. And what Oprah is doing is, too.

    And, what does James Frey have to do with what I said about philanthropy? Please cut out the condescending use of the royal “we.” The ability to logically connect points of argument without throwing in nonsequiturs to distract is something my U.S. education, however flawed, managed to impart, and I am sure you can do a better job on this front than you are demonstrating here. See from Wikipedia:

    In 1998, Winfrey began Oprah’s Angel Network, a charity aimed at encouraging people around the world to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged others. Accordingly, Oprah’s Angel Network supports charitable projects and provides grants to nonprofit organizations around the world that share this vision. To date, Oprah’s Angel Network has raised more than $51,000,000 ($1 million of which was donated by Jon Bon Jovi). Winfrey personally covers all administrative costs associated with the charity, so 100% of all funds raised go to charity programs.

    Although Winfrey’s show is known for raising money through her public charity and the cars and gifts she gives away on TV are often donated by corporations in exchange for publicity, behind the scenes Winfrey personally donates more of her own money to charity than any other show business celebrity in America. In 2005 she became the first black person listed by Business Week as one of America’s top 50 most generous philanthropists, having given an estimated $250 million. Despite being the 235th richest American in 2005, Winfrey was the 32nd most philanthropic. Her philanthropy has included a $10 million donation to Hurricane Katrina relief.

  106. kelleybell

    Rock on octogalore.

  107. ginmar

    Oprah gets on my frickin’ nerves for one thing: the way she totally ignores men in all her shocking exposes on the fate of women. Do men ever do bad things to those genitally-mutilated girls and women who wind up in the fistula hospital? Who knows? She just pays for the surgery and sends them back to the very environment they came from, to be abused yet again. Who molested those women that turned into prostitutes? Who hires those prostitutes? How come nobody does a show on those assholes? The men are all frickin’ invisible. It’s like those women just wander around getting hurt by something and that something never gets named—or blamed.

  108. annared

    Sort of echo – rock on ginmar

  109. finnsmotel

    “Re not being able to afford a better option: you’re admitting it’s to some degree a benefit. ”

    How so?

    What I’m saying is that I don’t have any other option.

    Oh, and thanks for the Oprah Harpo mission statement press release PR statement. Yawn.

  110. Sam

    I did a fair bit of lobbying for microcredit a few years ago and I just want to say that the loans are not intended as “charity” in the way kreepyk seems to think charity should be given instead. While I’m sure Bangladeshi women wouldn’t turn down any charity given to them (please give to charities), the self esteem and self reliance microcredit gives opportunities to build is worth a lot more than the $30 or $60 loans.

    The memory of one woman who received a microcredit loan sticks out to me as why these small loans do more for women than charity alone. She told of how her husband would beat her and call her useless before she got the loan for a sundries shop, but once she proved to him she could manage a business and bring money into the family he stopped the violence and started telling her how much he had grown to respect her.

    Microcredit, like everything else, isn’t perfect, but it’s a fantastic tool for increasing the economic, personal, and social well-being of the world’s poorest and most oppressed women in a fairly inobtrusive way that respects their culture and individuality.

  111. octogalore

    Finn: you DO have nother option: the option of doing nothing. ie, what the girls in South Africa who will be going to Oprah’s school are doing now. You’ve chosen school over nothing for your kids. At the same time as critiquing Oprah for giving these girls the option of school over nothing. Is my point really so difficult to grasp? Really, I’d hate to make any stupid jokes about the miracle drug that can increase a man’s IQ by 50 points — ie, estrogen — but I’m thinking some may be indicated here.

  112. octogalore

    Sam and others espousing microcredit: I agree that it’s a great tool. However, I don’t see it as a replacement for education or something that should be discussed as a substitute option. These loans are useful for enhancing women’s opportunities to be entrepreneurial. However, they can make best use of this by having ideas that will succeed. The stories most powerful about microloans are those where women entered into the loans with preexisting ideas with a strong financial foundation. Not all small businesses succeed — I won’t bore anyone with data on this. Education, U.S.-brand or otherwise, is important in providing some foundation for developing sound business models, which then can benefit from financing. While some entrepreneurial women have succeeded without the benefit of formal education, many struggles have been documented where loans couldn’t be repayed because the businesses failed.

  113. cypress

    octogalore wrote

    The stories most powerful about microloans are those where women entered into the loans with preexisting ideas with a strong financial foundation.

    octogalore – the Grameen Bank operates in Bangladesh. women might have fabulous ideas for business ventures, and opportunities to exercise their entrepreneurial spirits in many parts of the world, but in Bangladesh things are difficult for women. for most people in fact. and microcredit there works.

    here in british columbia one of the largest credit unions on the continent operates a small credit program – now there entrepreneurial women may successfully obtain a loan. with a strong business plan.

  114. kelleybell

    As much as I love Twisty’s writing style, I must confess, the best part of this blog is the comment threads.

    Just scrolling through this one post, I saw a wealth of knowledge and a vast array of opinions.

    Even though I disagree with some of you, I respect all of your views.

    Which is, in this case, exactly my point.

    Marie Wilson, founder of The White House Project said recently in a speech:

    “We have this desire and expectation that the first woman president be perfect.” That is simply not possible. “I’m Tired of it!” She exclaimed. “We need [to view women candidates with a sense of] REALITY!” We need to reset the bar, and put women in proper perspective as leaders. When expectations of women are twice as high as their male counterparts, we cut our progress in half.

    She went on to explain, many women avoid the political arena because of the culture of negativity and personal attacks. Women do not see this as appropriate or honorable behavior. But to create change, “We’ve gotta take it on!” She cried. “We are not in the gender business when we do this work, we are in the transformation business, and OUR TIME HAS COME!

    When we achieve a critical mass of women in office, the idea of women as leaders will be normalized. Women will then take their rightful place as fully participating citizens, and use their voices to bring balance to political ideology.”

    Now, I realize Ms. Wilson was addressing the issue of politics, but her point applies here as well. When we attack women who succeed in their careers for doing charity work, and then claim they are mutha-smuckin worthless tools of the partriarchy, we are shooting our cause in the foot.

    I agree that Oprah aint perfect. Who the smell is? But what Im trying to say is that we need to be cautious about the WAY we critique.

    Feminism is better served by an army of successful, imperfect women who support each other, than it is by an army of women who beat down every women who breaks thru the marble ceiling.

  115. KTal

    Public figures who make hay out of charity activities to gain personal ego boosting, alleviate guilt or whatever should be scrutinized by the public.

    The objects of their benevolence should be the most active in ensuring that the supposed beneficiary acts do just that. What voice does the public have besides their criticism?

    I was on a funding board for a few years for a major foundation that contributed to grassroots activism. The schism between the donors and the receivers was large, with the donors making the assumption, based on their priviledge that they alone knew what was best for the receiving organizations, usually made up of and working on the behalf of the classically oppresssed. Oftentimes, criticism from ‘the trenches’ was not met with glee by donors who felt that all should smile and be happy to get something. Donors often also felt that their brand of culture and lifestyle should be adopted by those receiving their funds. In other words, a sort of imperialism on a small scale always seemed to rise up. This was a conflict that the foundation had struggled with for years and probably will never resolve as they deal with the most fundamental aspects of capitalism and the distribution of its largesse.

    More often than not, priviledged upper middle class white folks were able to organize and communicate in ways that could garner the most funds, but their activities made little impact on making social change. Oftentimes, organizations would be formed with little to nothing of concrete goals and little to nothing of active participation, beyond scooping up ‘tokens’, thus wasting precious funds on little more than ego stroking and paychecks for a few.

    On a larger scale, a good example of American charitable imperialism is the controversy over famine reduction in certain areas of Africa. African nations have stated over and over again that what they want is assistance to develop more sustainable agriculture and ways to overcome oppressive, colonialist land-grabbing by large corporations. They also decry the grain donations made by first world countries, particularly the US that dole out genetically engineered and hybrid seed. They say, and rightfully so, that the American manufactured grains do not assist in sustainable and affordable agriculture on the level that Africa needs as they inculcate a dependence every year on new manufactured seed, instead of allowing farmers to save their own seed for next year’s production.

    Applying first world cultural values and attributes to a third world nation does nothing to improve third world economies that do not have the infrastructure to support such initiatives. Oprah’s marbled kitchens and wellness salons may make the girls feel the tingle of priviledge that every child dreams of, but they squander resources that could have been better appropriated to gain more bang for the buck.

    Also, the cultural imperialism in bringing American values and materialism to another country smacks of old world domination that cannot be ignored and likely will be resented by many who have for centuries been on the receiving end of misguided and yet well intentioned efforts to ‘cleanse and purify’ the ‘savages’.

    This criticism is valid and valuable. We as first worlders have a responsibility to be mindful of how we use our money when appropriating it to ‘assist’ those whose oppression we also benefit from.

    Also, since imperialism is a domain of the patriarchy, those who benefit and play the game the best are men. Oprah does not speak for all women. In fact I’d posit that her ascent has required that she abandon a lot of views and positions that may have seen threatening to those in a position to move her upward.

    That said, her antics should most definitely receive feminist criticism. It is our voices that must be heard and unfortunately, although we may seem like harpies in the background, unpleasant and grating, we still need to speak out.

    If immune to criticism, then how shall they know how to proceed and how can we ensure that they keep their power in check and appropriate appropriately?

    Might I also add that micro loans are very important and feminists I think, should support them wholeheartedly, despite their faults. Hell, traditional lenders have to deal with a variety of fraud all the time, but they still manage to stay in business. Seems to me that micro loans offer a non-traditional funding source to persons (women) who do not, by virtue of culture, meet the criteria set up for traditional loans, which lets face it, benefit those who can most actively succeed in a social construct that has no flexibility or consideration for life paths of women, whether in Bangladesh, or the US.

  116. slade

    I hate the fact that micro and woman seem to be used hand in hand. A loan is a loan. Why are loans to women called ‘micro?’ Why can’t we call them Survival Loans? Or Women Loans? Or F*ck You Not Loans?

    What they should really be called is Get The F*ck Off My Back Loans…or nicely put when requesting financial assistance from the Gates Foundation…GTFOMB Loan, please.

    Or Carry Your Own F*cking Water On Your Head Loan…that would translate nicely as CYOFWOYH Loan, please.

    Anyone read the LATimes article on the Gates Foundation? grrrr.

  117. KTal

    That story is a fine example of that of which I spoke.

    And criticism would be met with, Well its their money and they give you some don’t they? What are you bitchin’ about?

    No its not. Its the African’s money, earned from their land and their labor and their sacrifice. Everytime some ass tells me that Africans are too stupid to run their own governments, I seethe. You try standing up with an elephant sitting on your back.

    By the way, it was 70 here in the northeast, it still feels like late spring. Its creepy. Keep them fires burnin’ for us Billy and Melinda.

  118. kelleybell

    Rock on KTal.

  119. octogalore

    Yes, the LA Times article on the Gates foundation was really eye opening.

    I agree with KTal that we shouldn’t automatically assume benefactors know what they’re doing or that their hearts or in the right places. However, we shouldn’t assume the reverse either, or conflate Oprah with the ohters. Do we know that the charities to which her network has donated over $50M are corrupt or even inefficient (especially since she covers all admin costs)? Do we think $10M to Hurricane Katrina relief was misdirected? While she certainly shouldn’t be immune to criticism, we do sound like harpies if our criticism is not substantiated a la the LA Times article.

    Cypress — I am not suggesting that microcredit doesn’t work in places like Bangladesh, and I give to the Grameen bank for that reason. My point is that whether in Bangladesh or LA, anytime potential entrepreneurs have access to education, they can benefit even more from loans, as their resulting businesses have more chance of success. Moreover, in any country, women with stronger business plans as a result of education will qualify for more and larger loans, through microcredit or other mechanisms. So, while I am not arguing that microcredit requires education, it doesn’t replace it either.

  120. jane awake

    kelleybell,

    I don’t think Oprah is being criticized in this thread because she is “imperfect.” I think she is being criticized because her language and plans for the educational facility put an unnecessary focus on beauty when the focus should be on learning. I think we can all agree that when a powerful person’s “imperfection” is their tendency to support patriarchy-authored-and-enforced beauty ideals, we must criticize that person, whether she or he is Oprah or Donald Trump (who very name causes me to throw up a little in the back of my mouth).

    I really enjoyed your quote: “Marie Wilson, founder of The White House Project said recently in a speech: ‘We have this desire and expectation that the first woman president be perfect.’ That is simply not possible. ‘I’m Tired of it!’ She exclaimed.” I agree that women are scrutinized to the nth degree when they try to break through that marble ceiling (which is, of course, why Oprah is so obsessed with beauty).

    I think this is also the reason Hillary Clinton’s Wellesley college thesis is under seal.

  121. vera

    My copy of Firestone’s Airless Spaces just arrived. So, when do we begin reading?n

  122. Naz

    Hi, I’ve been reading this blog on and off for a month or so and find it interesting and generally amusing. But as a South African, I take issue with the Oprah dissing. I think she’s doing a really great thing here. Sure the beauty salon and Hollywoodness of it all is a little overkill but think about it. These girls will be given a shot at a real, fulfilling, successful life. There are schools in South Africa (loads of them) with a 0% matric pass rate ie every single high school senior fails to graduate. Girls are sexually abused by elders or forced into sexual relationships with high school boys because they need protection from other boys or from their teachers. Most South African girls will become illiterate, unskilled women, usually HIV positive, living poverty stricken lives, subsisting off a R180 (thats about $18) a month government child support grant. With no hope of anti-retrovirals, they will die of AIDS leaving child headed families at the mercy of the elements and violent, unscrupulous people. If Oprah can give these 150 girls three square meals a day, a warm bed, protect them from the man-animals, and give them a world class education (which they will not get in a South Africa public school) I say BRAVO. And I don’t care if they become materialistic, fashion whores. Its better than the other alternative.

  123. Twisty

    I appreciate your perspective, Naz. I do not want to give the impression that I begrudge these girls their astounding good fortune. One merely wishes that Oprah exhibited a bit more of the old revolutionary spirit.

  124. dari

    Oh for the love of God, Kelleybell has it right. We don’t need “men” keeping us down. We do a helluva job on our own. Yes, Oprah can make me cringe sometimes, but then I remember how little I do and I thank the Lawd she’s doing what she’s doing. She may not be perfect, but I don’t demand perfection from people.

    People love to hate Oprah. It seems like such a waste of precious energy that could be spent on actually doing something about it.

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