Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Importance of Being Earnest

In case you and your cat haven’t heard, Oprah Winfrey weighs 200 pounds. Yes, that’s right. I said it.

Now I know this, not because I adore Ms. Winfrey but because it’s on the cover of her latest issue of O Magazine. It’s not just a sub-heading on her magazine but a full fledged screaming headline with a picture of her now, juxtaposed with a picture of her “then”. Then being when she wasn’t 200 pounds, I suppose. And the whole issue at hand is “how she let this happen again”. *cue horror music here*

Now let me start off by saying that I freakin’ love Oprah. Honestly. Genuinely. I’ve been watching her show religiously since I was a kid and although I don’t agree with everything she does or says or the people she endorses (I’m looking at you, Dr Phil), I still adore her.

So when I first saw that headline, and the subsequent stories about it, I thought WTF?! Who cares?! Oprah Winfrey is rich, successful, an incredible philanthropist and damn good at her job. So why does it matter what you weigh? And hasn’t she been flogging this dead horse for years?

But then I start thinking about what made her so successful in the first place. Mostly, her hard work and honesty. And she’s made an entire career out of being herself, being open about her faults and strong points and “self-improvement”. So in that case, I guess this plays into that quite well. She’s being honest about her weight problem (something she’s done from the start) and in many ways, just calling what everyone is saying.

Then I flip again and think that it’s so sad that someone as successful as Oprah Winfrey is constantly diminished down to her weight. As though what she weighs (or rather, how she looks) defines her success or lack thereof.

And this is reinforced by reading the Globe and Mail discussion boards, talking about this controversial cover story. Comment after comment after comment talks about how “She’s so rich and can afford all the trainers, self-help gurus and chefs in the world. Clearly she’s lazy and narcissistic” or “Wow, what a sloth” or “I hope she can afford all the medication she’s going to need” or my favourite, “She ONLY weighs 200? She looks way heavier than that!”

Which not only shows the lack of intelligence from most online posters, but also the real stigma and fixation that this society has on body weight and image. Oprah Winfrey made her career out of being “Just like every other womyn, just with better shoes” and yet we expect her to buy her way into a “perfect body”. While at the same time, hating on womyn who have gastric by-pass and/or cosmetic surgery because they’re “fake”.

So do I think that Oprah needs to be drawing attention to her weight again? I want to say no but she opened up that can of worms long ago so she can’t go back. Plus, according to her, the article is about demonstrating the realities of trying to maintain a “healthy” weight and that nobody, even the almighty Oprah herself, can succeed all the time.

I suppose this goes to show that she’s succeeded in being just like every womyn because even she can’t escape the wrath of impossible beauty standards.


Anonymous said...

I've seen covers of O magazine, Oprah looks great! She's polished, great clothes and hair and makeup and she freakin' works it. Why won't people leave OPrah the hell alone anymore?! It's like they can't accept her success and stature after all these years so they have to find some fault in her. Her weight has gone up and down for 20 yrs, just leave her alone already. How horrible she must feel.


RB said...

It's not people bringing it up H.W., it's Oprah making a big deal from it because she feels like she failed her fans...