By all accounts, Oprah Winfrey gave an impressive speech at the Golden Globes. It has been a heavy work week for me and I haven’t managed to listen to it myself, but since she is an articulate and personable woman who has made a career out of connecting with millions of people (largely female), her triumph is unsurprising. With her name being mentioned in just about every news report this week, I was reminded that I have written a few times about her in my Musings.
In 2010, I posted a letter to the editor I had written to her magazine. Upon re-reading, I think the problem on which I focused only grew as seen when Hillary Clinton labeled a huge swathe of the population as “deplorable.” Here is a reprint of that Musing.
A few years ago after visiting my daughter, I was heading to the airport to return home when I realized that I had no reading material. Rachelle’s roommate offered me her copy of O, Oprah’s monthly magazine. I probably would never have picked this magazine up on my own and I had never seen an Oprah show, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. To my surprise, the quality of writing was impressive and the range of topics notably wider than in most women’s magazines. I began reading it regularly. Aside from many well-written and interesting articles, I appreciated getting a window into the Oprah phenomenon which has had so much influence on our society. While many of my own views are completely opposed to those espoused by the magazine, reading it helps me understand what ideas are shaping so many women’s attitudes. I also find, to O’s credit, that it is not monolithic in its approach and sometimes unexpectedly presents views sympathetic to traditional values.
Almost every issue has something which I appreciate as well as something which makes me squirm, but this October, I was so appalled at what I read that I sent off a letter to the editor. It was not published, so I am using this venue to share it.
Over the years, I have mostly enjoyed getting O. On more than one occasion, however, I was disturbed by the bigotry which the magazine promoted. I kept letting it slide, but the October magazine moved me to write.
In the October issue Donna Brazile said, “Conservative businessmen don’t generally pay a lot of attention to middle-aged black women.”
Which conservative businessmen did Ms. Brazile mean? The ones I know who use their annual vacations to help build orphanages in Africa and S. America? The ones who spearhead their local Rotary and Lion’s clubs, helping not only their own communities but ones around the globe? Perhaps she meant those who donate to and fundraise for charities such as Fisher House, which helps many middle-aged black women whose sons have been injured in military service for their country? Or the thousands of conservative businessmen who work diligently and with no guarantee of success to provide products that improve the lives of middle-aged black women and others? Was she smearing an entire group for the actions of a few men she has met? Isn’t that one of the definitions of prejudice?
This is only one example of many over the years. It is easy to call for others to be more open-minded but it is hard to see our own flaws. The liberal community in America falls prey to this difficulty. More Americans classify themselves as conservative than they do as liberal, but in some industries including much of the media and academia finding a conservative is like searching for the perfect diet – futile. Instead of trying to understand those whose political values differ, there tends to be a tendency to consider conservative voters either stupid or evil. Too often, a smug and self-congratulatory attitude predominates, which hampers us from reaching goals which would actually help everyone in society.
I am regularly appalled at the widespread bigotry against conservatives and businessmen, especially those who are Christian (I am Jewish). It would be great if Oprah magazine could examine itself, admit its own biases and commit to change.
I stopped reading O Magazine when I realized what a hugely effective vehicle it and her show were for Oprah Winfrey to influence society to move away from traditional views relating to sexuality. She is an intelligent, determined and hard-working woman who probably has had more clout on American social thinking and policy than 95% of politicians. She did so by incrementally changing the thoughts of middle-class, traditional, family oriented and often church-going women. What she says really does matter.