Oprah Secedes from US, Forms Independent Nation of Cheesecake-Eating Housewives. There was a time when I found this headline, taken from satirical newspaper The Onion’s Our Dumb Century, highly amusing. Let’s all laugh at Oprah, daytime TV’s cheerleader for middle-aged women living dull, boring domestic lives!
The accompanying article describes “Ugogirl” as “a nurturing, supportive republic […] subject to a set of laws and provisions which prioritize access to healthy, low-fat recipes, creative home-decorating tips and inspirational stories of personal triumph over adversity”. Hilarious! A place, in short, in which serious concerns – male concerns – are side-lined and replaced by the fluffy trivialities and mawkish sob stories that constitute female experience.
It’s only now, two decades later and particularly in light of Winfrey’s stunning Golden Globes speech, that I can see the white privilege and misogyny behind this mockery. That a woman who’d grown up experiencing racism, poverty and sexual abuse had become rich and powerful, only to spend hours on air listening to mere mummies and housewives, was seen, not as admirable, but pathetic. It wasn’t that she’d chosen the wrong genre or target market – after all, Jerry Springer had done the same – but that she actually appeared to be taking these women’s lives seriously.