Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dear Oprah --

Dear Oprah,



There seems an inclination to laud your public apologies for your size as "honest," in the sense that you are being more straightforward than public figures usually are about the difference between what they say and what they do or just about what you do, period, to maintain TV-ready body image.

I don't find it honest, I find it alternatingly heart-breaking and infuriating. Demeaning, obfuscating, angering. You don't owe anybody an apology for what your body size is. And that means no matter why it is the size it is, a process of which I think you should stop assuming you have complete understanding.

You are the richest, most powerful woman--person--in media, which doesn't mean you aren't a real woman with feelings who has a life outside that label, but you are telling the whole world, over and over--and yourself--that no matter what you do, nothing is more important than what you look like, and that at that you've failed. You say you no longer care about being thin, just healthy, but would you have laid yourself out like this if you were unhealthy and thin? Would you even care?

You have had EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO KNOW BETTER AND CHOOSE NOT TO. You have had all the advice of the world parade by on your stage and you are choosing to ignore it to keep hating yourself. You are not hanging onto "the fat," you are hanging on to your right to dislike yourself.

You are telling all those girls at your school in Africa and all the people who watch your show and all the people who hate you but catch the headlines about you that the most important thing about you is your body size, your weight. That the agonies and self-consciousness of puberty and young adulthood never end, in fact that they trump whatever comes after.

It is a lot to expect any one person to rise above social pressures to be thin, but you know what, that is an expectation I do hold you to. The Oprah Edict you are violating most significantly is the idea of loving yourself. Putting yourself first. Being on your own side. This is a yes/no situation...no mealy-mouthed middle ground. Either you are on your own side or you are laying yourself out ("apologizing") for public ridicule.

You seem to be pretty good at telling the world to back off when you need to (making employees sign silence agreements, for instance). It's very painful to be made complicit in your inability to do it here, where you need to most. I DON'T WANT YOUR APOLOGIES. They offend me. Nor do I want anything else of it. Your body is your business. Your body, in fact, is your body's business, maybe not even your own, quite.

The cynic in me knows that you might have--theoretically--less to talk about if you just made your body off-limits as a motivating factor for story ideas and for getting people to watch your show and identify with you. The hopelessly idealistic part of me catches my breath at just what you could do to actually improve this world if you laid down this issue, once and for all. If you told all the people out there that you are fine the way you are and, frankly, fuck anybody who needs to butt in.

Women need to say fuck you more often. Also who cares, and says who? You can't rationalize your way out of the beauty myth jungle, where the rules aren't fair anyhow. You have to bushwack your way out with sheer faith and a sense that you are loveable and worthy of attention, sex, approbation, approval and the right to exist--even in public--no matter your size.

And remember that taking care of your own health is difficult and an effort worthy of support. And that you should help yourself in its difficulty, not castigate yourself for occasional dips in the radar, as seems to have recently happened.

You gotta wonder when this is going to end, on top of everything else. If this version of 54 is the new 44, I don't want any part of it. Surely one of the virtues of age is just the right to know better.

Shut up please! Thank you.

Yours sincerely,
Liz T.