Speak For Yourself Oprah

WTF are you doingWhen Oprah first bought stock in Weight Watchers last year I blogged about it and said “while Oprah has every right to join Weight Watchers, be a spokesperson for Weight Watchers, buy stock in Weight Watchers, get “I Love Weight Watchers” tattooed on her ass or whatever, that doesn’t make long term weight loss any more likely, and it doesn’t make Weight Watchers any less of a scam.” I was going to leave it at that, until I heard her first commercial for WW.

It’s tricky criticizing Oprah because she has done truly amazing things, fighting racism, sexism, misogyny, and a crushing pressure to be thin to do them.  There are so many things about Oprah and her work that are incredibly admirable, but this Weight Watchers thing is a problem. First of all, her choice to promote Weight Watchers seems to mean one of two things:

Scenario 1:  After all her years of yo-yo dieting, all the weight loss gurus that she has made famous and rich (even though their methods proved not to work long-term), the private chefs and the private trainers, after being unable to lose weight despite having every resource imaginable at her disposal, despite the mountain of research (including their own) that shows that Weight Watchers almost never works, Oprah may actually believe that the only thing standing between her and permanent thinness is joining Weight Watchers.

Scenario 2:  She is a shrewd business-woman and she knows that many women are desperate to be thin, and that many women are so enamored of her that they will do anything she recommends even if a mountain of evidence (and perhaps their own experiences) show that it doesn’t work. And so she bought stock in Weight Watchers and then became a spokesperson (though in none of the commercials so far does she divulge her ownership or profit motive.) If this scenario is true, the money-making part is working – her stock was worth $43.2 million the day she bought it, and was valued at over $145 million (and climbing) in November.

Or maybe it’s something else? It doesn’t really matter, the problem for me is what she’s saying.  In her first commercial she sits in a chair and says earnestly to camera:

Inside every overweight woman is a woman she knows she can be. Many times you look in the mirror and you don’t even recognize your own self because you got lost—buried—in the weight that you carry. Nothing you’ve ever been through is wasted, so every time I tried and failed, every time I tried again, and every time I tried again, has brought me to this most powerful moment to say, ‘If not now, when?'”

Oprah is allowed to feel this way about herself, I have no judgment or opinion about it. I personally can’t imagine how “the woman [Oprah] knows she can be” would be different than the woman Oprah is, other than wearing a smaller size, but that’s not my business. Oprah is allowed to believe (or say for profit) that joining Weight Watchers is likely to lead to long-term weight loss, even if all the evidence suggests otherwise (that’s what all that small print is for.)  But Oprah has no right to speak for all “overweight,” or as I like to call us, fat, women.

Despite what you may have heard from Oprah, there are plenty of fat women who don’t worship at the altar of thin, who are already the women we know we can be, who look in the mirror and like what we see. Who haven’t bought into the notion that we are thin women buried in fat, but know that we are amazing, fat, women.  Who know that, when it comes to dieting, what we’ve been through isn’t wasted because now we know that dieting doesn’t work and we’ve exited the diet rollercoaster and all the time, money, and energy it cost us to ride.  There are women for whom every time we’ve tried and failed, every time we’ve tried again has brought us to the most powerful moment to say “If not now, when?  How’s never for you – because fuck dieting, that shit doesn’t work!”

I understand that the women who don’t fit into Oprah’s model of “unrecognizable thin woman buried in fat” don’t make any money for Weight Watchers’ shareholders, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok to pretend we don’t exist.  I don’t know what Oprah’s intentions are and I’m not saying that I think she’s a bad person or that she set out to harm people. I’m saying that, regardless of her intentions, the outcomes of her actions here are harmful and I think that she should apologize, but at the very least she should stick to speaking for herself rather than trying to erase all the women who aren’t like her.

Oprah is allowed to try weight loss and sell weight loss, but she shouldn’t act like she speaks for all fat women, because she damn sure doesn’t.

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19 thoughts on “Speak For Yourself Oprah

  1. I love Oprah, it’s funny because she said that she does everything in her brand from the heart. I wonder whether this was one of those times. If not, that’s a little bit sad.
    Thanks for the post!

  2. WW makes me sick, with their appropriation of terms like “positivity” or “self-acceptance” that mean life and death to some of us. George Orwell only WISHED he could twist word meanings around like they do. They probably salivated an entire lake of anticipatory drool thinking about an “Oprah effect” on their toxic product.

    Oprah Winfrey is not stupid when it comes to the leverage her support adds to any undertaking she chooses. I could see her attitude coming partly from sincere belief and partly from her business sense. I prefer to believe her decision came from a lifetime habit of hoping “maybe THIS time” on the subject of her weight.

    That commercial offends me about as much as I thought it would. Standard WW “I am one of the awesomest humans on the planet, but all that REALLY matters is my size” bullshit with a side of “I speak for everyone who looks like me”.

    Fuck WW right in the ear.

    1. i was thinking the exact same thing. Oprah is many things but stupid certainly isn’t one of them. I can understand that she might have a blind spot when it comes to weight loss, because she’s in the public eye and her body is talked about constantly; that judgment must be hard to deal with.

      BUT, that is no excuse for her becoming a con artist and actively participating in scamming people out of their money for a product that she knows damn well does not work. I have lost all respect for her. Apparently her greed knows no bounds.

      It’s a pity, because just think of all the good she could do if she promoted size acceptance and/or health at every size. Instead she chooses to be a huckster. Screw her.

  3. I blogged about this yesterday. This commercial is a complete contradiction to what they promoted last summer. How to get happy and love your body. I cancelled my membership. I’m done with diet culture.

  4. Honestly Oprah doing this scares me, innocent people who believed her when she touted incompetents like Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz are going to flock to her. But the worst part is that she never acknowledges her financial stake.

    It’s bad enough that she’s doing more of her horrible medical advice that does not work or is badly done to or for you. But to then not explain that hey by lying to you (whether or not she actually BELIEVES WW is good, studies show it does not work,) she’s making a freaking fortune because you’re listening to her?

    Heck those Colonial Penn Life Insurance commericals were MADE by statute to start saying “Alex Trebek is a PAID spokesperson.” And they do, verbally and in writing on the screen, make it completely obvious he’s doing this for money not cause he got a policy for someone and liked how they handled it.

    Because in the old days they had rules that said you had to use the product, after all the people who were scammed in the 70s and 80s by celebrities touting this and that, commercials had to SAY whether they were paid to do so or actually used the thing.

    Why is it legal for Weight Watchers NOT to visibly and obviously disclose “Oprah is a stakeholder, she owns part of us, she has a financial incentive to tell you this.”

    I just specifically put myself through the advert another time and guess what, no “Results not typical” because she doesn’t PROMISE results, no “I have a stake,” OMG they found a way around having to even tell people by asterisk that it does not WORK. Because she promises absolutely nothing about results, they’re not required to disclaim. OMG I … don’t even. They have just found a way around their court ordered requirement to disclose.

  5. When I first saw the commercials I had the insane urge to smack her with a wet noodle, but now it makes sense. I never knew she owned stock in the WW company, so she’s just looking to make more money by preying on women who will fall for the; ‘Eat our food and get skinny’ line of BS. Hey Oprah, you already have a net worth of three billion dollars, must you make women feel worse about themselves when WW fails them like it has already failed so many others?

  6. Love this babe. It saddens me to think someone like Oprah with such awareness has gone down this path, however it could be a blessing in disguise. After she realises that this too will fail her, I believe she will retract from it…surely her beautiful bold heart will show her that this too doesn’t work and she will land at the truth of the matter…which means people will then follow suite due to her status and influence. Let’s hope x

    Sent from my iPhone


  7. Thank you, Ragen! It’s sad that Oprah is going down this path; I think she’s a good person at heart who has been led astray by her own weight-based insecurity and, of course, her financial motives as a WW stockholder. I’m a living example of “Weight Watchers doesn’t work,” and that experience taught me a great life lesson – I’m happy with myself as I am. 🙂

  8. But… What do you MEAN, Weight Watchers doesn’t work? Didn’t it work all six times you tried it? Isn’t that what everybody says?

    Of course, putting all the weight, plus some, back on was entirely the fault of the lazy, gluttonous, flawed, unforgivable human being, who could not survive on a mere three points a day, to continue to lose weight, because of the fictitious, totally made-up BS excuse that the body goes into “famine mode,” and protects itself by holding onto the fat ever-more closely.

    Nope. Weight Watchers WORKS! It works every time!

    /Sarcasm off.

    What gets me is that she even admits to trying to lose weight again and again and again. And she did lose it, temporarily. Just like a regular human being.

    Face it, Oprah. You may be a one-percenter for finances, but you’re just a plain old 95 percenter when it comes to your body. You can’t buy love, and you can’t buy thin. Not permanently. Not real.

    Also, how many African orphans could you feed with the money you spent on Weight Watchers? Just asking. Because I know that helping African orphans is a thing you care about, Oprah. You said so, on your show.

    Oh, wait. Like I can trust anything you say on your show, anymore…

    I have lost all respect for this woman. Just because a huckster is rich and financially successful doesn’t make her less of a huckster. It just makes her a really good liar.

    1. I use that analogy too: how much money could have gone to a charity or food bank rather than some selfish endeavour?

  9. I have learned to tell doctors “if you really want my weight to go down, authorize me to smoke.” (I only smoked a few years as an undergrad, decades ago.) That tends to help them realign their priorities, esp since smoking has a far worse and more direct correlation with mortality. (Sorry no citation, but I think it was something like The Atlantic, posted recently?)

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