Yesterday I published my response to Oprah’s Weight Watchers commercial. To paraphrase, I said that being an overweight woman does not make Oprah an authority on any overweight woman other than herself. I said that her story was not my story, and told my own story, of what is inside THIS overweight woman (and that I prefer the term “fat,” for the record).
Some of you might be wondering why I care what Oprah says about me anyway. (And yes, she was talking about me. When she said “inside every overweight woman is a woman she knows she can be,” she was talking about all overweight women, singularly).
I don’t care as much on behalf of my present self. As I have made clear, I know who I am, and stories about me that are not true don’t matter. But no one person is the center of the universe. Here is why I care about what Oprah says about “every overweight woman.”
I care about Oprah telling lies to any woman who has ever felt insecure about her body weight. Oprah has affirmed that insecurity by telling her that it is “inside every overweight woman.”
I care about Oprah telling lies about “every overweight woman” to friends and family members of fat women. These friends and family members might believe Oprah Winfrey about the fat person being not being able to fully live, “buried” under their weight, instead of really trying to understand their friend/family member’s individual experience.
I care about children hearing these lies about “every overweight woman.” I worry that fat children will believe they are doomed to feeling less than fully alive if they remain fat. I worry that children who aren’t fat will live in fear of becoming fat, because Oprah has given them yet another cultural message that fat people just don’t live full lives the way other people do. I worry that all children might resort to extreme measures that compromise their health to avoid fatness. I worry that parents will bring fear of food into their homes, all out of love, to try and help their kids escape a life in which they cannot fully live if they are “buried” under excess weight, instead of showing their kids how they can fully enjoy life unconditionally.
I care about Oprah telling lies to the overweight women who DO feel the same way she does about being “buried” by excess weight. By telling these women that “every overweight woman” experiences the same thing, she is denying them the knowledge that they do have options other than living a “buried” existence. How I wish I was aware that I had other options for the first 33 years of my life! And how grateful I am now to know that I DO have other options, and they are amazing, and they include living my life fully and loving myself NOW, and they have nothing to do with Weight Watchers.
I fully respect Oprah’s (and anyone else’s) right to use Weight Watchers, and to find value in Weight Watchers. I do not support Oprah telling lies about “every overweight woman” in order to sell Weight Watchers. To do so is not only dishonest, it is damaging, as it perpetuates and spreads the very beliefs that plague Ms. Winfrey herself.
And that surely isn’t doing Weight Watchers any harm.