Oprah is amazing. Her empire is life-affirming, empowering for women and most importantly does not condescend to her audience. Feministing’s recurring column entitled “Not Oprah’s Book Club” is great and all, but do they need to be so derisive of Oprah? What exactly is Feministing trying to distance themselves from?

As I pointed out in my hate-mail to Jonathan Franzen (one of Pop Feminist’s “Best Of”), Oprah’s book club consistently features challenging and enduring works of literature. If we assume her audience consists of middle-aged women, probably mothers, some of whom I’d imagine are stay at home or part time workers, we’re talking about a demographic consistently patronized to in advertising and media. A demographic that is certainly not assumed to be a likely audience for the work of Faulkner, Marquez, Steinbeck and more.

Look at the “Summer of Faulkner” page. It’s remarkable that so mainstream a figure as Oprah throws her weight behind such high-level literature, and in spite of a lifetime of insult and discouragement, women are all aboard the Oprah-train to self-improvement and fulfillment. See a list of past book-club selections here.

Courtney Martin, author of “Not Oprah’s Book Club” recently “admitted” to liking O Magazine. Why does she frame this as somehow embarrassing? It is the single most high-quality women’s magazine on the racks today. Courtney writes a list of ideal content in a women’s rag:

“What would your dream magazine contain? Mine:
Lots of personal essays by really smart, funny women
Reviews of memoir and novels, indy movies and music
Profiles of social entrepreneurs, feminists, great thinkers
Cutting edge science that features legitimate peer-reviewed studies on health, psychology, and the environment
Op-eds where women take different points of view on complicated issues
Photo spreads featuring women with diverse body types wearing gorgeous, original, affordable clothing
Those awesome spreads where a magazine takes an issue–like the wedding industry–and gives all kinds of fascinating facts and figures (my favorite version of this is in Mother Jones)”

What she’s describing is the usual content of O Magazine, which she is loathe to endorse without a disclaimer. Her commenters were equally pained to associate with this high-quality publication:

“I recently picked up O magazine (I am soo not the target demo), and I have to say, embarrassing as it is, it was the best woman’s magazine I’ve read in awhile.”


I don’t know how to read this other than as misogyny and possibly classism and agism. The Feministing community clamors to sing the praises of Bitch and Bust Magazine, both of which, while being branded for young, urban, college grads, are inferior on all counts to O.

Based on the content of Oprah’s magazine, book club, program and empire in general, I can’t for the life of me find evidence that the dismissal or belittling of Oprah’s brand has anything to do with its merits. It’s evident that what the Feministing community finds objectionable is Oprah’s demographic (which they are sooo not). In this, Feministing conspires in the trivialization of women and mothers who don’t have an elite diploma under their belt.

This isn’t feminist. Please advise.

Long live Oprah. Cheers to her book club members for challenging stereotypes and perusing for rich cultural fulfillment in spite of the intellectuals’ sneers.

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