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Shots in the dark

4 February 2014

Though I’ve not managed to do much long-form blogging of late, I’ve gotten into the habit of making short, quick comments on quotes which I feel exemplify certain social issues which I’m interested in and posting them to my tumblr page. I recently shared some links to a few and I thought I would share links to a couple more here.

My thoughts on Barack Obama’s comments on women’s pay inequality from his State of the Union Address. I don’t go into that here but this comment is also very white-centric. It is white women who make 77 cents on the dollar, not women of colour, disabled women, queer and trans women, or even men of colour (especially Native American men).

My thoughts on a quote, ostensibly by Oprah Winfrey, espousing respectability politics for women and people of colour.

I am also currently working on a piece for the blog on historical geography and one for my Medium page on Macklemore and the cult of the ally, which I look forward to posting. In the mean time I hope you enjoy these two short comments on contemporary racial issues.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 4 February 2014 7:38 pm

    Matthew,
    Your critique of Oprah is right on the mark, I think, and you break it down very aptly. To take it even further (and, in keeping with your general thesis), the critique might more accurately be addressed not to “Oprah herself” (if we can even apprehend Oprah outside of her iconic existence!), but—in a manner of speaking—-the “Oprah-ization” of everything.

    There’s a book a friend of mine recommended (I haven’t read it yet, but I hope to get to it when I have the time): “The Age of Oprah: Cultural Icon for the Neoliberal Era” by Janice Peck (2008).

    The description reads:

    “Over the last two decades Oprah Winfrey’s journey has taken her from talk show queen to – as Time Magazine has asserted – “one of the most important figures in popular culture.” Through her talk show, magazine, website, seminars, charity work, and public appearances, her influence in the social, economic, and political arenas of American life is considerable and until now, largely unexamined. In The Age of Oprah, media scholar and journalist Janice Peck traces Winfrey’s growing cultural impact and illustrates the fascinating parallels between her road to fame and fortune and the political-economic rise of neoliberalism in this country. While seeking to understand Oprah’s ascent to near iconic status that she enjoys today, Peck’s book provides a fascinating window into the intersection of American politics and culture over the past quarter century.”

    It’s very difficult to know how to move away from this ingrained habit of presenting everything as an *individual* problem. Our cultural myths consistently undergird these tales of ordinary (or extraordinary) people who, in isolation from social contexts and apparently operating entirely on their own stream, either bring about their own demise, or almost singlehandedly surmount incalculable odds in order to attain the American (Canadian? everywhere?) dream.

    I wonder if this isn’t the basic structure of allegory as we currently know it. By celebrating extraordinary individuals, do we (collectively) disempower ourselves? What’s the role of the “role model”?

    (As for Obama and the notion of progress…… well, more on that later!)

    I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on Macklemore and the idea of allyhood.

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