Sunday, March 15, 2009
Oprah Show On Dating Violence
Oprah's Thursday episode she asked Tyra Banks to be her co-host as they discussed dating violence amongst teens. Is it being petty to point out that with such a serious discussion someone really should have talked to Tyra about her how distracting her hair (too many blonde highlights with the wig) and makeup (she looked orange with hot pink lips and too much brown eye shadow) looked? How can I take a woman seriously who is so invested in her appearance - not from being excellent but from such glaring insecurity (at least that's what I sense)? She's an attractive woman but seems to operate from such patriarchal domination that even when she's giving to others through her talk show she's continually seeking out attention for herself as some form of validation.
It undermines everything she does. The contrast was even more apparent (again, to me) with her sitting next to Oprah. This is the same Oprah who lamented about her weight failures to ad nauseum but I have to say wearing her hair blown out instead of the curly mane she usually dons was very flattering. Also she's so comfortable with what she does and has a certain level of gravitas that lends an air of authenticity and authority that Tyra just doesn't have. I suppose because they have different demographics it doesn't matter as much. Teens would probably prefer a young(er) host for talk show though I'd imagine with maturity would outgrow her format.
Yet Tyra doesn't do the best impersonation of herself. I watched 3/4 of an episode of RuPaul's Drag Race to see what the buzz was all about. Though I will not support his show because of his support for that idiot Charles Knipp's lunacy I saw how he seemed to capture the essence of impersonating Tyra's decision-making segments from the panel sessions on ANTM. He out-Tyra'd the original. Which is what drag queens are trying to do in essence, personify women.
Yes Oprah & Tyra discussed Rihanna and Chris Brown but there is a much larger problem at stake for millions of young women involved in relationships that can become deadly. As Oprah stated it was a teachable moment. I thought she was extremely fair in her presentation by mentioning Brown's chaotic childhood, etc. It was coming very close to Black male protectionism at the expense of the Black woman who was in fact the injured party. Here's the thing: some of us have more obstacles to overcome than others. That's not fair, but life isn't fair. Brown is in a position to get help though we have yet to see any indication that he wants to take responsibility for his temper, his poor coping skills, his decision to hit a person physically weaker, his remorse or his change in behavior. Until then he doesn't deserve any sympathy. I also doubt that if he had beat and raped a woman that Oprah would have been so empathetic though I know plenty of other women, Black women who'd be ready to make excuses (shades of R Kelly).
Tyra talked about how she had had both stars on her show and how Rihanna was just a girl who sang for a living, albeit she's one of the top stars at the moment. She was insisting that we shouldn't make role models out of celebrities. Well isn't that the entire premise of her show, to feature celebs that people imitate and emulate and want to see? Isn't this why they brand themselves now and forge "strategic" partnerships - and get endorsements? If we thought of them as just that guy or gal next door why would we care about what clothes they wear or who they hang out with or buy entertainment/gossip magazines and view websites featuring them? There's money being made from the promotion of their "lifestyle" and to deny that is just...ridiculous! If they are going to take the benefits that come from that scrutiny and admiration then they can't be in control of the downside either. Now I'm not talking about invading privacy, sifting through their garbage, following kids or causing traffic accidents.
So Oprah had to give us real-life examples of how certain males use dominance tactics to control females and how unprepared they are to deal with it. One young girl was murdered by her boyfriend and she was just 17. Her friends told Oprah they had no idea she'd been in an abusive relationship. There's so much secrecy involved and manipulation. Another young woman talked about how hard it was to leave even though the relationship was destructive because you fall into a pattern of abuse. I can imagine how difficult it would be when you are very young when older women in their 20's, 30's and beyond struggle with it as well.
This is why we must teach women to put themselves first, but in a patriarchal society deference to men is the norm and it's a reflex even. You have to make conscious choices to see it and step aside for proper evaluation. Tyra talked about an man she dated who was emotionally abusive and she mentioned low self-esteem. Can we just finally put the nail in the coffin of victim language?
I think part of the self-help movement con is all of this discussion about how fragile and vulnerable we are. I read "Co-dependent No More" when I was in high school. I was trying to understand numerous family dynamics. Yes the author made a lot of valid points but I think we can get caught up in the evaluation and never get to solutions. I am all for AA, Al-Anon, therapy, whatever it takes we must reach out for help with our problems and our pain. I now believe we don't need to know every nook and cranny of our psyche or every single motivation.
Self-esteem is not a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It's about making good choices. Though it's difficult to see our way in the dark, we can take small steps towards the light. That's how we rebuild our self-esteem. We are already powerful even though we may feel our weakest. We cannot place validation that we've regained our footing through the approval of others exclusively because the very people closest to us may in fact want to undermine our efforts. Some ministers are more interested in using us for our free time and money than helping us grow spiritually. Some therapists are crack-pots and just as sexist and racist as the people that have caused us grief. So we have to be careful even in our vulnerability. I know that makes any improvement that much more difficult but it's for our own good to triple-check these sources.
As women we must ask ourselves if what we're doing for others benefits us or if we think we'll be rewarded by them later? If that's the case it may never happen and then what? You can't get that time back. Love isn't supposed to hurt: physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually or you name it. We must have a set of boundaries and standards that are non-negotiable. Dating violence doesn't happen with every scenario: these boys and men are choosing women they know they can control. It's not an accident or a mistake. If it has happened to you it's because you were targeted. Now the question becomes will you continue to put up with it after the male perpetrator has revealed his true nature to you? If you were in a burning house would you try to work with the fire or make excuses for its flames? Would you stay or would you see all the destruction around you and just flee - no questions asked?
Do you want to save yourself or perish?
There's a post-show segment at Oprah's site you can watch for more discussion.