Is Oprah.com is a source of agency for women

Posted: July 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

http://www.oprah.com/blogs/index.html

I chose the article “There’s O place like Home: searching for community on Oprah.com to address this week topic on “Women’s and girl’s social networks, communities and friendships: Commercial and Alternative spaces”.  The main argument in the article is about  how spaces for community are constructed on Oprah.com and how women’s participation online plays an important role in that construction of  virtual communities. Oprah’s show has really influenced many women’s lives since past decade. Many women seek to this show for knowledge in topics like spirituality, relationships, social issues, celebrity’s lives, health issues, social work and much more. Oprah Winfrey’s company created the Oprah.com website to provide resources and interactive content relating to her shows, magazines, book club, and public charity.  Oprah.com first started in 1997 and the popularity continued to grow as more women started to use the Internet because the content of the website is gendered and is highly targeted to women. The chat rooms on the website allow immediate feedback and responses in short time. Some members disclose their personal information which they might have been feeling less comfortable in the physical presence of others. Moreover, some people felt more comfortable and expected more support from the peers of online community on cyberspace rather than sharing with their friends and family in real life. The women, who posted messages around the time when this article was written in 2002, were among the minority of the population who had access to the internet either through home or through their work website. The participation of women in online community looks into women’s issues, promote equality and give voice to those who were invisible and inaudible. Oprah.com is an example of commodification and the way in which cyberspace is used to market things for economic profit. Website is full of pop-up advertisements which are of women’s interest and that captivates their attention.

If we look at the Oprah’s website now ten years after this article was written, there are major changes in the website. The structure of website has changed and there are new categories like “Life Lift Oprah Blog” which starts everyday with “Life lift quote of the day” and people share their stories about things or people who have changed or influenced their life.  The Blog has given opportunity to the website users to write their view and raise their voice in a better way as compared to chat rooms. Because in chat rooms, only people who were online had access to say their opinions but now anyone can come to this blog and express their feelings whenever they want. Recent studies show that Oprah.com has more than 70 million page views and more than six million users per month, and receives approximately 20,000 e-mails each week. The users of the website have increased dramatically since the time when this website started. The reason behind is that a lot of women have access to the internet now as compared to ten years ago. Women are showing active participation in blogging. Now the question arises that Oprah.com has become so popular over past decades whether because of women’s increasing participation in internet has increased in terms of commodification or the website is really providing agency and virtual community to people in larger extent as compared to last ten years?

Read more:

http://www.oprah.com/blogs/index.html

-Simran

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Comments
  1. Mundeep Dhaliwal says:

    There is no doubt that Oprah Winfrey is a highly successful and influential woman, with successful television talk shows, magazines, books, and websites. By looking at her website in particular called “O Place,” found at Oprah.com, you can tell that she impacts the lives of many women in particular as there are various posts on her website from interested fans and viewers. As Simran explained above, some members in the chat rooms of the website disclose their personal information, something they may not feel comfortable doing with their close family and friends per se. I feel that this may be because through a computer screen they are not immediately judged by their age, race, disability/ability, gender or other factors but are seen or judged rather by what they have to say; members are not able to judge the book by its cover but what is said inside. Therefore, such resources as Oprah Winfrey’s website may empower women and give them a sense of acceptance and community as they may feel disconnected or segregated otherwise. Such women may feel like they are given a voice and are able to speak openly where they may be isolated or deemed invisible in other circumstances. In the article titled There’s ‘O Place’ like Home: Searching for Community on Oprah.com, Dietrich explains that an electronic community of women becomes a symbolic space which defines itself through a particular textualized culture. There are no geographical constraints and therefore people are able to participate from where ever they are located. However, another thought that had come to mind while reading the article and blog post was that maybe such participants views were skewed in the direction or influenced by this ‘community’ of women. Just as many individuals of society are influenced by what is presented in the media, they may feel like there is a ‘right’ way of thinking or behaving through what is on the website or what people post on the website which could in fact disempower such individuals. For instance, there are various advertisements of commodities on Oprah Winfrey’s website that influence individuals to purchase certain items such as her book, clothes, jewelry and so on. This reminds me of some of Oprah Winfrey’s talk show episodes where she gives away some of her ‘favourite things.’ This in turn attracted viewers such as myself, to want these specific items which was great for their economic profit. Thus, such websites may set the tone for what is hip and trendy in current day society, something that many viewers may not be able to afford or access and will therefore feel inferior to others. Therefore, I still find it rather questionable if this website helps women overall in feeling like they have support and agency or actually feeling subordinate to others for their inability to purchase certain things or keep up with current or ‘trendy’ ways of living. Although it may in fact help many women, it may also be no different than other discourses in influencing members of society to live and view things in a certain way.

  2. I believe one of the things that as made Oprah and her brand successful is her ability to break boundaries as a Black woman. The world is always looking for the next “rags to riches” story and who better than Oprah. She has been able to relate with women all over the world in some way or another and that in itself is powerful. It is not a secret that Oprah’s advertisement is directed towards women. What is surprising is the way she has been able to convince women to watch her shows, buy and read her magazines, join book clubs, and show them they can achieve anything with hard work and perseverance. In my opinion, Oprah has created a community that allows women the buoyancy to divulge personal information with a person they have never met and most likely never will which is why consumerism is a big deal.
    Simran mentions how Oprah’s blog as allowed website users the opportunity to raise their voice and comment on issues that they would not have without the Oprah Platform. I am inclined to agree because the cyber world allows for anonymity, which in turn gives people the opportunity to express themselves without getting ostracized from their community. When an avenue is created for people to express themselves, then more people will gravitate towards it in order to have something to believe in. In other words, Oprah gives women opportunities that other companies fail to comprehend or achieve.

    Moyo A.

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