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Oprah’s Gigantic, Thoughtless and Borderline Dangerous Instagram Post

Updated: Jan 24, 2020

I’m not sure if y’all caught Oprah’s recent post on Instagram promoting her current 2020 Vision Tour (in partnership with Weight Watchers, now touting themselves as WW, Weight Watchers Reimagined, a wellness brand. Also, #dietculturesucks), specifically her interview with Amy Schumer that happened mid-January.

The purpose of the tour is to bring wellness-focused conversations to people across America. Wellness-focused conversations and Oprah is advertising this specific conversation by celebrating binge-drinking, preemptively cheers-ing her Charlotte audience while inviting them to say hello to happy hour, which is extra problematic as all of the events on Oprah’s tour are scheduled for 9am local time. I can imagine it now: Oprah walks on-stage and in her traditional, generous spirit bellows:

And YOU get a giant glass of wine!

And YOU get a giant glass of wine!

And YOU get a giant glass of wine!

When I first saw this post, once I got past my rage, I literally tripped over the innumerable incongruencies of the whole thing. First off, Oprah has partnered with a “wellness” brand for this tour. She is also promoting these conversations as wellness-focused. Ethanol (aka poison aka what everyone who drinks alcohol is consuming copious amounts of) is, in fact, the polar opposite of wellness. Ethanol is poisonous when consumed by humans.

And I know, I know. You’re probably thinking to yourself: “Oprah was making a funny joke! Obviously, she’s not actually encouraging people (women) to binge-drink out of wine glasses that are large enough to hold an entire bottle of wine! It’s a joke, Amy! Lighten up!”

For those of you who find this kind of thing funny, I ask you this: would this feel equally as funny and harmless if Oprah was slamming heroin or snorting a rail of cocaine? Does that seem like a ludicrous comparison? If you answered yes to that question, let’s take a moment to explore that.

Why does the constant barrage of subtle and not-so-subtle targeted alcohol marketing and messaging not feel problematic when we are literally drowning in widespread alcohol #addiction? Alcohol is regulated by the government but so are cigarettes and that doesn’t make either of them healthy for us.

When it comes to #alcohol, it accounts for more deaths than all drugs combined, by almost 3 times and is considered the most harmful drug of all. I know that we have been brainwashed into thinking that we need alcohol for all the things - celebration, relaxation, connection, enjoyment, sex, conversation, socializing, etc. - but I challenge you to question the root of this messaging, who benefits from it (hint: it's not you) and if these beliefs and assumptions actually hold true in your life. Alcohol is literally killing us slowly but we seem to still hold onto certain beliefs about it to allow us to continue to drink in carefree ways, without actually examining how dangerous it really is for us.

In a recent New York Times piece entitled “Alcohol Deaths Have Risen Sharply, Particularly Among Women”, the article outlines some staggering statistics coming out of a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) report on death certificates in the United States. One of the most shocking pieces of information from that report was that the number of alcohol-related deaths amongst women had increased by 85% from 1999 to 2017. Eighty five percent.

In raw numbers, 18,072 women died from alcohol in 2017, according to death certificates, compared with 7,662 in 1999. This is a considerable increase. What’s also important to note is that the number of deaths related to alcohol is likely higher because death certificates may not always capture that alcohol was the root cause of the death. Looking at numbers like this, it’s hard to then view Oprah’s poorly timed and not-at-all-well-thought-out Instagram post as harmless and hilarious.

The takeaway here is this: women are already bombarded with implicit, insidious messages telling us to drink all the time and the absolute last thing we need is a powerful, influential women like Oprah (whose audience is likely 95% female followers) making light of drinking and subconsciously encouraging us to drink, under the guise of a wellness event no-less! This messaging is confusing, damaging and dangerous and I strongly urge Oprah (cause we know she'll be reading this) to critically consider how messaging like this can be received, the impact it may have and why she felt compelled to make a joke like this in the first place.

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