Post 4: Oprah Winfrey and Motherhood – Tammy Lo

In The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women by Susan Douglas and Home Truths: Photography and Motherhood by Susan Bright together displays a dichotomy between colored mothers and white mothers. The media constructs stereotypical images of what a good or bad mother is. In response to these readings about motherhood, I decided to conduct my research on Oprah Winfrey and her founding the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls.

Susan Douglas’s piece provides statistics of more white mothers under welfare than black mothers. Media chooses to manipulate and construct black mothers as the image of welfare. Media represents mothers under welfare as bad mothers and outsiders of society because their intentions of being under welfare is to cheat the government and hardworking citizens’ tax money to support colored mothers for their laziness, drug problems and materialistic objects. The myth of welfare mothers are represented as corrupt women who are not supporting their children instead their children are supporting them.

Susan Bright’s book includes Dorothea Lange’s photograph, “Migrant Mother”, which was an iconic image of the Great Depression. The white mother in “Migrant Mother” was Florence Owens Thompson and despite being poor, she was praised for being “a woman who keeps her family together no matter what”. Her gaze away from her children was made positive and interpreted as if she was looking into or thinking of her children’s future. Media delivers a message that poor colored mothers are not healthy, while poor white mothers are healthy because they are telling a positive story of progression. While women are often deemed weaker in media, colored women or minorities are further looked down upon as the others that need (not want) public assistance.

Oprah Winfrey, the name speaks for her accomplishments as an African American woman in media. While all women are look down on in society and media, Oprah represents the African American community and women. She started from the bottom to rising to the top as a respected and admired female global media leader, philanthropist, and public figure today. She is an extremely influential self-made figure who overcame her shaky past—raped by male relatives, running away, and giving birth at a young age—though the infant died. Oprah is the founder of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Henly-on-Klip, South Africa. Her school of 53 acres opened in January 2007 after 6 years of construction that costs $40 million.

Oprah as a mother figure to girls or as young women call her “Mom Oprah”, she created this boarding school so underprivileged girls with potential to excel will have the opportunity to become bright leaders. Many young South African girls live in a society that is fighting poverty, AIDS, rape, disease and death therefore education is much delayed. South African families with financial problems are left to keep girls working in the field and send boys to school as it is part of their cultural norms to value boys. Oprah is a firm believer that education for girls is the key to many doors and lead to women empowerment, and equality. According to The World Bank, a country’s growth in education for just girls will increase its overall per capita income and the fertility rate drops, which will then lower HIV infection cases and infant mortality. Oprah’s project to provide education to young girls is positive because education is a human right that every child should have access to. This will allow young girls to know what education is and teach future generations the value of education. Education for girls will improve South Africa.

Oprah Winfrey is a successful, strong, black female viewed as a mother figure that worked hard for everything she has and gives back to others. She encourages young girls to become strong, educated, and independent women. Media represents the welfare mother as a black mother who is lazy and neglectful to their children. But the media’s representation of the poor white mother is one that cares for her children’s future. Oprah is an African American that destroys media’s constructed images of motherhood because she never had children, she is definitely not lazy, and she is a recognized philanthropist encouraging children and caring for their future. The positive results and successes of the girls that attended Oprah Winfrey’s academy will show the world the power of education and women.

Oprah Winfrey:

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Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother”:

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Follow Me On Twitter:

@tammyahmeelo

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Citations:

Bright, Susan, and Meredith Michaels. Home Truths: Photography and Motherhood. London: Art Books Publishing Ltd, 2013. Print.

Douglas, Susan, and Meredith Michaels. The Mommy Myth: Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women. New York: Free Press, 2004. Print.

Francis, Enjoli. “Oprah’s Academy for Girls to Hold Its First Graduation.” ABC News (2012): Web. 4 April 2014.

Hanes, Stephanie. “Oprah’s academy: Why educating girls pays off more.” The Christian Science Monitor (2007): 2. Web. 4 April 2014.

“Oprah Winfrey.” achievement. American Academy of Achievement: A Museum of Living History, n.d. Web. 4 April 2014.

Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. Version number. The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation. Web. 4 April 2014.

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