Friday, August 9, 2013

Qualifying bad behavior is an imperfect science - or, the REAL reason why Oprah wasn't served in Bahnhofstrasse

In my previous post about the saleswoman who (reportedly) refused to show Oprah Winfrey a handbag worth tens of thousands of dollars because the saleswoman didn't think Winfrey could afford it, I noted that Winfrey and others have attributed the snub to racism. Whether that was what motivated the saleswoman, many people have assumed it. And Heidi Moore not only accused that racism was involved, but that other things were involved:

No doubt, the details of the incident will be pored over. It has already been attributed to racism, and rightfully so: Oprah's incident tripped a wire that worries many women of color: to be judged negatively and immediately by their race, to be treated as second-class citizens, to be pointed to the things that are not the best, but considered merely "good enough" for you. The best and most expensive, the implication goes, is saved for those with the obvious status markers: well-groomed, accompanied by a wealthy-looking man, and usually, not coincidentally, very thin.

This is what Oprah, and most other women, rarely talk about: the struggle for respect faced by women of color is shared, at times, with another group: women of size, another category to which Oprah belongs.

Perhaps Moore is right, but I argue that it's extremely speculative to conclude that size-ism motivated the Swiss saleswoman. Or that the other things did.

Yes, Oprah is black, and there is certainly a history of discrimination against black people. Now I don't know the ins and outs of Swiss racism, but since everyone tells me that Europeans are so much better than we backward Americans, I am forced to conclude that racism is not a factor.

Yes, Oprah's waist does not look like Barbie's waist, and again there is a history of discrimination against people because of size. However, Bahnhofstrasse caters to rich people, who are commonly called "fat cats." If someone goes shopping on Bahnhofstrasse, I suspect the salespeople aren't really going to care about their guts, but are really going to care about their wallets.

You may have noticed that Heidi Moore also threw another thing in there - Oprah apparently entered the shop alone, and was not accompanied by a male figure. Now, at the risk of sounding like a sexist ugly American, I have to ask - how many men accompany women in handbag shopping excursions? In fact, I bet that $40,000 handbag stores get more sales when the men are not present. Oprah doesn't need Stedman (or whoever) standing over her shoulder, yelling "You're going to pay HOW MUCH for a purse?"

Heidi Moore and others have tried to deduce the reasons why Oprah Winfrey was denied service. However, Moore and almost everyone else who is pontificating on this topic are members, in one way or another, of the Mass Media Empire, governed by the Illuminati from their secret underground bunker below Brussels. And as such, the Mass Media Empire figures are suppressing the real reasons why Winfrey was denied service.

Chief among them is another very identifiable fact about Oprah - not that she is black, or that she is unmarried, or that she is non-anorexic.

I hope you're sitting down for this.

Oprah Winfrey is...AN AMERICAN.

Now consider how the Europeans have thought about Americans for the past decade or so. First, they were all upset about George W. Bush, who was promoting the Patriot Act and war in Afghanistan and Iraq and just generally being an American cowboy like his philosophical uncle Ronald Reagan.

It appeared that Barack Obama was going to change things and make the United States play nice with the rest of the world, but then he up and kills Osama Bin Laden and spies on everyone in the entire world and just generally acts like an American cowboy like his philosophical uncle Lyndon Johnson.

So consider this. You're an Italian-speaking saleswoman in Zurich (the country with many languages), and this person comes in, with an American accent, speaking English. And I bet that the person was acting like an ugly American, throwing her money around and looking at this and that in a big rush.

Hello. I'm going to my friend Tina's wedding and would like to see that handbag, please.

Now that's probably what Oprah said. I look at that statement and find nothing wrong with it. People from other cultures look at that statement and see something entirely different.

In many cultures, you don't just launch into business. Perhaps you go to dinner, meet the family, talk about philosophy, drink coffee together, or whatever. Even in less formal situations, you at least exchange some pleasantries.

But Americans such as Oprah and myself don't necessarily do that. "I want that purse," we'd say. (Or she'd say it, anyway.)

As some of you know, I work in a company that is a subsidiary of a French company, and there has a sprinkling of French nationals working throughout the company. When I went on a business trip to another of our facilities in the U.S., at least two of the French nationals commented on my tendency to eat lunch quickly and be done with it. It's enough to make you realize that when you're in Roman, you'd be better off doing as the Romans do.

And when you're being served by an Italian-speaking woman, take your time.
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