Oprah’s recent shopping experience in Switzerland…
has opened a can of worms. Once again it raises the question of racism. Reaction in the Daily Mail has been quite negative with most comments on the article from August 14th being directed at Ms Winfrey being a little bit precious about her celebrity status in relation to being denied a look at the $38,000 handbag in question, most comments indicated that people didn’t necessarily feel it was a racism issue.
There are a couple of interesting points. Did the sales assistant recognise Oprah? If so and she deemed the handbag too expensive for her then whose purse is it not too expensive for? If she didn’t recognise her then why did the sales assistant not let Oprah look at the bag?
In Western Europe today we are a pretty cosmopolitan continent and yes racism does still exist but make no mistake we are surrounded by isms, age-ism, fat-ism, racism, immigrant-ism. We are divided by cultures, language and religions and a multitude of other factors. In addition there is a variety of tolerances of these factors. A lot of this lies under the surface and people make judgements every day about other people based on what they see and what they believe regardless of their beliefs being right or wrong.
My incorrect assumption about Oprah’s shopping incident
The reason the article caught my eye was that I initially assumed (incorrectly) that the sales assistant had denied Oprah access to the Jennifer Anniston handbag by Marc Ford on the basis she is a curvy lady and therefore couldn’t afford such an item. It never occurred to me that it might be because of Oprah’s skin colour – in fact my reading of the article suggests that it is Oprah’s opinion rather than a stated fact.
Perceptions and opinions
This is why it is interesting; we all have different perceptions and different readings of the same situation. I’m very tuned into the way larger women get treated in shops, I’m probably overly tuned in to this! But it is quite common, larger people do get treated differently, in shops, at work, in relationships and lets be honest it isn’t often different treatment in a positive fashion.
Our overall opinions and perceptions are very heavily influenced by the media and they constantly peddle their take on beauty and “acceptability”. It’s quite wrong and I for one am really pleased that there lots of bloggers out there promoting a different view, one that isn’t driven by main stream media. We are all human and our background, size, colour and creed should not dictate how we are treated.
It’s why we show all our collections on plus size models. Some people don’t like that but I feel that presentation of the clothing we sell should be reflective of and true to the audience we are serving.
Oprah is not wrong, she should have been allowed to view the bag and make her own purchasing decision regardless of price and really we don’t know why she was denied the opportunity, only the shop assistant knows. She’s a celebrity and she mentioned the incident and she now wishes she hadn’t, otherwise we’d never know about it, but I’m sure it happens regularly to many people.
Any customer going into a shop should be made to feel welcome and to view the merchandise for sale, otherwise why does the shop exist? Am I wrong?