Oprah Isn’t Always Right

Traditionally, Catholics give up something for Lent. I work at a Newman Center, so I’m privy to the various sacrifices people make. Most involve something like candy; something that’s somewhat hard to give up and that can be gorged on as soon as Lent is over.

My personal take on Lent is that I like to use it as a time to adapt a behavior that will improve my life and the lives of those around me. Ideally, I learn that behavior over the 47 days of Lent and keep it afterwards (i.e., one year back in college I took up flossing and have stuck with it ever since). I’m doing a few things this year, but the one that’s related to Oprah is that I’m giving up looking at my phone while my car is in motion.

This goes beyond texting while driving (which I rarely do anyway). It also means that I don’t read texts while I’m driving or–here’s the biggie–select a contact to call while the car is moving.

You may think that’s barely a distraction at all. But give it a test run. Try to find a contact while your car is moving. You just took your eyes off the road for a few seconds, didn’t you? (Not to mention the fact that you’re reading this blog while driving.) It’s deceptively dangerous. And I want to stop doing it.

I’m also pledging to stop looking at women as I drive. It’s a bigger problem that you’d think. Do you know what women wear when they jog?! Even in the winter! It’s fantastic.

I saw a woman texting for a good two miles on the road today. Eventually I just let her pass me. Oprah’s big campaign lately is to get people to stop texting while driving. That’s great. The problem is, her solution for it is to tell women to put their phones on their back seat so they don’t even have the option of texting while driving.

So what I expect to see in the near future is a rash of car crashes caused by Oprah viewers who are trying to reach back to their backseat while driving. You know it’s going to happen. A person (well, let’s be honest; an Oprah-demographic woman) is going to hear her phone start to ring, and she’s going to realize that she told her husband to call her after work, and she’s going to reach back to the backseat and WHAM. No more Oprah.

This is my Lenten choice; I don’t mean to impose it upon you. But maybe think about it today when you’re driving. If you think I have a point, text me when you get to a stoplight.


14 Responses to “Oprah Isn’t Always Right”

  1. Lori says:

    Excellent choice for Lent. I’d encourage you and every driver to give up cell phone usage in the car entirely: even talking on a phone with a hands-free device is a significant distraction. (see this NYTimes article and featured series for more).

    The dangers of texting and talking on the phone while driving are a serious as drunk driving. And honestly, I’m inclined to add GPS devices to the list, too. When a driver starts navigating the menu options and screens of their GPS console while driving they’re taking their eyes of the road. It’s not akin to reaching for your coffee cup or changing the radio station; the pauses to use this mini computer are much longer.

  2. Just another "Oprah-demographic woman" says:

    I’d agree that texting while driving is a particularly dangerous road distraction, so I applaud you for resolving to stop doing so. Indeed, though Missouri is not yet among them, nineteen other states and D.C. have prohibited texting while driving. While I suppose that I fall within Oprah’s target female demographic, I haven’t seen her televised campaign on the subject (though apparently you have), but I wouldn’t fault her for calling attention to the dangers borne of texting/driving. In fact, I just read about the no-texting campaign (which targets both men and women) on her website, and I saw no mention of throwing your phone into the backseat as a solution. Perhaps I just missed that part.

    Also, Jamey, I’m not sure you even realize it, but the way you write about women on your blog sometimes comes across as off-color and objectifying. At least this Oprah-demographic woman thinks so.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Oprah-demographic woman:

      My point was that the only people who are going to hear Oprah’s advice about putting your phone in the backseat (aside from people like me who heard about it secondhand) are those who watch Oprah. Who watches Oprah? According to Quantcast, which measures demographics of people who go to Oprah’s website, 70% are women. 69% are 35 or older. 76% are Caucasian. So there’s your Oprah-demographic woman who is considerably more likely to hear about Oprah’s “put your phone in the backseat” campaign than anyone else.

      I try to be careful about not offending, stereotyping, pigeonholing, or objectifying women on this blog. Do I look at women joggers when I drive? Yes (but I’m trying to stop for safety reason). Is that objectifying women? No. Objectifying a woman would be if I said that the ONLY way I look at her–and talk about her–is as a sexual object. Do I really do that? Give me examples. I will totally own up to it if I do that. In my heart I know that’s not how I view women, so if I’m conveying that on the blog somehow, I apologize and I want to fix that. But I need examples to understand.

      • Just another "Oprah-demographic woman" says:

        As I mentioned, I don’t know much about the Oprah campaign, but if I were to malign it on my blog, I probably wouldn’t do so only on second-hand information. From what I could ascertain, I think Oprah’s campaign is really about eliminating the use of cell phones in cars, not merely placing them in a less accessible location.

        As for your representation of women on this blog, I wasn’t referring to the comment about women joggers. Nor was I quibbling over the population that falls within Oprah’s demographic; I realize that women are the majority. But, as one example, you describe in this post the Oprah-demographic woman who will reach into her backseat to field a call/text from her husband. Perhaps it’s just my interpretation, but your portrayal conjures for me an image of a vapid woman who blindly follows Oprah’s advice and who doesn’t have the wherewithal to stop her car before rummaging in the backseat.

        As another example, I recall one post where you mentioned several ways in which women could “make the world a better place.” I believe that one of these “ways” was to wear less make-up. I realize that this comment likely was written with a light-hearted tone, but I find offhand comments like these to be troubling. I’m about to receive my graduate degree, and I’d like to think that women can improve the world in more meaningful ways.

        Again, I realize that these comments likely don’t reflect how you actually feel about women. But, if I were an intentionally single woman (which I am not) looking for an intentionally single man such as yourself, I would find some of these blog posts to be very off-putting.

        • Jamey Stegmaier says:

          Hi, thanks for replying in more detail. Although I completely trusted the second-hand information, I should have confirmed it. I since have–it’s part of Oprah’s “No Phone Zone.” That “zone” is the front part of the car where a phone is within reach.

          I think maybe you misinterpreted what I said about the “vapid” woman. I was merely saying that someone who watched Oprah’s show and heeded her advice might be putting people in danger.

          You know, you have a great point about the “What I Want” post. I never noticed that before. I certainly do think women wear too much makeup, but it has nothing to do with making the world a better place. I really didn’t mean it to come across that way. I’m going to remove it right now, because I can definitely see that being offensive. (See how easy that was?)

          I’m intentionally single, but I don’t use my blog to attract women to me or anything like that. My blog is simply a way to share my thoughts and perspectives and get conversation started so I can learn from people like you. However, I must say, your comment really got under my skin today. It’s frustrating to me when someone publicly and anonymously posts a blanket statement without giving any examples. I don’t really think that’s fair. Maybe I’ve made mistakes on this blog, but I try to be open and honest, and surely you can see that I’m a reasonable guy. I’d love it if you hung around and kept reading and taking part in the conversation, but please consider doing so with what I consider pretty standard rules for constructive blog conversation: https://jameystegmaier.com/2008/11/an-open-letter-to-anonymous-commentors/

          Or just e-mail me directly. I’m happy to take the necessary steps to make my blog a better place for people to interact. Thanks!

  3. Stetson says:

    As someone who observes Lent from a Christian perspective, the point is not necessarily to get rid of what you are giving up, but resist it. For instance, last year my girlfriend gave up facebook. Sure she could have deactivated her account or gotten someone to change her password, but then it’s just impossible for her to take it up. That’s not really giving it up. It’s like saying I’m going to give up shopping, but instead of being discaplined to resist urges to shop, you withdraw all your money from the bank and incenerate it. That would also be very foolish. Sure you wouldn’t be able to shop, but you would have point.
    Also, I agree with you and the whole improvement of life deal.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      I like that perspective on Lent (I should note that I completely respect all different approaches to Lent), and I definitely appreciate the idea of resisting something that is preventing you from living life to the fullest.

      The other thing I’m doing for Lent is I’m going to bed an hour earlier and waking up an hour earlier to write. My usual schedule dictates that I hope to write in the evening, but rarely do, and because I always have it in the back of my head that I want some evenings free to write, I’m much less spontaneous or free to do something unplanned with my evenings. Thus writing in the morning makes me a much more free person in the evening, which not only benefits me, but also those around me.

  4. Ashlyn says:

    That’s a really good idea of what to give up for Lent. I think the trend is for most people is to give up food (sweets or chocolate) or drink (don’t be boozin’!), so it’s nice to hear of someone giving up an actual bad habit (and not a guilty pleasure).

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Exactly! Again, I don’t want to judge anyone for their Lenten choice…but I like my version of it :). And I like sweets, chocolate, and beer too much!

  5. david holloway says:

    this isn’t necessarily on subject, but it reminds me of something….

    mr jamey, why do you ogle women (when you drive)? or used to ogle women….whatever.
    i gave up ogling women a long time ago because i figure–what’s the point? it’s like gawking at the fancy car next to you. it’s not your car, it never will be your car, so why are you staring at it (which is not to discredit the lovely, reliable car you’re in right now)?
    so you see a woman–damn she fine, i own her with my male gaze, you say. is that the end? or am i missing something?

    • Penelope says:

      Probably the same reason women (myself included) do a double take when a hot guy is running down the sidewalk: It’s pleasing to the eye. Nothing more will come of it, but I don’t see any harm in enjoying my physical surroundings, do you?

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      You know, it’s truly out of my control. It’s just instinct. That’s why I need to keep it in check. My eyes will look regardless of what my mind tells them to do. I’ll even crane my neck! It’s bad.

Leave a Reply