Sunday, May 2, 2010

Are Women More Gullible Than Men?

I got your attention with that title, did I not? Do you really think I am going to foray into possibly dangerous and politically incorrect territory? Well, yes, I am. I could have titled this post many different things, but I thought the most generalized and possibly most specious would be the most appropriate.

I was browsing through the Amazon Kindle bookstore (and yes, I also read my Kindle books on my iPhone) and looking up Fletch books. I was quite pleased to find that nearly all of the books in the series are now available for immediate download. It will cost me a hundred dollars but I will not have to buy another book for some time. But then I saw several books touted to be from Oprah’s Book Club. This got me shaking my head. And I shake my head not at Oprah’s Book Club, but at the obvious commercialism that is not even attempted to be thinly veiled.

If you have ever watched Oprah or watch regularly, you are most likely a woman. The men that watch Oprah mostly watch it because their wives/girlfriends watch. (I will retain some political correctness here, at least.) Now let us start with OBC. How many of these female viewers have gone out and bought a book touted on OPC? I would guess at least 90%. How many of the male viewers have gone out an bought a book touted on OPC? Less than 3%, for sure. Why is that? It is not because Oprah picks chick lit, as many of the books are rather disturbing. It is because the women identify with Oprah on that level and trust her judgment in books. The men do not.

Now that is all fine and dandy. Oprah promotes reading and well written books. If she did an algebra segment on her show I am sure we would have more women scientists. But she does not do an algebra segment, and for very good reason. Algebra is not part of Oprah. It is not really a part of many people, but just an example I am using. Oprah is about reading. And she uses her show which is popular to tell her mostly female viewers what she really liked reading recently. The viewers (supposedly) identify with her and go out and read the same books. Subsequently the authors make a lot more money and it is instant success with movie deals if Oprah talks about your book on her show. That does not bother me.

What bothers me is when Oprah begins advertising things on her show that not only prove her ignorance on the matter, but exposes the gullibility of her audience, which incidentally, is mostly female. Let us take two examples. The first is not so blatant. It is Oprah’s enthusiastic backing of technology. I remember an episode of Oprah’s Favorite Things where one of the “favorite” things was a Sony Vaio laptop. And she rattled off a few specs of the laptop on her show. It was completely ludicrous, as though she had any idea what those spec meant and that she did any research into computers before settling on that particular Sony Vaio model. And yet, there is was, as one of her “favorite” things that year, next to an expensive bathrobe made by hand by natives in Peru. At least there was a very good chance she actually wore those bathrobes.

Also on another “favorite things” episode was a pair of washer and dryer. If it were anyone other than Oprah I might have believed the endorsement. But we are talking about someone who stated on television that she has her bed sheets changed at least every other day. I am pretty sure she is not the one washing those sheets. Yet she has a “favorite” washer and dryer. It only demonstrates the commercialism of her show because people are there to get free stuff. And if you are lucky enough to be at that favorite show taping, you hit the mother lode.

Her most recent antic is her no texting while driving campaign. In fact, she has sprung it on unsuspecting guests, who sign the petition out of sheer awkwardness. You might say that it is a good cause. Who should be texting while driving? It is dangerous. Do you know what is even more dangerous and still responsible for far more motor vehicle accidents? DRINKING while driving. But why would Oprah want to promote that? It has already been done to death by MADD, DADD, SADD, and whatever other acronyms you can think up. And it is not even about the cause. If there was someone standing outside the grocery store asking everyone walking in to sign a petition to save the wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico because of the BP oil spill, I will guarantee that less than half the people walking by give their signature.

I know it makes use as a society look bad, but the counterargument is to ask why you do not donate to all the charities? Or at least one for each cause? And if you had a million dollars why would you not? The answer is simple. You cannot allocate your resources (which for celebrities include their name) everywhere. You have to choose what is most important to you. That is why Oprah has to surprise her guests with the petition. What star can risk the bad publicity of turning down a petition for a good cause on Oprah? And yet we do it all the time when charities call us at home and send us flyers in the mail. It is Oprah’s way of using her popularity and poor unthinking followers (which, coincidentally, are mostly women, I say again) to further her own agenda.

What agenda could she possibly have with this no texting while driving campaign? Other that self aggrandizement I am not really sure. She may be the first to declare that she never texts while driving. And do you know who else never texts while driving? People comatose in the intensive care unit because they DO NOT DRIVE. Oprah may have a license but I doubt she drives anymore than she is researching laptops on the web. I could just as easily start a petition about not using plastic bags when grocery shopping, and then ask my wife do all the shopping. Perhaps I can get syllogistic fallacy to work for me as well,