Tracey Barnett: Oprah's got the whole world in her arms - and hips

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Uh-oh - Oprah is fat again and we're all screwed.

If there is a true gauge for the entire Western world's psychological pulse it is Oprah Winfrey's body mass index. The New York Post declared: "Bloated, depressed - as O goes, so goes the nation."

Baring a photo of her skinny self next to her 200-pound (91kg) body on the cover of her magazine recently, Oprah said: "I'm so embarrassed. All the money and all the fame and all the attention and the glamorous life and the success doesn't mean one thing if you can't control your own being."

Let me attempt a translation here. One of the most powerful, self-made media forces in America, a woman whose presidential endorsement arguably helped sway millions of voters away from a female candidate to a black one, a woman who merely mentions a book recommendation on air and the author makes bestseller lists worldwide, a generous benefactor to the needy - this woman believes that her success doesn't mean anything unless her body is the right size?

Girl, I feel your pain. I am the sum total of how I look too. I've always felt my bodacious teeth have contributed to readers insisting my Perspective columns encapsulate the early thoughts of Bugs Bunny.

In the public arena, men's body parts don't seem to get separated from the person who inhabits them with the same useless, often nasty, examination.

Then again, maybe not. Why, just the other day I was chatting to Vladimir Putin who had his shirt off last summer to reveal his man boobs - and he feels a total failure too.

It must be written in some imaginary contract for women in the public eye that when you are diced into physical pieces on a regular basis, you start to believe your parts are the value of your whole.

Rest assured, there are winners - sort of.

My favourite headline of last week: "Michelle Obama's arms inspire at Presidential address."

The Huffington Post then graciously published a five-picture photo spread featuring shots of the First Lady's well-toned upper appendages applauding, then waving, then hugging and, yes, even the political juggernaut, photo #5 - clapping.

I'm no fool. When I ticked that ballot box for Barack, I knew what kind of wifely strengths I was committing to by extension.

I said to myself, do I want Cindy McCain's cleavage or Michelle Obama's biceps to run my country? The voters have spoken. America always goes for being well armed.

The First Lady is now on the cover of Vogue and People magazines in sleeveless dresses and thus the world is a better place, goes the straight-faced media spew.

Kate Holmquist, of the Irish Times, wrote: "Pleasing her man by appearing feminine and frail is not a look that Michelle Obama pursues or would even consider. Yet, her arms aren't too muscular; they're within the boundaries of acceptable female strength.

"Her arms make her beautiful, rather than overly powerful, reassuring us that, as a woman, Michelle is stalwart and loyal to the leader of the Western world and not wanting to undermine or replace him."

Obviously, Holmquist is overdue to return to the Constellation Fistula quite soon. I wish her good travels, because perhaps on her nebula someone's figured out why the size of this Harvard lawyer's hips impacts on womankind too.

Erin Aubry Kaplan, of Salon, certainly felt compelled to do so.

"As America fretted about Obama's exoticism and he sought to calm the waters with speeches about unity and common experience, Michelle's body was sending a different message: To hell with biracialism! Compromise, bipartisanship? Don't think so.

"Here was one clear signifier of blackness that couldn't be tamed, muted or otherwise made invisible. The one clear predictor of success that the pundits, despite all their fancy maps, charts and holograms, missed completely. Michelle's butt."

How could I have missed it? I'm so much more of an Achilles tendon kind of girl. What better way to define a woman: Dissect her into lamb shanks.

Kaplan's booty rejoice was probably right around the time that Hillary Clinton's peep of cleavage on a hot Washington afternoon morphed into symbolism for her alleged renewed womanhood or when Helen Clark decided to don a hot pink blazer for her last debate, obviously giving voters a softer, pinko-Labour look that was too little, too late.

I can't remember the last 25 outfits John Key wore. Or Nicholas Sarkozy, Barack Obama or Tiger Woods. The only discussions we've had about our Prime Minister's arms were when one of his got broken.

Pull it in, female vivisectionists. Otherwise, I'm afraid Oprah will start trying to decipher what the size of Putin's hooters has done to decimate the Russian economy.

The First Lady was wondering if we could start analysing him below the waist too. I live in hope.

- NZ Herald

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