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02/04/2004

It's not exactly a good magazine

Move over, jackass sisters-in-law. You've been unceremoniously demoted. Now there's someone infertile women despise more: Oprah Winfrey.

An article about the manifold dangers of fertility drugs appeared in the January issue of O magazine. Poorly researched, deeply sensationalistic, and irresponsibly alarmist, the article is exactly what you don't want your mother to read if you've jacked yourself up on gonadotropins. It's a worthless piece of frantic muckraking expressly intended to scare women, particularly women already made vulnerable by the stresses of infertility.

In that respect, it's unforgivable, and if Oprah Winfrey had a cock it would need a good old-fashioned slappin'. On Friday. In Italy.

But should we expect anything different?

Oprah's magazine has immense reach and she herself has enormous influence (and enormous diamond earrings, but that's not important right now). In the best of all possible worlds, she'd use those powers for unalloyed good instead of highly purified intramuscular evil. But her disapproval of ART has been well established. Just like any lesser immoderate loudmouth, she's using every outlet available to her to promote her position. O's not a medical journal or a news magazine. (Sleuth that I am, the cover photo tipped me off.) It's an inch-thick glossy devoted to perfume samples and so-called service journalism, which is as prone to slant as any other kind, and probably more so.

I think it's a crying damn shame that women will read that article and be frightened (and, on a more harrowing note, that our mothers will call us, scared out of their collective maternal gourd, begging us not to get accidentally impregnated by a rogue doctor). But what might be a greater shame is that many women will rely solely on the good offices of Barbara Seaman instead of, you know, talking to someone who actually knows his or her way around a Fallopian tube, or reading something more intellectually rigorous than a feel-good femmey stroke book you can buy at the checkout stand.

Aren't we smarter than that? I know we're smarter than that.

When O gets its first Pulitzer nomination, let me know. Until then, I want to believe that women can be trusted to make informed decisions about our own health care, to give no undue weight to incompetent "reporting" when it rears its misshapen head, and to turn to O for nothing more important the latest scoop on the astonishing, newsworthy metamorphosis of Madonna.

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