My cousin posts on Facebook:
To which I reply:
“I’m watching that show right now!! I know I shouldn’t be, but it’s so hard not to click on the next episode and see rich women dissolve into dysfunction.”
Why can’t I turn it off?! Well, you can get into the voyeurism of American culture and debate it for days. It would explain why we have “reality television” at all. But this new breed of “damaged black woman fodder,” is an intense genre that I feel really conflicted about.
Here are just a few:
- Basketball Wives
- Love and Hip Hop 2 (and now Atlanta)
- Real Housewives of Atlanta
These black and brown women seem to have it together. They look really elegant, they have money, they’re married to men who provide for them. . . what on Earth could go WRONG?? Well as usual, no one is happy. There is a lot of back-biting gossip that tears people apart, commercial breaks and then a spectacular fight!
Some will say that people want to see black women show out. That perhaps it’s in our nature to “act a fool” and we will readily preform it. I suppose your question might be, how is this effecting you and me?
Well, that’s a good question. If this is what the rest of the world expects from women of color in America, I have to work extra hard to assure whites that I won’t “pop off” at the slightest annoyance. Now isn’t that a lot of work for me as an average black woman?
This idea of being an Ambassador for All Black Woman Kind is not new. I have to assure people that I’m not like the small percentage of women they see on television. I’m not at all that angry, I haven’t been in that many fights, so on and so forth.
Now you might ask: Is that really your responsibility? Do you really care what people think of you?
Also a good question I wish it weren’t my responsibility and I wish I didn’t care what other people think of me. But stereotypes follow you where ever you go and determine much of your life without you even realizing it.
Stereotypes will follow you around a department store and make sure you’re not stealing. Stereotypes will refuse your bank loan requests. Stereotypes will be less helpful on the telephone when you’re seeking assistance. We’ve all been there.
What’s the solution? Where are those television shows that represent women of color as relatively normal humans? Where are the “reality shows” that show black women just shopping for groceries and going to college? Well, I guess none of those shows really exist for white women either. So is there a problem with representing women in general?
A movie that I must suggest is Miss-Representation, it might answer some questions. It’s a documentary that illustrates how the media shapes and controls the image of women, black or white. From the housewives to politicians, we’re all screwed. They delve into the “video girl” topic a little but you’d have to watch another documentary to fully understand the complexities of how black women are portrayed in the media.
The plight of black women in the media is especially complex because of the historical constraints black women live in. In America, we’re still struggling with the hyper-sexual and savage idea of the black woman.
I told my husband how badly I wanted to be on The Real World, when I was younger. He laughed at the idea. “You? On The Real World? You wouldn’t get picked.”
I was a little indignant to say the least. “I’m interesting!”
He shook his head: “Not by America’s standards. You’re not loud, threatening or over-sexed. You’re not an actress. You’re not the black woman they’re looking for.”
I was a little deflated but my question answered. We watch and hope that stereotypes can be solidified.
Where is my Average Black Woman Show??