OK…. this is part random musings and part rant/vent.
Here I am on a Sunday afternoon catching up on the last episode of Scandal. To say that the “drama” and the proverbial “sh*t” is hitting the fan would be an understatement. If you are a fellow “gladiator” you know what I am talking about. For those of you who are not, here is the shortest synopsis of what the show is about and what I am referring to:
Scandal is the ABC network’s political drama loosely based on the life of Washington, DC- based “fixer,” Judy Smith that was created by the Shonda Rhimes (think Grey’s Anatomy). The series stars Kerry Washington as the Smith-like character, Olivia Pope, who runs a “crisis management” firm (think about some of the most salacious political scandals in recent times—she’s the one type that helps them disappear from the headlines and our memories). The show centers around Pope’s eponymous firm and its staff as well as the staff of the White House under fictions President Fitzgerald Grant III (played by Tony Goldwyn).
The key point you need to know about the show is that Olivia is having an affair with the married President of the United States (this didn’t happen to Ms. Smith) and the First Lady knows about it and of course is being driven crazy by this fact. It has been going on for years (the show alludes to the long standing romance with flashbacks to the days of Fitz’s gubernatorial and subsequent presidential campaigns). Well here’s what is going on this season—the cat’s been let out of the bag and after past insinuations by many of the President’s political foes, the whole world has confirmation that Olivia is sleeping with Fitz and get this…. she admitted it on TV! I know when that happened, everyone was “clutching their pearls,” gasping and whatever else one does in shock when the news broke.
So of course, as with any scandal, the news programs decided to give us some insight on who the real Olivia Pope was (remember Monica Lewinsky?). Well as Olivia is sitting at home watching all these different programs delve into her past as an African American woman who “done good” by any means necessary (he father is in prison for supposedly embezzling money to fund a lavish lifestyle for him and his daughter when she was younger – but that is just a “cover”)—the pull out all kinds of people from her past including her 3rd grade teacher (smdh).
So as we watched Olivia watching all of this, one of the reporters uttered a phrase that had me hitting pause and question what I just heard….” Is she really this good or just arrogant?” The reporter was referring to her success as DC’s top fixer and the academic accolades and other achievements she racked up over the years. Now I know it is a TV show and that this is fake and all, but it really made me stop and think. Why did a question like that really have to be asked? Couldn’t she really be that good to really achieve all the success she had professionally? What did she have to be considered arrogant? Is it because she saw herself as amazing and deserving of that title? And before all of you jump on me about the whole sleeping with a married man (and yes, the President) thing, I am talking that out of the equation for now because I am going to relate it to real life now. Sadly, it seems that when one refers to a woman of color (particularly a Black woman) who is successful, there is always some caveat that comes with it. Oh it’s great that she is successful but she’s a bitch or she’s conceited or she’s arrogant or thinks too much of herself. It is never…oh wow her accomplishments are so impressive or inspiring or great for ALL women.
Over the years I have had this conversation with women of all races and creeds in my circle and it always is something that left us either confused or angry. My white friends would first think I was being sensitive until they started listening more to what was being said. My friends of color (Asian, Black and Latina) would just shake their heads because it had become par for the course. What do I mean? Let’s take First Lady Michelle Obama for example. Over the years we have heard her called a bitch, arrogant, standoffish, “angry” and all kinds of stuff. Why is that? I am not saying one has to love or even like her, but can she just have accomplishments noted without adding admonitions about people’s perception of her as a person? And for the record, I actually say this about all women at the end of the day.
In my own life, I have had a lot of people later admit to me that I am totally different than what they surmised me to be like given my background and education level. One said that I am actually nice and not bitchy at all (how does one take that as a compliment?). I try not to get too worked up about it but things like this have happened on more than one occasion. Just last week, I was told that I must think I am entitled because I didn’t grow up in the projects and went to Wellesley. (Really?????????)
I mean seriously…why is it wrong for me to think I am worthy of success and recognition (and for the record I really don’t go looking for any) of said success? Is it wrong to think that I deserve the best things in life like my male and non-Black counterparts? Maybe I should blame it on my Caribbean upbringing that valued hard work and striving for the top; or maybe that as a woman of color I’ve had to put in twice as much work to be considered a fraction (can’t even say half) as good as others in my field; or maybe it’s just because I am a Virgo—that’s what I say when anyone points out that I am an “overachiever.” I wonder If I looked more like what many consider the American ideal of beauty (blonde hair, blue eyes and a size 2) would you say the same things to me about being arrogant or would that just come with the territory of who I was perceived to be? I have theories about the answer to this question but I am just going to end my post here so that I can get back to watching my “stories.”
Until next time love bugs.
*** NB: All images from the television show Scandal are courtesy of ABC.