White feminists defending The Onion sound an awful lot like male comedians who scoff at criticism of rape jokes.
The implication: these individual white feminists know what anti-black misogyny looks like better than black women do—even that black women should thank the authors of this piece, almost certainly one or more white dudes, for doing the work of our liberation. This is not so different from white male comedians who think they get to decide what is and isn’t sexist or harmful to survivors.
In a just feminism, black women wouldn’t have to deal with attacks from feminists whitesplaining how we fail to understand humor on top of challenging racist, misogynist comedy."
These 3 quotes are from her essay The Other Double Standard: On Humor and Racism in Feminism.
(I wrote about the same topic myself last week: The Predictable Cycle of White Liberal “Humor” At Black Women’s Expense)
Interesting how when one is in a position of POWER and not the butt of the “joke” or the “satire” all empathy and concern is lost. White feminists defend The Onion’s attacks on Black women in the way that White men defend their “right” to make rape jokes attacking “all” women, and since “all” usually means “White and no one else;” those are the times that White feminists stand fiercely against it. Not surprising.
Some of my thoughts about that EPIC season finale of Scandal includes:
I love that “Fitz” was a part of their secret meetings. It was like a reclamation of power for him, versus being powerful yet a puppet of the group.
I cracked up laughing when “Cyrus” made the comparison of mentioning murder in front of the President to mentioning sex in front of the Pope. This is ironic since Presidents engage in “on the books” and “off the books” murder as a matter of imperialist and xenophobic practice in the name of “democracy.” Further, “Fitz” killed “Velma” with his own hands, so when “Cyrus” gets formal and almost annoyingly patriotic, it reeks of humor.
Apparently “Fitz’s” super power is cunnilingus. I ain’t mad. *whistles* *files nails*
I love the confidence “Fitz” has in “Olivia’s” career specifically, and how he distinguished her “fixing” him (what he doesn’t want since he wants to maintain his personal agency) versus being a good fixer in general (what he enjoys seeing her do). This is in STARK contrast to the way “Cyrus” utterly obliterated “James’” confidence regarding his career, in the previous episode.
“Cyrus” is a damn mess in a humorous and tragic way. The phone calls in the ambulance reveal the type of worker and patriot that he is that I cannot relate to and never will. It felt like a defining moment for who his character truly is.
“Olivia’s” plan for “Fitz” and herself that “Fitz” told “Mellie” in a disgustingly harsh way was an incredibly brilliant plan. It’s what viewers could expect of the most brilliant critical thinker on the show; “Olivia.” However, from the moment he said it to “Mellie,” I knew it would never come to pass. Life doesn’t work out that way, so perfectly and logically, especially when it comes to love.
“Cyrus” truly is an awful husband. I want to love him and “James” together but after that emotionally abusive scene last week, where he shattered “James” over his career, I can’t as much anymore. Once someone you love spits on your very vision for your life and your life’s passion? I’m done. (Personally, once a man shitted on my education, career, interests or vision, we never lasted days after that, let alone “forever.”) Their relationship in many ways is heteronormative in its abusiveness where “Cyrus” is the patriarchal and verbally abusive overly dominant partner. I still love “Cyrus” as a character, however. He’s more real than the heart attack he had. I was still glad when “James” came to comfort him in the hospital.
“Jake” ended up being a tricky figure. I felt equal anger and empathy for him as he originally exploited “Olivia” under job orders yet risked his life saving her in a way she could have never imagined for a fate that is unthinkable.
I love how deliciously cruelly “Sally” keeps on getting screwed over. The idea of her character is fascinating; provides the rubric of “right” that there is in the Republican Party. However, her ever getting power from “Fitz’s” hands cuts too close to reality and gives me the creeps.
I started to like “Quinn” more as “Huck’s” apprentice but her jumping in to torture “Billy” just irritated me. To be clear, there’s no reactive sexist reasoning for this; if “Abby” would have done it, I would have dealt better. “Huck” has years of killing experience in the Army and then the CIA; for “Quinn” to catch on so quickly with the annoying rambling thing she does? I was just irritated. And, “Huck” seems to be walking a fine line in his own life, especially after the 752 incident, so his reaction after “Billy” gave up the Cytron card information was sad.
I knew that ultimately it would be “Cyrus” to break up “Fitz” and “Olivia’s” reunion, and by showing the tape of “Olivia” and “Jake” to “Fitz” he again invaded “Olivia’s” sexual privacy. It fascinates that he continually referred to “Fitz” as a child in this episode and their love as a “romance novel.” People do associate passion (in general, for a person, a goal etc.) with youth or even naivety. I’ve always found their love a lot of things, always nuanced and not completely bad or completely good, but naive was not among them. Their level of passion is actually quite adult and brave, considering all that is up against them. But as to be expected, I knew the episode wouldn’t close with them together.
I am happy for “David” restoring his career. He outsmarted and tricked so many people and he didn’t murder or break heavy laws to do so. He did twist arms. But of all the characters, like “Olivia” said, he wears the proverbial white hat. Thus, her physically putting on the White hat that “David” left her was brilliant.
I KNEW that B613 leader “Rowan” was going to be “Olivia’s” father. Knew it. The way he felt he had a right to puppet, interfere or control her life in ways reminiscent of all the men in her life, despite her having enormous power and personal agency, felt like a parent and disturbingly so. He seemed on par with the way “Cyrus” behaves. If he gave “Jake” orders to sleep with “Olivia” then my previous posit regarding her sexual politics and privacy is affirmed yet again.
The way “Olivia” and “Fitz” parted ways and “Fitz” went back to “Mellie” and pathetically placed his head in her lap was truly pathetic. I died laughing at him and felt bad for “Mellie.” I did feel sympathy for him though when at first, she was hesitant to touch his head. All I could think was “if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” But that’s a part of the pull of the show—the fact that he is literally trapped and powerless despite being theoretically the most powerful person on Earth.
The press greeting “Olivia” at the door was priceless. Who spilled the beans on the affair after the fact? “Cyrus” never would. He already helped destroy their reunion. Her father plays games but this game seems less about “Olivia” and more about getting “Fitz” out of office, if he did it. But why? I am sure that “Cyrus” would have informed “Rowan” that he already separated “Olivia” and “Fitz.” (I also like that she was about to go jogging when this occurred; it reminded me of episodes where she swims, which is visual resistance to the idea that Black women refuse to swim or exercise solely because of hair.)
This season has been great. This show has been EPIC. I literally cannot wait until Season 3 in the fall!
Below are my essays on Scandal from the show’s inception, with the most recent first and not including episode-specific notes that I shared after certain episodes. To see everything tagged Scandal, click here.
- Shonda Rhimes and Scandal Remain On Top
- “Mellie” Can Be What “Olivia” Cannot; “Fitz” Can Be What “Mellie” Cannot
- On Scandal: “Olivia Pope,” Sexual Politics and Privacy
- When Scandal Haters and Fans Take It Too Damn Far
- Mamsaphjez? (Scandal and Deception; Mammy, Sapphire, Jezebel?)
- If “Olivia Pope” Of Scandal Were White
- If “President Fitzgerald Grant” Of Scandal Were Black
- Scandal: Exploring The Criticism Of “Olivia” and “Fitz”
- Why The Characters On Scandal Work
- Regarding Criticism On Scandal
- “Sally Langston”
- “Sally/Thomas” and Other Thoughts About Scandal, Season 2, Episode 8
- My Thoughts About Scandal’s 2nd Season (Thus Far…)
I am always highly suspicious of people when they suggest that a Black woman “doesn’t have a personality.” Everyone has a personality. Personality refers to the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character—what makes them different from someone else. Thus, while Black women share sociopolitical characteristics and have common experiences based on our social location, we each have differing personalities (even if characteristics such as MBTI also reveals overlap).
It’s rarely a matter of a particular Black woman not having a personality. It might be one that people do not like (though few know how to critique Black women without using “isms”). It might be one that people do not have enough exposure to in order to make a judgment of. Perhaps that Black woman is an introvert and these people, like most Americans, have a persistent bias towards extroverts over introverts. In fact, many people seem to define “personality” as “extroverted expressions.” Perhaps these people bring out the worst in her, either through their own bigotry or by being assholes, in general. Perhaps these people only associate ONE WORD emotions with the labyrinth of nuance that is personality. How eager are some people to label a Black woman’s entire personality as “bitter.”
Many times when I’ve heard people suggest that a certain Black woman (famous or non-famous) didn’t have a personality, it was because they felt that she did not conform to external constructions of Black womanhood (though they don’t always realize that this is what they are suggesting), either through historically racist controlling images (mammy, Jezebel, Sapphire), stereotypes shaped by White supremacy, racism, sexism and capitalism just as much as misogynoir (welfare queen, welfare mother, Black matriarch, “corporate” Black “maneater”, “evil” single Black woman, “hoochie” or “whore”), or patriarchal labels via binaries (“strong” vs. “angry” or “queen” vs. “bitch”).
I’ve encountered Black men who will literally write a Black woman off as “fake” or “phony” or “boring” or suggest that “she has no personality” if he cannot place her in one of these racist and misogynoirist categories. They reject how White supremacy in the media shapes Black manhood (though many still embrace patriarchal masculinity, which is a construction via White supremacy) but will gladly suggest that all Black women are like reality shows etc. And here’s the thing, for the ones who are argumentative like reality shows, so what? Men don’t argue? I won’t even bother citing the violence and wars that manifest from their arguments. White women don’t argue? They do the same things on their reality shows without being expected to represent “all” White women. The luxury of male privilege and White privilege allows this.
Next time a person decides that a Black woman doesn’t have a personality, I will be interested in knowing if she’s simply an introvert, disinterested in the person making the assessment or expected to be a one-dimensional stereotype and not a person.
I am interested in full human beings. Black women are full human beings. Black women do not have to perform extroversion or be 1-dimensional stereotypes to have personalities.
I just read a GREAT piece in The New York Times called Network TV Is Broken. So How Does Shonda Rhimes Keep Making Hits? by Willa Paskin. She reports that Scandal now gets 8 million viewers per week. It is the number one drama at the 10pm slot on any night, on any network and with the coveted 18-49 year old demographic. It hangs with the network television big dogs like CSI, and gets more viewers than beloved cable shows like Game of Thrones and Mad Men. It’s also the number one show on network TV among Black people.
The piece also contains an interesting test for people to really examine if racism and sexism are shaping their responses to Scandal and to Shonda Rhimes herself:
Try this blind test: A politician and a workaholic have a passionate extramarital affair that endangers their careers and national security. A scheming Washington insider murders an innocent and makes it look like a suicide to further his own career. A person assumes a false identity after a gruesome incident and uses that identity to build a new life. To protect his legacy, a man preemptively murders a former ally once essential to his success.
These are all descriptions of plot points on “Scandal” — but also on “Homeland,” “House of Cards,” “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad,” respectively. “Scandal” may not look or feel like TV’s other prestige dramas, in which (usually male) antiheroes mix it up under the oversight of an (almost always male) auteur who has complex feelings about entertaining his audience. Rhimes feels no such ambivalence.
I really like that Shonda Rhimes has spoken out (more than once, actually) on her resentment of the show being called a “guilty pleasure.” She called such a label “ridiculous” and “super insulting.” I find that women and men embracing this label for shows of interest to women just reveals sexism in our society. What man has ever called anything he watches a “guilty pleasure?” I know men that watch the most ridiculous reality shows and wrestling—which is a soap opera, and do not label the shows this way. The irony of Scandal is it is not woman-centric; it’s human centric. “Olivia” gets to be human too, not just a series of stereotypes. And, as the ratings reveals, men watch Scandal too.
Only two more episodes this season!
I will share a post like this from time to time when I create external content or I am mentioned and it is relevant to what I discuss and share on Gradient Lair. I also have a shoutout tag on my blog to mention my guest articles elsewhere, cross posts or shoutouts from other writers. (You can also view some great feedback from Twitter followers on @GradientLair in my Favorites.)
- Black People and Mental Health Care
- Black woman + Womanist + Humanist + Atheist? Jeah!
- Danny Brown, A Black Male Victim of Sexual Violence Who’s Supposed To Be, “Proud” Of The Attack?
- On Rihanna Pushing Back Against Insults via Social Media
- The Criminalization of Kiera Wilmot (I wrote an essay on Gradient Lair a couple of days later, titled On Kiera Wilmot: When Intellectual Curiosity Is A Crime)
- How To Research & Info On Post-Slavery Oppression of Black Women
- For Harriet gave me and my blog a shoutout in their post 17 Black Women Bloggers To Know in 2013. Yay!
- Jessica Luther (@scATX) gave my article on Brittney Griner a shoutout in her article for The Atlantic titled The WNBA Can Teach Male Athletes About Coming Out and Being Allies.
(In return, I regularly shoutout other critical writers in my Read This Week feature.)
The Daily Beast (via Newsweek) has an article that ranks America’s Best High Schools. My alma mater, Suncoast High School in Florida ranks #9 of the top 2,000 schools in the country! Nine. I was proud and felt crunk for a moment. It has always ranked highly.
They also explained how they did the ranking. Though they included focus on things that I do not care about, such as standardized tests, I will say that my high school experience was exquisite, academically. In fact, I probably learned more there and in graduate school than in undergrad. I had great teachers for AP classes and honors classes (and a few pre-IB ones before I decided to be an IB dropout and instead take AP classes and dual enrollment classes at a local community college) and I always felt academically challenged. I LOVE my high school and I loved my high school years.
Because my school is a magnet, it pulls in high performing kids from extremely wealthy areas, including people who are like…neighbors with Donald Trump. Seriously. Obviously the correlations between economic and racial privilege (though the school is racially diverse, especially compared to neighboring high schools) and higher educational performance in addition to structural and institutional inequality are factors. I got to attend (despite being poor) because I attended a magnet middle school (because I had high grades in elementary school honors and gifted classes) and earned high grades. I got accepted through a process where my records were reviewed and through a lottery. Thus, the school really was diverse in terms of race and income, but intellectually, everyone performed either extremely highly or damn near genius level. (I wasn’t and am not a genius, but some kids there were.)
Thus, while I cheer for my school, I know that so much inequality is involved in what schools perform and what schools do not. I know that the school to prison pipeline is real. In other words, my happiness about this ranking is only transient and ephemeral at best.
I do like that they included a Top 25 Transformative High Schools list for schools that do not have those budgets and do not pull in students used to violin lessons and yachting on the weekends, such as some of my classmates were. (I couldn’t relate.)
I’m still happy about my school though deeply sad and disappointed about the state of education in this country, in general.