A Ratchet Reality

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Thought For The Day:

“Our self image, strongly held, essentially determines what we become.”

Maxwell Maltz

Question For the Day:

How does reality television shape your view of women?

As we speak, I’m knee deep into an episode of “Married to Medicine” on Bravo.  I swore this show off a few weeks ago, but I’ve had trouble finding my muse since getting back from my recent vacation.   I knew a couple of months ago that I wanted to write about reality television and it’s impact on women, particularly Black women, after an unfortunate conversation I had with a fellow professional.  Not too long ago, I found myself in a debate with a White male who was trying to convince me that “eight out of ten Black women were angry.”  I won’t get into the details of the conversation because frankly it was embarrassing (for him) to know that someone who calls themselves a counseling professional could  1) be so culturally incompetent, and 2) be egotistical enough to believe he could break down the inner workings of Black women to a Black woman.   (Must be one of Rachel Dolezal’s kinfolk)  Now of course, I was shutting him down at nearly every turn but when he revealed that his exposure to reality television was partly what he based his opinion on, it kind of felt like he told me a button on my shirt had popped and I was suddenly uncomfortable and bare. I went from confidently protesting to wanting to put my shades on and throw my finger up like you do in church when you want to make a quick exit before alter call.

Although, I realize I am nothing like any of the women on these shows, it still feels like I have to make excuses for them and try to offer some type of rational explanation as to why so many of us get on television and act a fool.  Though I frankly can’t provide a reasonable explanation, I’m still offended when people can’t seem to understand the obvious which is that the women on these shows are characters in essence, and are surely playing it up to the camera to make a name for themselves and their show.  However, I take for granted the fact that my well-rounded perspective on Black women also accounts for reserved and conservative Black women like my mother; sweet, gracious and gentle women like my grandmother; strict, organized professionals like members of the church I attend; community-minded and socially conscious women like members of my sorority (shout out to my Zetas); and highly articulate and intellectually proficient women that I meet frequently as an educated professional, myself included.  My personal experience easily explains that the women on shows like “The Real Housewives of ATL,” “Blood, Sweat, and Heels,” “Cutting it in the ATL” and “Hollywood Divas” to name just a few of a laundry list, are being “extra” for the cameras and are not a true representation of me or any of the Black women I personally know.  Yet, what if I were someone looking from the outside in who was curious about Black women and wanted to metaphorically peek over the fence by turning on a reality show?  What would some of my favorite shows say to them if there was no personal experience to balance it?  For them, these shows actually become “reality,” which is frightening to consider.

All of this has caused me to take an honest look at what I’m watching and why.  I haven’t been tuning in to much of anything except Nickelodeon and Disney Channel while vacationing with my kids, so now that I’m back,  I decided to refresh my angst by tuning in to this episode of “Married to Medicine” just to get my blood boiling enough to write again, and baby, it did not disappoint.  There was glass thrown, water splashed in someone’s face, accusations of a lesbian affair, criminal charges filed, mention of the proverbial illegitimate baby, and a generous portion of that nose-to-nose verbal sparring that always makes me wonder whose breath smells worse.  It was a hot mess, trust.

Now of all the reality shows, you would think that a show like “Married to Medicine” would be one of the least offensive.  For those who don’t watch it, it’s a show that is supposed to be about the real life experiences of Black female physicians or women who are married to prominent physicians in Atlanta.  Sounds refreshing, right?  I mean if you have to choose between cracked out strippers fighting over D list rappers and producers, plastic surgery addicts obsessing over how many handbags they can manipulate married men out of, or middle aged women “losing” sex tapes that mysteriously get “leaked” onto adult video store shelves everywhere, then watching how educated, successful and family-oriented Black women live appears to be the responsible choice. Well….. it wasn’t long into this series that I realized that “Married to Medicine” is not just as bad as all the other shows, but actually much worse.  It’s not the level of foolery that makes it worse, because the water slinging, weave pulling, and gratuitous uses of the word “bitch” are pretty standard.  In my opinion, it’s the false pretense of wanting to show the “positive” aspects of Black womanhood that make it’s even more egregious.  We’re talking about professional Black women who have achieved the status of physician.  In American culture, this has always represented the epitome of a solid education, wealth, and unquestioned achievement.  Yet on “Married to Medicine” these accomplished women are reduced to catty, face-clawing bullies who get in each other’s faces and threaten to lay one another out over each and every offense.  When it’s okay to portray African American doctors in this light and no one challenges it, surely the image of Black womanhood is on life support.  If the media is willing to conclude that Black women, no matter their intelligence, success, beauty, wealth or accomplishments are all capable of shanking you at a moment’s notice if you look at them the wrong way, then society might have just written us off.

Reality shows have basically concluded that the Black woman is an uncontrollable wild beast who apparently needs a leash and a muzzle to prevent vicious attacks on innocent people who may be in our line of fire.  A show like “Married to Medicine” is, in my opinion, a blatant attempt to completely annihilate the image of the Black female by making the unspoken claim that Black women as a whole are morally corrupt, tactless, emotionally unbalanced, jealous, competitive, and ruled by an uncontrolled rage that has no regard for whether you have a medical plaque on your wall or a wad of singles in your thong.  At least, when you watch a show like “Love and Hip Hop” you expect a certain amount of buffoonery, but when I get the same thing from a show about doctors, Black womanhood has been thrown under the bus.

The truth of who we are is that we are as diverse as any other group.  We are not all angry, and even if we were, it would largely be justified considering our history.  Yet, what you will most often get from Black women (if you care to meet enough in real life to notice) is a capacity to love, nurture, worship God, give, serve, laugh, and enjoy life like few others.  The majority of Black women have never let hatred, bitterness, and anger rule their lives and have instead redirected these feelings by pouring energy into their education, careers, children and neighborhoods which is why we are very often considered the backbone of our community.  If you are allowing a reality television show to define an entire group for you then you need to put down the remote and get out more.  Stereotyping others because you haven’t taken the time to investigate for yourself is just plain lazy.  In addition, I hope that Black women who view these shows and actually model their lives after what they see will also check themselves and quickly.  It’s one thing to not know any better, but quite another to know the truth of who you are, but choose to forget.  Ignoring the spiritual identity that so many women before you died to protect, is as ridiculous as doctors’ wives fist-fighting in evening gowns.  At least, the women on shows like “Married to Medicine” are getting a check for their foolishness.  Selling your sisters out for free, is the most “ratchet” reality of all.

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