While in my dorm room the other night, trying to do my homework, I noticed that my roommate was watching a new TV show called Girlfriend Intervention. I decided to tune in mostly because I was distracted and by the end of the episode I was, to say the least, upset.
The show, airing on Lifetime, follows Tanisha (formerly of Bad Girls Club) and her friends, as they try to help white women who are not doing their best. The show even goes as far as saying, “trapped inside of every white girl is a strong black woman ready to bust out.” I’ll spare you all of having to watch an entire episode and give you a rundown of what happens in the first episode: The black women (I’m assuming the girlfriends) meet a former fly girl, who is now married with kids. Long story short, she has no style, and has lost confidence. Tanisha and her friends examine and help her with designing her house, her clothes, hair, and makeup, and do a little life coaching through salsa dancing. Basically they give her a makeover.
From the beginning of the show I felt uncomfortable. On one hand the gurus on the show are all black women. Even if they are stereotyping, it would be wrong to say that their experiences of being black women aren’t valid. It is not as if I disagree with everything they are saying about being a black woman. If they want to stereotype themselves, I suppose there is nothing technically wrong with that. On the other hand what they are doing is harmful to an entire group of people who categorize themselves as black women.
When a person sees themselves represented on TV or in a movie as an accessory, that is what they become. Not only do they start to think of themselves in that way, as secondary character, others start to see them that way as well. The problem with this is that black women have lives too. Outside of the sassy best friend role that we’re being prompted to play, we have feelings, aspirations, jobs, etc. It pains me that I even have to write this, but we’re people too. It is absolutely ridiculous to be expected to put aside your life in order to live up to some stereotype that was probably only made up to satisfy some type of diversity quota. Black women do not have duties to the general population to perform some theatrical representation of who some people think we are.
This isn’t my main problem with this stereotype. I can handle being called “sassy.” Throughout watching this TV show I kept thinking about the people surrounding me. My mother, my grandmother, my aunts, my cousins, and friends who are all black women. I felt like they were being disrespected. Through TV shows like this, they are being reduced to the sidekick of some middle-aged white woman. While this may be just a TV show to younger generations, to older people, this is just a reminder that black people, and POCs are not people, but a form of entertainment used to get a few cheap laughs. For me it’s a stereotype, to them its the only thing they were perceived as. For that reason this stereotype, even though it does mean technically more representation, is a step back in justice. I suppose everyone has the right to see themselves in whatever light they want to. I would just rather not that light be casted on everyone who fits the description.