Negative Depictions of Black Power Women: Enough is Enough

Is diversifying character plots a bit too much to ask?

(Image: File)

Last night, BET officially brought back the much-anticipated show (at least among myself and my circle of mostly power women) “Being Mary Jane.”

The show featured the single newscaster and family-focused woman many of us fell in love with in the show’s 2-hour mini-movie preview, played by Gabrielle Union, who is known for her roles as that confident, comedic and well-put-together sistergirlfriend and romantic lead.

In the mini-movie, Mary Jane was like many of us: professional, hard-working and super supportive in helping family, but she had major fails and flops in love. She was vulnerable, real, relatable and triumphant in that she went through the mess and came out on top, choosing to love herself and remain single versus dealing with nonsense from a man.

But the regression twists that came with this first official episode had me screaming and grimacing on behalf of all power women of color.

At the very least I can say, I was highly disappointed.

I can get past the show’s opening suicide.

I can also get past the fact that Mary Jane is still involved with an emotionally unavailable ex and a married man.

I can even get past the scene where the wife confronts Mary Jane, in her place of employment, asking lewd questions about Mary Jane’s rendezvous with her husband. (Or how Mary Jane actually sat there and entertained the degrading exchange.)

What I am a little more than tiffed about is this:

  • The consistent, seemingly on-trend, saturation of negative TV depictions of power women of color, who are so weak and irresponsible with matters of the heart and self-respect
  • How these depictions just, yet again, add to that age-old stereotype that black women in general are objects not of a man’s highest devotion and respect, but only worthy of lust and love’s table scraps

I’ve had enough.

Stop it with the same ol’ woe-is-me, I’m-about-my-business-but-I’m-a-hot-self-loathing-ball-breaking-mess-in-love depictions of black power women.

True, there are women in real life who carry on affairs with married men—no matter status, education or lifestyle. There are women who confront mistresses. All of us make mistakes when it comes to love.

I’m not afraid to admit I’m an avid fan of TV—from documentaries to news to reality TV to animation— and a good Real Housewives or Love & Hip-Hop episode or two has been my guilty pleasure for many years. Many of us watched and reveled at “Scandal,” as powerhouse “fixer” Olivia Pope spent her nights sneaking away to her presidential — and married—lover, all while heading one of the most influential and resourceful political and public relations teams in the country.

Some love it. Some hate it. I still have mixed feelings about it, just like I have mixed feelings about power women all over the world who can’t seem to apply the same tenacity, confidence and discipline in love as they do in their business lives.

I miss the days of Living Single‘s Kadijah (played by Queen Latifah), a single, yet confident magazine publisher, along with her friends, Regine (who knew her job title?); Synclaire (actress/comedian/wife); Max (lawyer); Kyle Barker (debonaire stock broker); and Overton (husband/handyman).

Let’s add characters like Girlfriend‘s Joan (lawyer); Maya (author/office assistant); Lynn (again, who knew her job title?); and Toni (real estate entrepreneur).

Let’s add more mothers like Claire from “The Cosby Show,Moesha‘s Dee, or Jay from “My Wife and Kids.”

All of these characters, families and friends had their hot-mess-real-life-not-so-glamorous moments, but they provided more options to choose from in the depiction of black power women in America.

In life, it’s the same. Not all power women of color are abrasive, save-the-world, chip-on-the-shoulder, can’t-find-a-good-man, train wrecks. But lately, popular TV will have one believing that. (Tasha Mack, anyone?)

I still have love for the creators and backers of “Being Mary Jane,” and I’d like to give the show a chance to evolve in characters and plot lines, but while doing that I am in dire deep-down-in-the-gut need for more mainstream diversity in the depictions of black power women that have nothing to do with toxic habits in love.

Did you watch BET’s Being Mary Jane? What were your thoughts? #Soundoff and follow me on Twitter @JPHazelwood.

33 Responses to Negative Depictions of Black Power Women: Enough is Enough

  1. Pingback: Negative Depictions of Black Power Women: Enough is Enough – HONEY

  2. Professor JT™ says:

    Here Were My Thoughts That I put on Facebook Tuesday Night! Great Article By The Way!

    Scandal (ABC), Being Mary Jane (BET), The Have & The Have Nots (OWN)…all Black Woman flinging themselves onto Married Men! THIS IS NOT ENTERTAINMENT…THIS IS A PATHETIC CRY FOR HELP! We as a people shouldn’t allow our Black Women to be represented in such a Ridiculous & Shameful looking Fashion! Black Women are Queens, Mothers, Sisters, Women of God & of Life! Black Women are more than just some Married Man’s Sidepiece! What are we teaching young Black Women about waiting on a Man when they’re being shown on Television in this way? What happened to the Claire Huxtable’s of Television? Get This Filth Off Of Television & lets see our Black Women Represented BETTER TODAY!

  3. KimB212 says:

    Shut up! You people complain about Reality TV depicting women of color and now a fictional character is created by an African-American creator and you still complaining! Geesh it is a drama and usually in dramatic TV series there are plots. Relax and be critical of ratchet tv like Love and Hip Hop

  4. Dee says:

    I agree with Professor JT. Even though, I’m sure not all people think black women really live and act this way. But you would be surprised how many actually do think this way, (example: The mad, angry, Black woman. Where do you think this description started?). It only gives false ammunition and perceived knowledge of the black woman that is just not true. I enjoyed the show, (Being Mary Jane), last night but a few things that happened, I felt would have gone down totally different. But I guess it’s all for ratings!

  5. Meagan Krystina says:

    Well, I can’t comment on the article really because I couldn’t read the whole thing. I just couldn’t get PAST the fact that the author kept saying “I can get pass…” at the beginning. It’s PAST, not PASS. That’s just crazy.

  6. Dswo says:

    I can’t get past the pass. I’m sorry but I got lost in the grammatical errors and misspellings.

  7. ted says:

    i don’t watch these type of shows or normally engage these sorts of things. But I do tire of hearing how men are the root of the problems women have with relationships and love. It would be so refreshing to see shows where black women actually look inward at how they relate to men and understand what they want from themselves and their target partners. How do they communicate about the fears of loneliness, hurt, and vulnerability that both sexes have and how does that play into the decisions they make? Show me some of that! Show me a real conversation about a woman coming to grips with her biological clock and how that impacts her interaction with men. Show me real discussions about how women use sex as bait and men use resources in the same way.
    Show me times when the “bad boy” doesn’t get the girl… Show me “liberated” women that own their sexuality and are not afraid of stereotypes. Show me black power women that don’t look down on “regular” black men.
    Black power women are still women. Sometimes i wish they would act like it.

    BTW – the side piece has saved many a marriage. When you are in the desert, sometimes dirty water can save your life.

    That market can easily be taken away by women. There is nothing that the side piece has that the main dish doesn’t…

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  20. Cali says:

    I am glad I am not the only one who has recognized the stereotypical roles of “the side piece/jump off” that black women have been getting as of late on television. It appears as though it’s difficult for Hollywood to give leading roles to black women as wives on television shows. Rather their simply portrayed as hoes not worthy of marriage. I really wanted to like Being Mary Jane. However, I felt like yet again (making reference to Scandal) their is a beautiful, successful, black women playing the side piece. This probably would not have bothered me so much if there were not so few leading black women on TV shows today. Come on Hollywood do better! Gone are the days of Aunt Viv (Fresh Prince), Harriet (Family Matters), and Clare (The Cosby’s). It appears that hollywood only want us portrayed black women promiscuous and desperate.

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