The debate on Black women and how they are represented–or rather misrepresented–on reality television is one that is old and tired, yet continues to be the topic of discussion as networks continue to crank out shows that do less uplifting and more stereotyping.
On any given Sunday or Monday night you’re sure to see beautiful, yet flawed women of color bickering over trivial drama, cat fighting over men and perpetuating the far too common “mean girl” persona.
After nearly a decade of low-brow style reality television shows from “Flavor of Love” to “Love & Hip-Hop,” we’ve seen the plight of the Black woman one too many times. Rather than being celebrated for her strength, beauty and resilience, the Black woman continues to be reduced to sassy catch phrases and petty indignation. Though non-Black women tend to exhibit similar behavior on the small screen, the historicalness of Black women and their bottom-of-totem-pole positioning makes it all the more troublesome.
It’s because of this public outcry against the newly premiered “Sorority Sisters” seems to be spreading like wildfire, maybe more than any of its reality predecessors. Delving into the traditionally sacred realm of Black sorority Greek life has struck a nerve for many who are infuriated that one of the last few respectable institutions in the Black community could be critically stained by the reality television reputation.
But when such shows are executive produced by fellow Black women, it leaves a soberingly sour taste in the mouths of many. Knowing the plight of the Black woman and how she is perceived by the outside world, many expect women like Mona Scott-Young (“Sorority Sisters,” “Love & Hip-Hop”) and Shauni O’Neal (“Basketball Wives”) to take better care of the images of Black women they supposedly have control over.
So why is it that time after time it appears the Black women charged with the responsibility of accurately and fairly displaying images of fellow Black women are just as, if not more, culpable to the issue at hand?
To O’Neal and Scott-Young’s credit, after growing criticisms of how their shows represented women of color, both of their production companies made conscious efforts to reduce the level of violence shown on television. Vicious brawls are noticeably altered down to a few seconds, leaving viewers to use their imagination as to the violence that obviously occurred.
But a few quick edits and PSA’s about how they do not condone violence doesn’t exactly solve the larger issue at hand. The very fact that so much violence continues to persist, edited or not, reveals that imaging and censoring are too different things. When women of a particular breed are continuously casted to fit an obvious recurring theme for the sake of ratings, editing is nothing short of a quick fixer upper to a very complex issue.
The damage done to the reputation of Black women cannot be patched up with a figurative band-aid. It will take true and honest reflection about why such images continue to exist and who’s responsible for its survival.