Shaunie O’Neal and Sheree Whitfield have complained that there’s a reality show double standard, but does that matter?
As African-American women, we have always taken pride in our strength and intelligence. We have fought long and hard to establish our good name and image, and we celebrate role models like Michelle Obama, Condoleezza Rice and Oprah Winfrey who exemplify the model behavior we admire.
Unfortunately, TV programs like “Basketball Wives” and “Real Housewives of Atlanta” threaten to snatch those great images away from Black women when they portray us jumping over tables to fight, backstabbing frenemies and referring to each other as bitches.
Sheree recently suggested it’s not a racial issue but rather a gender issue, comparing the violence on “RHOA” to shows such as “Mob Wives” and “Jersey Shore.” But arguing that women of other races carry on just as badly doesn’t excuse our poor behavior.
As Black women, our television time is already short. We don’t have nearly as much exposure on TV as our White counterparts, so every second on air counts. Shows like “Mob Wives” or “Real Housewives of New Jersey” account for a fraction of the images portrayed, while the majority of programming offers balanced, positive depictions of White women. There is less harm done when one or two programs showcase some of their bad behavior.
To the contrary, Black women are appearing less in scripted shows and more on reality shows. Among them, there are few reality series that uplift our African-American women and show how hard we work every day. “Tia & Tamera” and “Braxton Family Values” stand out as more positive TV fare, but since these series feature celebrities, some consider them the exceptions.
Shaunie, star and executive producer of “Basketball Wives,” has said many times that “BBW” isn’t what she intended, and that she is irked by the double standard; however, stooping to levels of cattiness and violence just for ratings is not the answer.
Bottom line is, it isn’t right for women of any race to be on national TV behaving badly. Just because ‘they’ are doing it, doesn’t mean ‘we’ should join in.
Black women are a double minority, forced to work twice as hard to get the same respect and credit as our counterparts of other races. It makes no sense at all for us to help destroy our public image for fleeting celebrity.
Many of the reality stars on “RHOA” and “Basketball Wives” are mothers. Is this the example they want passed down to their daughters? I don’t think so. Let’s rise to the occasion and solve this dilemma rather than comparing our issues to those of others. We’ve worked too hard to move backward for entertainment purposes.
Deidre Mathis is a graduate student at Bowie State University. Deidre enjoys traveling, writing, and anything involving public relations and communications. She is currently writing a travel-focused book due out in 2013. She resides in Greenbelt, MD.