Scandal is Just Fine, Thank You (aka Feminists Have Lives Outside of Being Feminists)

I had a little bit of time this afternoon to start playing catch up with Scandal while I was in the bathtub. Safely, and without any risk of electrocution, I'll add. I just finished Breaking Bad last week and I've been in kind of a weird place since then. I'm also heading home to visit my family in rural West Virginia for two weeks. We may not have a Whole Foods, but we do have internet, so I've been trying to save a few shows for when I go home, since I most definitely will not be going out.


I love Scandal. I love Olivia Pope. I love Kerry Washington. I love Shonda Rhimes. Scandal is a show that really captivated me from the beginning. It literally has every single thing I could want in a television show: a badass female protagonist, government and/or spy-related drama, compelling writing and a great storyline, romance and open enemies, friends, and a diverse cast (ethnically, racially and gender-ly) of great characters that I am totally invested in. I don't know if I qualify for hardcore fan status, because I can't usually watch the show in real time, but I sure love the show.

I was Googling something earlier today. I was just curious how old Lisa Kudrow was and what she's been up to since Friends. I was shocked to read this article from the Atlantic, literally titled "Lisa Kudrow is Saving Scandal From Itself." Since the title just goes ahead and says something about what it is (a little White Savior complex) I'll quote some of the best gems from this "article" (Do you ever ask yourself: how do these people get paid to write and I don't?)

It's chock full of casually racist lines like: 

-describing Olivia with Fitz as "a weepy and lovesick invertebrate."

"What’s more, this upstart candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination embodies the kick-ass, uncompromising feminist politico the show has been lacking."

"Josie is the character Liv could have been from the start—had she not entangled herself in a co-dependent relationship with the most powerful man in the world."

And this glowing description of what is basically a new and somewhat minor character on the show: "Josie, however, is an ideal. She is the best parts of Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, and Kirsten Gillibrand amalgamated—from what we’ve seen so far."


Then there's the Time article (written by someone who has like, 1/4 of the Twitter followers that I do)

"Take Olivia Pope on Scandal. Based on the recent season premiere, it appears that Olivia will be spending the rest of this season (and certainly tonight’s episode) trying to fix her own scandal — her affair with the President. For those unfamiliar with this hour-long ABC political thriller, Olivia (played by Kerry Washington) is a former White House communications director who now runs her own crisis-management firm. She can usually solve her clients’ calamities in a single episode; we are told again and again that she is “the best” at what she does. But I expect it will take at least a whole season for Olivia to resolve this situation because when it comes to her beloved Fitz (that’s POTUS to you), Olivia doesn’t make the smartest decisions."

This article is mind-numbingly titled "Scandal, Homeland, and TV's Fake Feminism."

I completely read Scandal as a feminist show, and was stunned to read these articles. Then I remembered that there are far too many people in the world who seem to share the same hobby of wanting to put down every single fucking little thing that Black women do, and I wasn't so surprised anymore. 

Since I'm white, I can't really talk about all the racialized aspects of these articles (implied or actual) because I don't really know what I'm talking about. I can only say that I'm so sick and fucking tired of watching my Black girlfriends have their heroines raked over the coals for their every single action. I'm so tired of watching people pick apart successful, amazing, wonderful Black women that all people, regardless of race or gender, should be looking up to. Michelle Obama can't talk about her amazing love for her daughters without being asked not to talk about being a mom because it's "not feminist" enough. Beyoncé can't rejoice in the love of her marriage without White Feminists(TM) coming for her. Rihanna can't live her own life without patronizing tweets from Ms. Magazine and Olivia Pope can't have a romantic life without people expressing disdain. My (extremely amazing and far more famous/experienced feminist than I) friend Wagatwe said in a text to me (paraphrasing), "People are saying Olivia's not a feminist because she's sleeping with a married man. Josie has major anger management problems, but since she's white it's forgotten." Whoops, there's a little too much truth in that statement! I'm eager to hear her thoughts about these articles. 

As a feminist, I can talk about the number one thing that bothers me when people write off characters as "not feminist" because they are doing certain things that are "not feminist," or even worse "not feminist enough."

Feminists, to the best of my knowledge, are actual fucking human beings. We are real people, who are flawed, just like you, your mother-in-law, and every single person who has ever walked, or will ever walk, the face of this green earth. We are not perfect. There is no such thing as a perfect human being, therefore there is no such thing as a perfect feminist. Do you understand? Do you get now why it's so problematic to lament the lack of a "real feminist heroine"? 

Are we really (ignoring also, all the racial implications of having a Black woman as the heroine of a series and also portrayed as the object of desire by more than one hunky and powerful man) going to say that Olivia Pope is not a strong or real feminist because she's in kind of a fucked-up relationship with weird power dynamics? Is Olivia Pope not supposed to be a role model because she's having the kind of relationship with Fitz that like... all of us have had in our lives? Are we not supposed to look up to Olivia Pope and her badass way of "fixing it" because she happens to be in love with someone, and she happens to express vulnerability, heartbreak, and other complex emotions like shame and confusion as she reflects on her complicated relationship with Fitz?


Are we really going to sit here and do this? Are we really? So, what next?

Are you going to come and tell me that I'm "not a real feminist" because I stayed with the boyfriend who raped me for six months after it happened? Am I a feminist impostor because I didn't press charges, because I didn't tell anyone about my sexual assault for years? Am I not a "real feminist" because I stayed in an abusive relationship for a long time, because I enabled my ex to manipulate and control my entire life? Do I not count because I've made a few poor choices here and there in the course of being alive and being human? Does my feminism become meaningless the minute I make a bad decision in a relationship? Do I get to say that I'm a feminist when I make choices that you don't agree with in my romantic relationships? Do I even get to be a feminist if I occasionally or often make choices that put my relationships above myself and my own self-interests? Where is the line?

I am really interested in learning more about this "fake feminism" and who practices fake feminism. Are there fake people out there, robots, who are practicing fake feminism? I think it's pretty fucking feminist to see what Shonda Rhimes has done with her career. I think it's pretty REAL feminist to have an intelligent and beautiful Black woman as the heroine of a show where she gets to be the independent career woman, the object of desire, the badass fixer, and the vulnerable little girl all in one. (Also: if you want to argue with me about Kerry Washington's incredible acting chops I'll fight you). The entire base of Scandal is feminist, whether it's a show about feminism or not! How belittling is it to refer to these characters' very real and complex emotional, romantic feelings as "one stupid flaw"? 

I'm not a Sally Langston fan. But let's talk about her character. I'm not sure that her views or actions are what I would personally like to call feminist, but isn't it feminist in and of itself that we have enough women on a show that they can actually (GASP) have differing viewpoints about things? What about Mellie Grant? Here we have another complex female character. We see Mellie seethe with rage and we see her scheme and we also see her show concern for Fitz. And Abby! We have another wonderfully written female character who has a lot of issues to overcome relating to her history with an abusive ex. Abby and David Rosen's relationship is one of my favorite on the show. Quinn's character is fascinating to me. As annoying as she is, I really appreciate having another female character on the show who is somewhat desexualized, or non-sexualized. We have been learning far more about Quinn in her friendship with Huck these days. I appreciate this! Sexualization and desexualization are both complex concepts that I don't know if I feel accurately equipped to address in this post. But that's part of the reason why I like Quinn's character. She feels like the little sister, the woman who doesn't automatically inspire sexual fantasies. In a television landscape where women are portrayed with so few lenses, Scandal is completely refreshing. But it's not just the writing that allows this; it's the fact that there are so many women on the show to begin with.

Without Shonda Rhimes, or without Olivia Pope, and Abby, and Quinn, and Mellie, and Sally, we wouldn't even have a point of reference to say that Josie is the "one true feminist hero" that the show needs! We don't even know Josie yet. I have only seen a few episodes with her in them. Do we have to put down the Black heroine of the show to say that we appreciate a new addition to the show? I don't think so.

This got so long, and I'm super tired, but this is basically what I wanted to say:

I'm super tired of the elitist, racist, and prescriptivist policing of what is and what is not feminism. It's rooted in power dynamics that I don't want to engage. We have people out here literally cheering on Miley Cyrus as the new True Musical Feminist Icon while ignoring her blatant racism and cultural cannibalization of Black culture. While we also have people out here saying Michelle Obama isn't feminist enough because she's proud of being a Mom. All of this is fucked. And if you find yourself - especially - as a white person or a man, feeling like it's your place to talk over another woman, especially a woman of color, and tell her what is and what isn't "feminist enough" you are really, surely, truly doing it wrong. 

Our measuring stick for feminism is broken. I don't know that there should be a new one, but I am tired of what seems like constant noise from White Feminists(TM) about what is or isn't "feminist enough." Maybe instead of asking if we're being "real feminists," we should ask ourselves if we're being decent human beings. I think instead of asking if something is "feminist enough" we should inquire if it's lifting up the lives of women, whether or not those women look like us or share our backgrounds and experiences.

My big questions:

How much have we all bought into the current system, where we will openly judge who is feminist and who is not, based almost entirely on how flawed we perceive someone as being?  

Are we all signing onto the concept that people, particularly women, have the ability to become "damaged goods" and as such, cannot be trusted to be part of a movement?

Would we rather accept our sisters as they are, or reject them in favor of women who meet a certain standard?

Do we believe that one's romantic and private lives override one's personal beliefs and public actions?

Is feminism for everybody, or is it only for women who follow a certain set of guidelines?


Just food for thought...........

Love to all my sisters, not just the ones who are perfect, and love to all my #TeamScandal people!!!!!