Why the On-Screen Portrayal of Black Women Matters
I am not a member of a sorority and I have no sorority aspirations. I am, however, standing in agreement with those who are boycotting VH1 and the show “Sorority Sisters. I have heard the outcry of hypocrisy from non-sorority members. They want to know why now is the degradation of Black women such a major concern. They question where was this strong, concerted effort to shut down negative reality TV shows that came before “Sorority Sisters.” Moreover, these women are crying foul and claiming that these same protestors have no problem hailing “Scandal” and Shonda Rhimes as the Second Coming and bowing down at the stilettos and wine glass of the home-wrecking mistress Olivia Pope. These non-BGLO members want to know what is the difference between Rhimes and Mona Scott Young. The answer is- there is none. There is no difference between the two and the argument that “Scandal” is scripted television and “Sorority Sisters” is a reality TV show is flimsy at best.
Whether it is scripted, reality, or the news, the media and television have a way of shaping perceptions of groups. If the only thing that society witnesses is a picture of Black women behaving badly, many are going to believe that is the reality. It is irrelevant from which medium comes this belief. When someone is perceived as violent, uneducated, immoral, and violent, that is often the way they are treated. The implication of the power of television to influence social issues, treatment by the criminal justice system, and economic equality in matters such as employment and supporting Black owned businesses is astounding.
It is for these reasons that I hope the efforts of the peaceful protestors go far beyond removing “Sorority Sisters” because it “disrespects” their letters. I want to see what will happen if the boycotters dig deeper and continue this fight against media and television across the board. I want to see what will happen if they continue to use their influence to petition advertisers not to support these shows. Without advertisement dollars, these shows will fail. Furthermore, if the current movement is any indication of what happens when people come together and use their economic power to influence change, it is proof that methods, such as boycotts, are still relevant.