Sidepiece Outrage is a Sideshow
First off, let me say, it is not my intention to lob another missile in the so-called battle of the sexes.
I love men. I’m friends with men. I date men. Heck, I am the daughter of one of the greatest fathers the world has ever known and he is my blueprint for awesomeness, period.
But this week, after looking at countless social media statuses of men ragging on the Being Mary Jane series premiere and bemoaning the “rise of the sidepiece,” I had finally had enough.
It led me to post the following and touch off a debate about Black female images in pop culture and beyond.
“How I wish that every man I saw posting outrage about fictional characters Olivia Pope and Mary Jane would be as equally riled about the demeaning, woman-bashing lyrics in the music they listen to day in and out on the radio. Please don’t be more outraged by imaginary sidepieces on a show than you are by grown men who make a living denigrating the Black women you are claiming to save from themselves.”
I appreciated the intelligent men and women who entered the discussion, some who agreed and others who suggested that while the fictional, so-called “sidepieces” were not the total problem, they certainly weren’t part of the solution. I appreciated still others who insisted that we should support the women behind these characters, Mara Brock Akil and Shonda Rhimes, who are creating new, undeniably powerful lanes for African American content creators.
But it all boils down to this. I never said that the depiction of a Black woman as somebody’s “other” was ideal, even though I do not think it’s fair to boil a complex character down to their love interest on a show. I merely said you should not weigh that more than you do other images in the pop-o-sphere, most notably put out there by men. For example: As a longtime hip-hop music fan I have the right to say that. Even my favorite artists, including the Ghostface Killah, Nas and their more conscious contemporaries, have stooped to portraying the ladies in their lives as nothing more than breasts and butts.
So I’ll put this out there to my fellas, the men I truly do appreciate for being so concerned about the images of our women in the media. Here are five actions you could take today that would likely lead me, and other women fed up with your anti-Scandal and Being Mary Jane ire, to stop sucking our teeth when you take to the Interwebs to (ahem) defend our honor. I’m not saying women bear no responsibility. We do, but this bud’s for you.
1. Boycott ignorant artists
Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, Trinidad James, Rick Ross and Juicy J. Those are just a handful of the rappers out here today who are basing their income on debasing women of color. From their strip club anthems to Chief Keef’s callous, dead-eyed spreading of the term THOT (That Hoe Over There), when you bob your head, sing along or turn their noise pollution up in your cars, you are doing more damage than a fleeting scene of Olivia canoodling with President Fitz. And I haven’t heard anyone posting outrage at the ear-splitting song “They Don’t Know,” by Rico Love who has single handedly penned a sidepiece anthem with lyrics including: “We was at the same hotel/Superbowling all star week (they don’t know)/You be acting shy/But you really an all star freak (they don’t know)/That you got my name tattooed on yo body/They don’t know you belong to me, yeah/(They don’t know) bout the cold nights/And the secret island trips/(They don’t know) when I be up in that p*ssy/I be calling you my bitch (they don’t know).”
Please don’t hesitate to send e-mails, letters to the radio stations— including the conglomerate of Clear Channel– that play this trash. As for the women dancing to it, I’ll deal with them later. For now, I’m talking to my menfolk. Next up.
2. Support other shows with Black female leads
If you don’t like Scandal or Being Mary Jane, no problem. Hell, personally, my favorite show is Game of Thrones. So if you are over those two, here are some other “characters” you can support. Taraji P. Henson was on Person of Interest, but it’s too late to support her, but you can watch Sleepy Hollow and support Nicole Beharie. You can also petition for Tia and Tamera Mowry to come back with a new reality show, since the just-nixed Style network show presented two smart, married and faithful business women who were nice to their friends and family. And though there are a few unsavory issues on American Horror Story, Angela Bassett is doing the damn thing on this creepy, coven-focused show.
3. Stop sharing negative portrayals of Black women on social media
You know all those memes you think are so funny with Black women out power-lifting their men, mocking their hairstyles, or even those so-called flattering photos of their posteriors? Stop spreading those all over the Internet. Yes, I realize that a number of the women pictured are fully complicit in these get-your-eagle-on and shake-it-like-a-rednose positions, but I guarantee if they weren’t getting likes and thirst-filled exhalations in response, they might stop.
4. Quit carping on our natural hair
No, I’m not saying that you have to switch your so-called preferences for hair. I realize that years of straightening, weaving and being bombarded by White standards of beauty will not be wiped out overnight. But the least you can do is stand up for women who might look like your mother, sister, mate or daughter and have decided that the hair growing from their scalps is not some horror to behold. I am here for styles of all kinds, but to act like someone is “a mess” because they are not willing to put chemicals and excessive heat on their heads makes you sound crazy when you then later bemoan all the “fake hair” women wear these days. Chris Rock claims you want to put your hands in our hair. Letting it be our hair is a start.
5. Stop telling us how to treat you via celebrity experts
Relationship experts are everywhere, and it’s not limited to the Black community. (We all remember the hot mess that was He’s Not That Into You. But think of it this way, when you do post the latest love advice from the “insert-Blowhard-of-the-Moment-Here,” some of y’all include statements like “that’s why Black women are alone” or “here’s why sisters can’t get a man.” With the divorce rate high for all ethnicities, we really do not need any extra heat our way on top of already having to defend our hair, body shapes, so-called heightened level of aggression and everything else. Let’s be real… Most people could use advice on how to stay in a loving situation in our increasingly independent and selfie-focused culture. Just as you don’t want to hear that all the good Black men are in jail or dropping out of school, we are not interested in constantly hearing about how we need to learn to submit to assuage your ego in order to finally get married.
Bottom line: Our community has a lot of work to do on itself, and quite frankly as high-profile cases like Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, the prison industrial complex, and disproportionate jobless rates, we have much more to worry about than Hollywood actresses fake-fornicating on TV. I realize that we need more positive role models, but given what Hollywood and the sporting industry are offering up, we’re better off filing that role ourselves.