Mount Rushmore conversations have been popping up all over social media lately, with people debating everything from rap to cartoons. But, unfortunately, whenever these conversations start happening, female entertainers, especially Black ones, are overlooked for their contributions to pop culture.
Debate conversations are nothing new, but in the dawn of the "meme" age, they have become more powerful than ever. The newest trend is the "Who belongs on the Mount Rushmore of (insert whatever topic you like)? "
So when we talk about reality tv and the stars that have made it what it is, what Black women have given to the genre is undeniable. From catchphrases to fashion trends, we are the architects of the culture. Whether it's VH1's Flavor of Love to Bravo's Real Housewives of Atlanta, Black women have helped mold reality television's landscape for the last two decades. MTV, VH1, Bravo, and many more networks owe a lot of their success to Black women.
On the other side, many critics claim reality television often portrays Black women negatively. Recently, Joseline's Cabaret: Atlanta starring former Love and Hip Hop Atlanta star Joseline Hernandez caused quite the stir with its release earlier this year. Clips of the second installment of Hernandez's show on the Zeus network have been circulating worldwide, some with girls fighting, and one has gone viral with Hernandez giving her show performers a pep talk.
During the emotionally charged conversation, one of the girls shares the story of her aborting twins, and another dancer can be overheard saying, "Damn. Double homicide." While I won't say, it's the best way for anyone to act. Why, especially, are Black women not allowed to act "bad" in public? For generations, our anger has been a tool weaponized against us. So often, society applauds aggression in men, while softness is usually only reserved for white femininity.
The cast of white reality shows like Real Housewives of New Jersey and Beverly Hills rarely ever face their Black counterparts' harsh scrutiny.
New Jersey's Teresa Giudice can be seen flipping over a table, calling one of her castmates a "prostitution whore” (season one); Lisa Rinna of Beverly Hills even broke a wine glass, during what was supposed to be a casual sit-down dinner, after a heated argument with another castmate (season five). Many of these incidents were mulled over and chalked up to the ladies' "over the top" personalities.
Meanwhile, Black women get called "classless," "ghetto," and "ratchet," or worse, for the same actions. This isn't news to Black women, though — the rules have always been different for us. Misogynoir strips Black women of being able to act up, even a little bit, forcing us to uphold this faux sense of "Black excellence" at all times or be negatively stereotyped. This internalized pressure is a learned response from generations of white, sexist establishments that position Black femininity as inferior.
We can see examples of this in almost every system — from schools, religious organizations, across politics, the economy, the media, and most especially in the corporate world. I can remember being in many rooms (usually where I'm the only Black woman), shrinking myself down purposely, making sure I didn't get too "emotional," and being careful of my tone so I didn't come off aggressive. Society's unbearable weight on Black women must come to an end. We must move away from the narrow ideas of what it means to be a Black woman. We deserve to see all facets of Black women, not just the "good" ones.
I think it's about time we give these Black reality TV legends like Hernandez, Nene Leakes (Real Housewives of Atlanta), Tanisha Thomas (Bad Girls Club), and so many more their flowers while they're here to see them. So often, we wait too long to see the impact some have left behind. If you ask me, I don't see anything wrong with women — especially Black women — misbehaving on camera. But, it's not fair to continue to put us in a box, controlling our emotions, only to turn around and gaslight us. Like it or not, no one is perfect, and that's a reality that we all must come to terms with, maybe even celebrate.