Confessions

…I think I’m in love with Olivia Pope. No, not the real-life-inspiration-for-Scandal-Olivia-Pope, but the as-seen-on-TV-Thursday-nights-ABC-at-9-Olivia-Pope. I’m sure there are enough fangirls running around to make your collective heads explode, but we can’t help it (check out this NYT review and this briefy shoutout over at Rheality Check for some more fangirl love). She and that show are so addicting. And the fashion

I die every time.

Olivia Pope's go-to outfit is the elegant, tailored pantsuit.

This woman is so much more than the sapphire, jezebel, mammy, and tragic mulatto characters Hollywood and her counterparts have thrust upon the American masses year after year. She is powerful and strong, yet vulnerable; capable of both righting great wrongs and causing them; sexy without being over/hypersexualized and a breathtaking departure from the colorism I see evidence of on my television set night after night. She is neither angel nor devil – she is human.

And, I know, you’re wondering – what does this have to do with feminism? If we move forward with the bell hooks’ idea that feminism is “a struggle to end sexist oppression,” and attach the generally understood anti-racist signifier that accompanies Black feminism – I think Olivia Pope’s incredibly visual disruption of so many stereotypes of black women makes her feminist.  Hollywood has been accused for decades of reproducing images that continually place women of color within a framework created and maintained by racist and sexist systems of oppression. Hollywood is, among other things, a machine that normalizes those images by inundating us with them and defining blackness in ways that maintain the status quo rather than disrupt it. Olivia Pope’s character contradicts these systems on a weekly basis and, in so doing, works to combat both the racist and sexist oppressions that Black women face daily.

There are already so few women of color in film and television and it is often the case that the women who are represented are cast in stereotypical roles. The more women are inserted into these spaces in roles that operate external to trite generalizations, the more we combat the oppressive system that is Hollywood. In America, fictional representations of Black culture are often some people’s only exposure to them. How can we overcome sexism and racism if that fictive reality is filled with images of Black women that do not accurately represent Black women?

On Scandal, Olivia Pope is graced with a form of power that many women will never have access to. She’s Michelle Obama and Hilary Clinton rolled into one. She’s a disruption of the unique stereotypes that arise at the intersection of gender and race. And while she may not advocate feminism in the explicit ways that many women of today have come to expect, she can be read as a feminist character. And this is why I love her. She gives me something to rave about, as opposed to something to rant about. She’s a Black woman leading a diverse show in a prime spot on evening television. Kerry Washington in this role dispels claims that people do not want to watch shows lead by Black characters. While some may be tuning in for the latest scandal, I tune in for her. And I hope you do, too.

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~ by Kristen on February 4, 2013.

One Response to “Confessions”

  1. I completely agree!! Feminism and Womanism Is NOT necessarily a area where woman are still “looking for their right”. Feminism is a form of empowerment no doubt, we make what it is to us. I am Not limited in my choices, not because there aren’t any limits, but because i do not choose to see my limits. African American women are not celebrated enough.. .we have come so far, done so much, for us to still be in the “searching for our rights,” we’ve found them. Now, we just have to figure out what to do with them.
    Great Post.

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