Remember when Scandal gave us the best thing to happen on television ever? Well if you don’t, in honor of its long awaited return tonight, here is a reminder.
Before the hiatus in December, there was a particular scene in which a female Congresswoman, who was running for the Democratic nomination for President, was being interviewed on live television. After being ticked off before the camera’s started rolling, she proceeded to deliver a speech on air that spoke the most truth about sexism that I have ever heard. In speaking to her male interviewer, she said this:
“It’s not about experience, it’s about gender. Reston [her opponent] is saying I don’t have the balls to be president and he means that literally. It’s offensive. It’s offensive to me and to all the women whose votes he’s asking for. The only reason we’re doing this interview in my house is because you requested it. This was your idea and yet here you are, thanking me for inviting you into my ‘lovely home.’ That’s what you say to the neighbor lady who baked you chocolate chip cookies. This pitcher of iced tea isn’t even mine, it’s what your producer set here. Why? Same reason you called me a ‘real-life Cinderella story.’ It reminds people that I’m a woman without using the word. For you it’s an angle, I get that and I’m sure you think it’s innocuous, but guess what? It’s not. You’re promoting stereotypes. You’re advancing this idea that women are weaker than men. You’re playing right into the hand of every idiot who thinks that a woman is not fit to be commander in chief. Seven years I served in the United States army, a fact you conveniently omitted from my intro. How about [you refer to me as] soldier? Or Lieutenant?”
Needless to say, I stood up and clapped when this was over. It was so refreshing to hear something like this on primetime television. Patriarchy is so naturalized in the entertainment we consume that people hardly ever notice. There is rarely anyone standing up for us or calling people out when advancing stereotypes. Nowadays, post-feminist ideology fills our television screens and women are held accountable for their own shortcomings as opposed to acknowledging a larger institution working against them. This is one of the first instances I’ve seen where the media frame surrounding women, specifically women in politics, is acknowledged and subsequently ripped apart. It’s something that is long overdue and should really trigger a conversation about sexism in the media. Scandal already receives attention for having the first African-American female lead in a primetime drama (another long overdue scenario), so I hope it uses this attention and platform to continue to promote ideas like this. Not to mention Olivia Pope is one of the best written female characters on television right now, but I’ll save my love for her for another post.
So when you sit down to watch TV later or scroll through your Twitter feed, see if you can spot these media frames. Do you notice how female athletes are framed throughout the Olympic coverage compared to male athletes? Do you notice how people would much rather talk about Hillary Clinton’s hair instead any of the words that come out of her mouth? I encourage you all to play a little game of “spot the sexism” next time you are consuming any type of media. Oh, and do yourself a favor and watch Scandal.