I’m not a fan of Mo’Nique and never have been. I don’t have any disdain for her; she’s just not my brand of bourbon, if you catch my drift. If I got free tickets to see a show in person, I may go depending on what else I had going on that particular evening. I have enjoyed some of her work—I liked her in Almost Christmas, for instance—but I’m not typically going to check out anything specifically because of Mo’Nique.
One quick scroll through my Facebook timeline over the past few days indicates that many people feel the same at the very least and absolutely hate her at worst. So much so that somehow, a black woman reasonably decrying unfair wage practices at the hands of a company (in this case, Netflix) is being met with the kind of opposition that Cardi B raps about so much.
While I agree that calling for a boycott of Netflix is probably too high a hurdle for most of us, people are questioning her worth—her ability to command $500, much less the $500,000 she was offered—and whether she has a legit team around her. Apparently, wage discrimination isn’t a thing for Mo’Nique; it just turns out that she is neither marketable nor profitable. Glad that’s been cleared up.
Look, I can understand not liking her. You like who you like, but her words are being twisted. She never once said that she should be making as much as Chris Rock or Dave Chappelle or even Amy Schumer—and you’d think that she personally slapped each and every one of our mothers in the black community, causing folks to do the white man’s work of attempting to prove to Netflix that they’re right not to have offered her more.
For the record, I think she was lowballed. Absolutely I do. I think she deserves more than $500,000. How much more? I don’t know; I’m not a professional comedian financial analyst. But to hear that this professional comedian who has been in the game for well over 20 years and is well-known was offered $500,000 and that Wanda Sykes, a woman who is on a prime-time network hit show, Black-ish, was offered $250,000, which she turned down to take her talents elsewhere, is astounding to me. Especially in the midst of huge sums of money being offered to others. Is a Mo’Nique special worth an Amy Schumer one? No. Worth more than 4 percent of her take? Absolutely.
Anybody who has ever ventured into the world of creativity is aware that there’s a tug-of-war for proper compensation. Contracts are often kept on the hush so that nobody knows what everybody else is making unless people are talking. What we have found out over the past, I don’t know, 20-plus years is that women are paid less money than men for the same jobs. This is a fact. We know that the wage gap is a real thing.
In a world like comedy, pay is way more subjective than a simple one-to-one comparison of analysts at Booz Allen Hamilton. The thing is, the only way to make sure that companies ARE held to the fire is to put those things out there publicly. Mo’Nique could have taken her loss and kept it moving. But she saw an injustice and spoke up about it. And what happened?
Apparently, Mo’Nique is the wrong person to speak on it. Other comedians have come out mocking her. She’s been dragged for thinking she’s “worth” more than $500,000. How dare this black woman think she’s got the right to ask for more?
The tone and tenor of most of the conversations seem to hover soundly on the fact that people don’t like her that much. Maybe she’s burned bridges or talked too much shit about folks. Yes, she’s feuded with Lee Daniels, Tyler Perry and Oprah. Perhaps she was notoriously hard to work with. Does that mean that she’s wrong? No. Is it possible that Netflix is intentionally lowballing their comedians who are black women? Yes.
Shit, do you care? It seems like while most of us are on the Colin Kaepernick-speaking-on-social-injustice bandwagon—at least until the playoffs started—Mo’Nique asking for fair treatment in wages is a bridge too far. If you don’t like her, she’s full of shit. And that’s trash. We can’t let personal feelings, especially for somebody most of us don’t actually know, get in the way of a real problem that exists and negatively impacts our community.
If you know her and she stole money from you or insulted your mother? Fine. I can understand that. But if you just don’t like her or don’t fuck with her comedy, why are you treating her like a black woman asking for too much, as if she’s some person undeserving of the very same compensation you’d want if you didn’t get a raise to do the job you were already doing?
How many of us personally know people who have found out they were making less than somebody they were doing more than? While most of us don’t have enough data points to lob the institutional-racism bomb at our employers, that doesn’t make it untrue. But we’ll never have the ammo if, when something seems awry, we shoot the messenger because we don’t like them, going so far as to accuse them of thinking they’re more valuable than they are, even if most of us really have nothing more than conjecture and assumptions.
Maybe it turns out she’s wrong. Maybe. Maybe whatever comedy market exists where the numbers shake out determines that Netflix properly assessed her “value” and she just needs to come to terms with it. Or maybe Netflix is doing EXACTLY what Hollywood and every other industry has done to black people and women since forever, which all of the black community agrees is a problem that needs to be addressed: unfairly compensating because of a lack of a perceived market because of race. Why is it a stretch to believe that Netflix is lowballing her? She doesn’t seem to be asking for an unreasonable figure—just some fairness in pay. Amy Schumer did, and Netflix upped her take.
But Mo’Nique is asking for too much.