I was sitting at my desk yesterday and my friend sent me a GChat message.
“Are you in the office today?”
“I need to ask you something.”
“What’s your extension?”
I gave it to her and her name popped up on the caller ID. I answered, though I wasn’t sure what she was going to ask me, given that we don’t work on any of the same accounts at work.
“So, I just wanted to ask you real quick – um, what the hell do you think of that show Sorority Sisters?” She laughed heartily in the receiver.
And I laughed with her. My friend, who is not a member of a Greek letter organization, said she’d been polling all the Greeks in her life for feedback about the latest VH1 car wreck.
She’s not the first person to have asked me. My answer has probably been less inflamed that one might expect from a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., or any of the other historically-Black sororities “represented” on the show’s premiere episode.
Depictions of Black women on reality TV (particularly programs where Black women comprise the majority of the cast) are pretty formulaic at this point. From Basketball Wives to Real Housewives of Atlanta to Love & Hip Hop, cascading weaves, questionable cosmetic contouring, and chaos are the lifeblood of these very successful franchises. Perhaps I would be angry if I wasn’t so bored. And perhaps I’d be less bored if it wasn’t all so predictable, and in the case of Sorority Sisters, so contrived.
The cultural biohazard that is Mona Scott-Young is losing her edge.
But I’m supposed to sit here and tell you that this is a serious matter.
And I’m supposed to tell you that my founders didn’t pave the way for this.
But I’m not going to tell you any of that. I can’t sit here and clutch my pearls (see what I did there?) about the way that Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Zeta Phi Beta, or Sigma Gamma Rho are depicted on television, and not have the same level of outrage about the way that Black women en masse are depicted. There’s a much larger sorority, the sisterhood of Black women, whose reputation is at risk here. I’m a part of that, too, and one’s not more important than the other.
And frankly, I’d be a hypocrite to get too up in arms about it, because did y’all see the Love & Hip Hop LA Reunion?? I did.
So far, advertisers have pulled out of this show. K. Michelle, who acts a fool and reps DST #AtTheSameDamnTime, has also had the au-damn-dacity to speak out against this show. And there’s a MoveOn.org petition in play that aims to stop VH1 from airing the show. The petition reads, "Stop the spread of ignorance and stereotyping of our beloved Black Greek letter organizations, Lewis headlines the petition. Our founders amongst EVERY organization worked extremely hard to allow us to unite and flourish not only on college campuses, but as a people well beyond our college days, and Mona Scott-Young now threatens to demolish those aims and goals we all abide by."
It breaks my heart to see so many people actively worried about the wrong things. When the backlash about Mona Scott-Young comes through faster than the missive to wear letters at protests, it’s an outrage I just can’t share.
There are plenty of dope, amazing, super-great sorority women on television, doing and saying amazing, insightful, awe-inspiring things. I’ll continue to tune into them, and flip the channel when it’s time to.
Maya K. Francis is a culture writer and communications strategy consultant. When not holding down the Black Girl Beat for VSB, she is a weekly columnist for Philadelphia Magazine's 'The Philly Post' and contributes to other digital publications including xoJane, Esquire, and EBONY.com. Sometimes TV and radio producers are crazy enough to let her talk on-air, and she helped write a book once. She cites her mother and Whitley Gilbert as inspirations.