Oh Bethenny. I don’t believe for one second that Omarosa was invited to your show for any other reason than you need a ratings boost, especially since word is, Ellen is totally not into you anymore. And that’s okay. But here’s what happens you invite an intelligent, smart and opinionated Black women into a hostile environment and think that they’re not going to speak their minds: it doesn’t work out so well.
Omarosa has long been a controversial figure in the world of reality TV since appearing on “The Apprentice” in 2004, but what you can’t take away from her is her unapologetic commitment to whom she is. That, and the girl is sharp. Mainstream media (and all of Bethenny’s audience) has already trivialized Omarosa’s point because she is the “angry Black villain“, instead of actually reflecting and realizing that the willingness on the part of White women to disrespect Black women without expectation of consequence is the definition of White privilege in action. USA Today calls her a villain; E! News says Bethenny owes her $10,000. Yay for E! News. At least somebody is paying attention.
While Omarosa may fulfill the role of “bully” or “angry Black woman,” as a cast-member on reality TV shows, what transpired between her and Bethenny on air this week was probably one of the realest moments we’ve ever seen from Omarosa (click here if you missed it), and one many smart professional Black women can identify with. It’s that moment someone calls you “aggressive” or “confrontational” because you choose to handle conflict directly, honestly, and with strength, and the next thing you know, someone’s pulling you aside to talk about your “attitude” because your White female co-worker is in the bathroom crying because you’ve been “mean” to her. I like to call these White-Girl Hissyfits (WGH’s). Big sigh. Someone pass the Kleenex.
My first job in television I worked with a girl who was prone to WGH’s. They happened for many reasons and they happened frequently. She was one of two producers in our small five person department, the other was a Black woman, and they were given assignments by our Supervising Producer based on skill level and ability. I served as production assistant to them both, and it didn’t take me long to figure out that Black producer was a more talented and our Supervisor, who was a White Jewish man, knew that as well. But in this woman’s mind — let’s call her Jane — everything she didn’t get was because she was being attacked and slighted, not because she just wasn’t that good.
Every time Jane didn’t get something she “felt she deserved” she threw a WGH; she didn’t get the interview she wanted, White Girl Hissyfit; she wasn’t invited to go to the Sundance Film Festival, White Girl Hissyfit; she had to work with the editor she didn’t like–cue an even bigger White Girl Hissyfit. And, of course, these frequent outbursts were highly produced moments. Typically they involved a loudly announced coffee and cigarette break, a teary phone call to her father, and then a red-faced return to the office where made sure they entire department knew that she was upset. Again, pass the Kleenex.
I will never forget the moment Jane threw a WGHs at me directly. It was right after my boss had given me a high responsibility for a PA–one that Jane hadn’t been given for two years in to her career, and she was fuming. How dare I be a smart, capable Black woman and be given this opportunity just three months in to working. (Like Omarosa said, we have to be exceptional to get anything in this business). But Jane couldn’t let this fly. So she came to pick an argument with me and let’s just say it didn’t work out so well. I can’t remember how the exchange went exactly but it ended up with Jane in tears throwing a WGH in our bosses office. We had to have a mediated conversation in which she suggested in every way imaginable that I was a “abrasive,” “aggressive,” or “harsh” (code for Black bitch) and she just didn’t understand why? Yeah, yeah. Are we done yet?
The long and sordid history between Black women and White women in this country (articulated very well here) is one filled with power struggles, jealousy, resentment and tension. And though slavery is long behind us and the suffrage movement feels like ancient history, the ongoing distrust and inability to coexist in in professional environments persists. The fear that Black women will crack through the glass ceiling of White male dominance ahead of their White counterparts too often breeds contempt and disgust towards Black women who feel no need to assuage feelings. The historical privilege that White women once had — never having to endure embarrassment or discomfort of any kind from a person of color, man or woman — is slowly and painfully relinquished, and thus exchanges like the ones I’ve described are far too common.
What does White privilege look like on a woman? It looks like Bethenny Frankel’s perfectly timed physical shrinking, looking longingly in to her (almost all White) audience for support, before her misty eyed delivery of “you’re not letting me talk on my show,” line. Bethenny, please.
This is a woman who is famous for being on reality TV and fighting those crazy White housewives like a mini-weight champion. But how easy it was for Bethenny to sit across from a Omarosa and feign “abuse” after she’d dismissed her career on network television, further insulted her by betting her $10,000 to deny doing so, (I hope Omarosa collects), and then told her she has no brand, all for a clearly needed ratings boost. I mean, that is pretty mediocre.
Omarosa was not impressed, and neither am I. But Bethenny finally got the media to remember she even had a talk show, because, well, until Omarosa showed up, no one really cared. And that’s what White Girl Hissyfit’s are all about, it’s the ultimate ‘pay attention to me, until I get what I want’ maneuver and Bethenny Frankel just threw one quite successfully. Her ratings doomed talk show might see a little spike for a week or so, but as Omarosa said, I doubt it will be on next year.
Stay tuned for what the WGH looks like after its cancelled. Someone order a whole lot of Kleenex.
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