It was the night of the Golden Globes, our favorite Hollywood elites were dressed to the nines in their courageous black for solidarity, then it happened, Oprah Winfrey snatched our hearts and our edges as she boldly declared “Time is UP!” referring to sexual harassment, pay inequity, and violence against women. We were so shook, it quickly became a twitter Trending hashtag, along with #Oprah2020.Fast forward to this week, the movement is in full effect. Our favorite fashionable girlfriend, Tracee Ellis Ross reveals that she may cut back appearances on her show Black-ish because she is being grossly underpaid compared to her co-star, Anthony Anderson. Social Media and black twitter were here for it!
Ah, but alas, the #TIMESUP movement is still an American movement, and American movements of equality and change have always had silent and sometimes not-so-silent, points of exclusion. Academy-Award winning comedienne, Mo’ Nique makes a video reporting that streaming service and content curator, Netflix, offered her an insulting $500k for a comedy special and called for us to boycott the company. Now, to most of us, $500k would be a beautiful payday, however when you contextualize that Amy Schumer was reportedly offered 13M, and male comedians were given upwards of $20 Million, the offer is exposed for the spit in the face that it is.
Oh, but we were NOT outraged! Firstly, none of us are boycotting, cause let’s be honest, we stopped paying for cable for a reason, and that reason…is Netflix. This however, does not change the merit of Mo’ Nique’s grievance. People quickly spouted, “well she hasn’t had as much commercial success as others”, so some of us took to social media to remind you of her achievements.
Then, the argument became “Well, Mo’ Nique has a bad reputation, she even cussed at Oprah and Tyler Perry *insert collective black gasp*, because everyone knows, you can’t challenge black royalty, even if it is about fair pay. It was around then that it dawned on me, Mo’Nique is far too black, and far too loud to be deserving of equality. I mean, she doesn’t even subscribe to respectability politics. In case my sarcasm doesn’t give it away, I really despise the ways in which we reinforce misynoir. It is so deeply rooted in us, that we don’t even recognize that we’re entrapped in its snares. If we are frank, Mo’Nique’s bad reputation has to do with money. She doesn’t have a history of being late, she doesn’t have a history of being rude to co-stars, she has a reputation for not playing about her money and not being afraid to challenge even the most powerful among us.
It only takes a quick google search of the networth of Black leading ladies like Taraji P. Henson, Viola Davis, Angela Bassett, or Kerry Washington in comparison to their white counterparts to see that the issue is widespread. Black women make significantly less in Hollywood and it has nothing to do with their reputation or “character”. See the issue with Mo’ Nique is that she’s not afraid to speak up each and every time she is wronged. Others remain silent to remain working, but that doesn’t make them more noble, that makes them prisoners to the discriminatory system that gives them a fraction of a fraction of the fortune that is being made from their gift.
Yes, boycotting Netflix may be a bridge too far, but let’s not pretend that pay has been based on merit or reputation.
Time may be up for some, but for others, the clock is still ticking.