Star Jones says she has had enough.
The lawyer-turned-television host-turned-multimedia personality took to Twitter Tuesday night to vent about her frustration with the images of black women in media.
“It may be ‘comfortable’ to be quiet when women of color slap the crap out of each other & run across tables barefoot,” Jones tweeted, referring to a physical altercation that happened on the popular show Basketball Wives, “but#ENOUGHisENOUGH.”
Jones followed with a series of tweets (punctuated with the hashtag #ENOUGHisENOUGH), decrying on-screen violence between women, as well as misogyny in hip-hop and women having sexual relationships with men who have children by multiple lovers.
”[L]ittle black girls deserve more than what we’re giving!” she tweeted.
Jones said she was fired up after a lunch with the founder of Black Girls Rock, Inc., Beverly Bond. Judging from Jones’ tweets, the two shared a lively discussion about the images of black women in pop culture, and the effects those images could have on young girls. Jones said that she’s resolved to put together a group of powerful women of color to “tell the truth” about how black women are being portrayed in the media.
But how exactly will that truth be told? And what action is Star Jones planning to take? Complaints and criticism about the portrayal of women in reality television are nothing new. And yet, every reality offering is more confrontational, more controversial, and more crude than the last. It’s telling that, just a few years ago, physical violence was enough for producers to send a reality star packing. Now, barely an episode goes by without a violent cliffhanger.
“First order of business,” Jones tweeted, “is to shout out the positive images in the media of Af Am women…. & REFUSE to support the negative.” The problem is that the positive images often are of little interest to the viewing public. These days, conflict and controversy sell shows, and those wanting a change will have to grapple with the fact that there is a large appetite for such content. Even the occasional “positive” programming does little to offset the number of viewers and executives invested in popular, but problematic, shows.
What also needs to be addressed is whether black female decision-makers have been up to the task of truly speaking up. Shaunie O’Neal, who is credited with creating and executive producing Basketball Wives, has since taken a hands-off approach toward her own show. Last year, she told Ebony/Jet: “People say to me: ‘You’re saying the portrayal of black women is bad on TV… Guess what? I agree! But you look at those credits — it’s more than me executive producing it. I brought this vision to a table full of people, a table full of executives, and since then it has taken on its own new thing.”
And in response to the recent controversy surrounding the show, O’Neal told Vibe magazine: “I will never say I agree with some of the behavior between my girlfriends on the show, but if we were to edit certain things out the show would be scripted and not reality.”
Jones has had to deal with her own reality show controversies. Last year she was involved in a very public feud with Celebrity Apprentice co-star NeNe Leakes. The two traded verbal jabs over the course of the show and in a series of media appearances afterwards. In a few of those interviews, Jones wasn’t shy with the insults, referring to Leakes as unladylike and comparing her to an “uncaged animal.” The conflict never escalated physically, but the grudge between the two women created plenty of buzz (and ostensibly drew plenty of viewers) for the show.
In her tweets, Jones conceded that the silence of powerful black women on the issue has been almost as damaging as participation itself. “I met with some other executive Af Am women & we ALL agreed#ENOUGHisENOUGH,” she tweeted. “We also agreed that OUR complacency has allowed this mess.”
It’s clear that changing the media landscape will require more than complaints and tweets, especially when black women are involved. The fact remains that, while many black women are just as outraged about their current portrayal in the media, many other black women tune into the shows and listen to the music regularly, consuming it all a harmless entertainment. Fighting back against negative images will require an honest assessment of why those images are so compelling in the first place.
How will Star Jones address the decision-makers who greenlight those images, the black women who willingly watch, and those who are paid to participate? And will she be willing to talk about her own experiences with it all? It will be interesting to see who Star Jones rallies for her #ENOUGHisENOUGH campaign, and how she’ll go beyond Twitter to take a stand.