Can White Women “get” Mo’Nique?

By Jean Mavrelis - 11.02.2009

Kathy Hughes asked Mo’Nique if she ever gets accused of playing to stereotypes of Black women – what in my day we called the “Sapphire” image.   Mo’nique said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Are there Black doctors and lawyers, yes, and they’re beautiful, and the sister in the projects with a head scarf and flip flops and gold teeth is beautiful, too.  Why can’t we have a whole range of characters?”

Mo’nique wants to “bring respect to women sometimes considered outsiders…  continues Mo\’Nique, \”Unfortunately, we live in a place that\’s taken that right from people.  \’You\’re too fat.  You\’re too black.  You\’re too short.  You\’re too white.\’  And they take the right from people, and people don\’t realize they can say, \”Can\’t give you that one.  I might have one leg and three eyes and two left toes, but I can\’t give you that one.\”

Mo’Nique represents for the archetypal community Black woman.  For me, she’s kind of a Roseanne Barr counterpart in that she represents for the blue collar woman.

However, I’m not sure people outside the Black community, by and large, are familiar enough with community African Americans to laugh “with” the character rather than “at” her.  For example, when Mo’Nique is upset with her daughter in the sitcom “the Parkers”, does her style conjure up, for outsiders, something akin to the Ricky Ricardo rants of the I Love Lucy Show?  Our Latino colleague, Ilya, used to say that the laugh track on I love Lucy didn’t work in Cuba because Ricky getting upset with Lucy wasn’t as funny there as the ridiculous things Lucy did.

Latinas get stereotyped as Sabado Gigante types, and Asian women suffer from being “exotic”. Other women of color are hardly represented at all.  Although white women are also stereotyped, and they have a narrower range of “types” to play in movies than white men do, they still have more roles to play than women of color have.

Black people have more familiarity with White people than vice versa.  As my colleague Ken says, Black people have worked for white people for a long time, and worked for them up close in their homes, but white people don’t know Black people welI. When women of color see Roseanne, they know she is one style of white woman. When outsiders see Mo’Nique, is the same thing true?

Come on ladies (and gentlemen if you dare) let’s talk about this.  The question is in the title.

Black Women and Irish Women

By Jean Mavrelis - 06.04.2009

“Irish are the Blacks of Europe, and Dubliners are the Blacks of Ireland”…goes an opening line from The Commitments, a movie about a rag-tag group of Irish rockers bent on playing Wilson Pickett music in Dublin.

As Xerox CEO Ann Mulcahy, an Irish woman, prepares to pass the baton to Ursula Burns, an African American woman, I’ve been reflecting on the things these two women of different cultures have in common. The two have worked side by side for years, guiding Xerox through some of its darkest hours.

Betsy Morris of Fortune magazine reported: “ they have developed the kind of parnership that can only emerge from a trial by fire. They read each other’s minds, finish each other’s sentences, debate R& D spending, and then consult each other about the wisdom of buying one of their kids a cellphone.  They can resolve disagreements no matter how heated – and they can get pretty heated.” Read more »