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In attempting to devalue Mo’Nique, we show how little we value Black women — how little we value ourselves.

By Jodi M. Savage Comedian Mo’Nique recently asked viewers to boycott Netflix because they only offered her $500,000 for a comedy special. The Oscar-winning actress pointed out that they had offered Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle $20 million and Amy Schumer $11 million. Mo’Nique claimed that Netflix had offered her such a low amount due to gender and color discrimination. Instead of widespread support, she faced a lot of backlash on social media. People were engaged in the all too familiar sexist, racist, and self-hating tactics of making negative comments about her weight and skin color. Many hurled bombs at her that are frequently used to silence Black women and dismiss our humanity: loud, angry, no class, entitled. Others said she should be humble, prove herself, and just be grateful Netflix was willing to help revive her career. They also accused Mo’Nique of having a “bad attitude,” the classic trope for Black women who do not offer up cupcakes and smiles when criticizing how others treat them. It was the responses from Black people that I found most troubling. Black women were among her harshest critics. Maybe it’s hard to feel sympathy for Mo’Nique because most people can’t relate to an entertainer who wants more than $500,000 — but many of these criticisms also contained an unsettling subtext about who gets to assert worth in the workplace and acceptable ways of asserting one’s worth. To suggest that Mo’Nique should just be “grateful” and accept Netflix’s offer is to disregard her accomplishments, her sense of worth, and her right to demand that she be fairly compensated. It also ignores the very real pay disparities for Black women in and outside of Hollywood. In attempting to devalue Mo’Nique, we show how little we value Black women — how little we value ourselves. Most Black women will never be offered $20 million or $500,000 to do anything. But Black women should care about Mo’Nique’s pay discrimination claims because, in many ways, we are all Mo’Nique. Whether we are actresses, secretaries, corporate executives, nurses, or restaurant workers, we are more likely to earn less than our white or male counterparts. Black women earn 63 cents for every dollar a white man makes. Black women are also the least likely to ask for raises among all demographic groups except Asians. We know how pay disparities play out in the workplace for regular folks: being lowballed in salary negotiations; getting hired and then realizing that people with similar or less responsibilities, experience or job titles earn more; being given additional responsibilities, but no salary increase; and not negotiating for a higher salary or raise.
Related: OCTAVIA SPENCER’S PAY GAP WIN IS AN ACT OF RESISTANCE AGAINST WHITE SUPREMACY

I'm pleased to finally meet the flawed, yet whole Nola Darling, both through her and the women who love her.

I remember when I first met Nola Darling in 2007 during a university film class. Yes, she was alluring and sexy and like other people who had seemingly wandered into her path, I desperately wanted to get to know her. But I only saw glimpses of Nola through the eyes of those who wished to possess her. Who was she as an artist? How did she regain a sense of herself whenever she experienced abuse or mistreatment? Hell, did she have any real friends who didn't wish to sleep with her, aside from Clorinda?   Spike Lee's inaugural She's Gotta Have It is as much the mark of an immature filmmaker as it is a cinematic staple. While the 1986 film about a free-spirited, polyamorous woman may have cemented his career, its poor treatment of her left so much to be desired. One of Lee's more egregious missteps showed in the way Nola was denied any opportunity to process her varied moments of potential trauma — from her verbally abusive relationship with international playboy Greer Childs, to her own brutal rape by Jamie Overstreet. Even in the face of predatory behavior (from the only LGBTQIA character, mind you — another notable mistake) she is unflappable, the perfectly uncomplicated object of the vintage male gaze. Nola is mysterious, self-assured, sexy, and strong-willed, but she never feels whole. 31 years later, Spike Lee has revisited She's Gotta Have It for Netflix, and the episodic do-over is welcomed for a number of reasons. Nola (DeWanda Wise) and the men in her life — Childs (Cleo Anthony), seasoned, the now professional Overstreet (Lyriq Bent), and the iconic, charismatic Mars Blackmon (Anthony Ramos) — are fleshed out beyond their original caricatures. Nola is openly queer and involved with business owner and mother Opal Gilstrap (Ilfenesh Hadera). Best of all, Nola experiences trauma that isn't gratuitous, but relatable while allowing her to maintain her power. And when the time arrives for her to process her pain, she has a number of women to whom she can turn.
Related: TNT’S “CLAWS” CELEBRATES BLACK WOMEN’S SEXUALITY

Dubbing the sudden absence of predatory men as the categorical dimming of some bright, new era rings of a false equivalency for many marginalized viewers. 

If you have remained plugged into our daily Hollywood news cycle, it might seem as if each day brings a newly exposed sexual predator. While that may sound like hyperbole, the sentiment is actually not that inaccurate: since news of Harvey Weinstein's history of assault broke via major press in early October, dozens of celebrity abusers have been publicly identified by their victims. As an audience, our responses to the steady stream of stories have run the gamut – especially for those of us who have our own experiences with sexual abuse. Though some remain focused on the specific trauma (and to be clear, the well-being of the victims ought to be our collective priority), others have their sights set on the potential aftermath. What does all of this mean for Hollywood and the state of entertainment, in general? As we witness the rightful takedown of critically acclaimed men like Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K., many have wondered how this continued exposure of Hollywood's predatory culture will affect the entertainment landscape, especially within television. Recently, TV critic Ben Travers of IndieWire noted Hollywood's current purge as a mark of permanent change to, in his words, “the new golden age of television.” To his credit, Travers is careful not to cite the onslaught of shamed men as the end of premium entertainment, but rather a potential opportunity for a more inclusive industry. That specific hope echoes those of many BIPOC creators who have been working diligently against the very climate that has systemically boxed them out of opportunities.  
Related: TNT’S “CLAWS” CELEBRATES BLACK WOMEN’S SEXUALITY

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