This week, the Post reported about a dynamic collabo between badass women of color who are producing a film on the dating lives of young, successful Black women. Shonda Rhimes, the sista behind Grey’s Anatomy is producing the film and Helena Andrews is writing the screenplay based on her memoir. It is good news that a project is underway where woman of color are at the helm. But, this project does raise some feminist caution flags.
In a nutshell, this is the project:
In a series of essays, Andrews documents the lives of so many young black women who appear to have everything: looks, charm, Ivy League degrees, great jobs. Closets packed full of fabulous clothes; fabulous condos in fabulous gentrified neighborhoods; fabulous vacations, fabulous friends. And yet they are lonely: Their lives are repetitive, desperate and empty. They are post-racial feminists who have come of age reaping the benefits of both the civil rights movement and the women’s movement, then asking quietly: What next?
For starters, the title of Andrews’ memoir is Bitch is the New Black. Many feminists know that when it comes to portrayals of Black women in the media, Bitch is, in fact, the old Black — complete with stereotypes about often unexplained anger and hostility. Further, I was apprehensive about the idea that another project is underway that has the pursuit of partnership as its focus. Even when films and books portray women as powerhouses in their professions, it often seems secondary to what the viewer is led to believe is their main goal: getting a man. Very few films have been made in recent years on young, professional Black women that grapple with complex topics. After doing a straw poll of some women in my feminist posse, Something New is the only one that comes to mind. Yet, Something New seems to be lacking because partnership pursuit is the main focus.
But, then I watched this.
I was happy to learn that Helena Andrews questions the notion that any young professional woman should have a marital mandate and that she interrogates the partnership values embedded in representations of the Huxtable variety. Another point that is not included in the video is that she was raised by her lesbian mom. That, off the bat, might add a layer of complexity to her analysis on partnership. This is not to say that the previous problems I mentioned aren’t still there.
However, this project has the potential to make visible the narratives of Black women who may have Ivy League degrees but also have other parts of their identity that complicate partnership pursuit. I hope her project represents diverse Black women: queer Black women, Black single moms, ethnic Black women, religious Black women and Black women living with STIs to name a few. Some of these women are organizers, diplomats and Hill staffers and some even have congressional ambitions. These are the types of young, successful, Black professional women in DC I encountered during my 2-year stint living there. It was clear to me that their hybrid identities had an impact on the business of mate selection. And their story deserves to be told.
My expectations may be high, but suffice it to say that there is definitely room in the Post-Girlfriends era to produce a film about young women of color pursuing partnership that could subvert the run-of-the-mill romantic comedy while opening up a meaningful dialogue on relationships. Rhimes does have some artistic license to fill in the blanks if some of these complexities aren’t apparent in Andrews’ rendering. If Grey’s Anatomy’s diverse cast and fusion of the professional and personal is any indication, I have faith that Shonda Rhimes’ new flick can tell the story of Black women’s dating lives with a refreshing perspective.