Not even Shonda Rhimes can escape the unwanted pressure to get married

Shonda Rhimes, one of the most successful Black women television producers and writers, has accomplished quite a bit. She has been nominated for three Emmys. She is the executive producer and head writer of four hugely successful ABC shows. She has an honorary doctorate degree. Which of these accomplishments have garnered her the most accolades in her life? None of them.

Instead, Shonda reported to NPR, people have given her the most praise when she had an eligible-for-marriage man on her arm:

I have never gotten so much approval and accolades and warmth and congratulations as when I had a guy on my arm that people thought I was going to marry. It was amazing. I mean nobody congratulated me that hard when I had my three children. Nobody congratulated me that hard when I won a Golden Globe or a Peabody or my 14 NAACP Image Awards. But when I had a guy on my arm that people thought I was going to marry, people lost their minds like Oprah was giving away cars. It was unbelievable. … I was fascinated by it because I thought, like, I am not Dr. Frankenstein, I didn’t make this guy — he just is there. Everything else I actually had something to do with.

Feministing has previously tackled the myths about single women — namely that they’re lonely and desperate for marriage. We’ve also talked about how dating apps like Tinder are bringing attention to the fact that women are interested in — *gasp* — casual (sometimes queer) sex, too. But testimonies like Rhimes’ remind us that there is still a prevalent narrative that if you are single and a woman, regardless of your other accomplishments and contributions to the world, your main goal in life should be marriage. Ultimately, marriageability is the true measure of femininity.

And I would be remiss not to mention the significance of this expectation as it applies to Shonda Rhimes. More than a distinction between successfully desirable and “crazy cat lady,” being a single woman who is also Black is shrouded in stigma and pathology. From gold diggers, to angry black women, to unfit mothers, the messages about unmarried Black women are almost always negative and problematic. Sometimes the career successes of single Black women only exacerbate this, because apparently we still have trouble understanding the complexity of women who both work and have families. People are still looking for a heteronormative happily-ever-after in order to validate Black women’s professional, educational, and financial success.

To reiterate Rhimes’s point, any potential bae she has is “just there.” I’m grateful to have a community that would support me in falling in love and being with someone who makes me happy, and I’m sure Shonda is too. But our partners do not define us. They do not enhance or diminish our success or worth. And they certainly aren’t a bigger deal than creating a media empire like Shondaland!

Header image via.

Feministing's resident "sexpert", Sesali is a published writer and professional shit talker. She is a queer Black girl, fat girl, and trainer. She was the former Training Director at the United States Student Association and later a member of the Youth Organizing team at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She received her bachelors in Women's and Gender Studies from Depaul University in 2012 and is currently pursuing a master's in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta. A self identified "trap" feminist, and trained with a reproductive justice background, her interests include the intersections of feminism and: pop culture, youth culture, social media, hip hop, girlhood, sexuality, race, gender, and Beyonce. Sesali joined the team in 2010 as one of the winners of our So You Think You Can Blog contest.

is Feministing's resident sexpert and cynic.

Read more about Sesali

Join the Conversation