I Tried To Get Mad About VH1’s Sorority Sisters. (And I Failed.) » VSB

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I Tried To Get Mad About VH1’s Sorority Sisters. (And I Failed.)

I was sitting at my desk yesterday and my friend sent me a GChat message.

“Are you in the office today?”

“Yeah.”

“I need to ask you something.”

“Okay.”

“What’s your extension?”

I gave it to her and her name popped up on the caller ID. I answered, though I wasn’t sure what she was going to ask me, given that we don’t work on any of the same accounts at work.

“Maya?”

“Yeah.”

“So, I just wanted to ask you real quick – um, what the hell do you think of that show Sorority Sisters?” She laughed heartily in the receiver.

And I laughed with her. My friend, who is not a member of a Greek letter organization, said she’d been polling all the Greeks in her life for feedback about the latest VH1 car wreck.

She’s not the first person to have asked me. My answer has probably been less inflamed that one might expect from a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., or any of the other historically-Black sororities “represented” on the show’s premiere episode.

Depictions of Black women on reality TV (particularly programs where Black women comprise the majority of the cast) are pretty formulaic at this point. From Basketball Wives to Real Housewives of Atlanta to Love & Hip Hop, cascading weaves, questionable cosmetic contouring, and chaos are the lifeblood of these very successful franchises. Perhaps I would be angry if I wasn’t so bored. And perhaps I’d be less bored if it wasn’t all so predictable, and in the case of Sorority Sisters, so contrived.

The cultural biohazard that is Mona Scott-Young is losing her edge.

But I’m supposed to sit here and tell you that this is a serious matter.

And I’m supposed to tell you that my founders didn’t pave the way for this.

But I’m not going to tell you any of that. I can’t sit here and clutch my pearls (see what I did there?) about the way that Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Zeta Phi Beta, or Sigma Gamma Rho are depicted on television, and not have the same level of outrage about the way that Black women en masse are depicted. There’s a much larger sorority, the sisterhood of Black women, whose reputation is at risk here. I’m a part of that, too, and one’s not more important than the other.

And frankly, I’d be a hypocrite to get too up in arms about it, because did y’all see the Love & Hip Hop LA Reunion?? I did.

So far, advertisers have pulled out of this show. K. Michelle, who acts a fool and reps DST #AtTheSameDamnTime, has also had the au-damn-dacity to speak out against this show. And there’s a MoveOn.org petition in play that aims to stop VH1 from airing the show. The petition reads, “Stop the spread of ignorance and stereotyping of our beloved Black Greek letter organizations, Lewis headlines the petition. Our founders amongst EVERY organization worked extremely hard to allow us to unite and flourish not only on college campuses, but as a people well beyond our college days, and Mona Scott-Young now threatens to demolish those aims and goals we all abide by.”

It breaks my heart to see so many people actively worried about the wrong things. When the backlash about Mona Scott-Young comes through faster than the missive to wear letters at protests, it’s an outrage I just can’t share.

There are plenty of dope, amazing, super-great sorority women on television, doing and saying amazing, insightful, awe-inspiring things. I’ll continue to tune into them, and flip the channel when it’s time to.

Maya Francis

Maya K. Francis is a culture writer and communications strategy consultant. When not holding down the Black Girl Beat for VSB, she is a weekly columnist for Philadelphia Magazine's "The Philly Post" and contributes to other digital publications including xoJane, Esquire, and EBONY.com. Sometimes TV and radio producers are crazy enough to let her talk on-air, and she helped write a book once. She cites her mother and Whitley Gilbert as inspirations.

  • Sigma_Since 93

    “But I’m supposed to sit here and tell you that this is a serious matter.”

    I see what you did there.

  • LeeLee

    Hey Soror Maya! I’m with you on being conflicted since I watch RHOA. I’m also a laid back, straight-laced girl who enjoys watching foolery and listening to derogatory rap lyrics from time to time. *Shrugs.* I also won’t pretend that I haven’t witnessed catty and ratchet behavior take place within sororities and fraternities, usually the exception and not the norm. Of course, its an altogether different matter when such behavior is on TV. Such is the Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram world where very little is sacred :( And people who don’t do nuance, not just with Greek life, but nuance in general, start to believe that’s what sororities are really about.

    • Maya K. Francis

      Hi, Soror!

      “And people who don’t do nuance, not just with Greek life, but nuance in general, start to believe that’s what sororities are really about.”

      I agree. Same applies with other terrible trash shows that feature black women. They may lend credence to negative opinions about black women as a whole.

  • Meridian

    I honestly don’t care anything about this show to have a reaction to it. There’s only so much weave, dysfunction, contrived points of conflict, and general doing too much from women who have nothing better to do with their time before I just write it off completely. There’s nothing about this show that is an accurate depiction of black women or sorority women. Not in my experience and not in my general belief of what women like that are about. I just don’t see a reason to expose myself to the worst of something when I already know how dope those organizations are as well as the people in them. It seems like people are drawn to women who really don’t offer much but drama and chaos, and I just have no intention of going along for that ride. There’s nothing about me that even finds it necessary to give such a silly thing the time of day let alone be outraged about something that is so clearly full of stupid.

    As far as sisterhood goes, there are women I respect and admire, women who I’m proud to stand beside and praise. I like being in that kind of atmosphere. I like being surrounded by goodness and quality. I think the way I filter my social circle makes it so that we as women can embrace one another in spite of the differences we have. It may not be something millions of people get to see and it may not be what is popular amongst people, but it fully represents what it means to be a black woman. That’s sisterhood for me. Yanking someone’s weave out seems so empty in comparison and I don’t have to be part of that or pretend to be entertained by it.

  • mikster

    I participated in the uproar because I just wanted to see something of mona scotts fall apart. The actual show was pretty boring even with all the cattiness going on. I could watch every other mona production and multi task all while being entertained.. this show? not even a little bit, i had to actually sit and pay attention to all of it and with doing that I was so exhausted and i couldn’t get my work done. i was more annoyed with that than anything else plus i had to rewind 5 times to figure out what happened and that alone is a mona scott fail. but yes if you are gonna can one can them all.

  • miss t-lee

    I don’t care enough to even try to care. It’s like all the other reality shows, mindless drivel that is only watched on occasion.
    I haven’t seen this one, and I won’t go out of my way to try to tune in.
    However, I’m not exactly sure why there is an uproar about *this* particular show when it’s pretty much like all the others.
    Dah well.

    • Meridian

      The succinct version of my own comment lol. >.<

    • Val

      Because many people consider their sorority sacred.

      • BeautifullyHuman

        I’m not in a sorority, but I would imagine members are pissed because these women are actually representing their sororities, not themselves. This show is premised on ratchet-like behavior while reppin’ a sorority, whereas the other shows are more representations of individual cast members (even though they ultimately tend to “represent” the image of Black women).

        I think it I was a member of a sorority, I’d be pretty pissed too.

        • Val

          Perfectly explained.

        • I can see them being peeved by the name dropping but it appears to be legal to do so, so where’s the beef

          • BeautifullyHuman

            It’s not only the name dropping. It’s the hand signs, the calls and the repeated reference to their sororities. Mind you, the whole show was created to represent Black sororities. They just selected members who would bring the drama and the ratings, and play up on every Black Greek and angry Black woman stereotype. And they got what they wanted.

            As I stated yesterday, I totally get why members are mad. The show is tarnishing and exploiting something they find valuable. I’m sure there are many Black woman who are affiliated with these organizations who do not watch reality tv and condone that type of behavior. Why should they sit back and let their organizations be reflected poorly on national tv because a few members were looking for a come-up by way of Mona Scott?

            I would imagine ANY well-established frat or sorority would not let this fly.

      • CamCamtheGreat

        Maybe they shouldn’t.

    • h.h.h.

      same reason NJ Italians were pissed with the Jersey Shore show

      *shrugs*

      • Jersey Shore was weird because I knew both people who could have just plugged right into that show and people who would have rather slit their own throats than to be associated with such folk. Every group has their fools though…

        • Rachmo

          Right I thought Jersey Shore was super accurate. But I’ve been to Seaside so…

          • The upshot is while Jersey Shore-style antics happen on a regular basis, you have families and old people merrily enjoying chaste antics on the boardwalk without no one breaking stride. I took my then-wife and her young SIL down the Shore a couple of times since I could take the train there from my house at the time. The whole scene weirded me the f*ck out. Then, I shut up and started playing in the surf.

  • Val

    My concern is that there are a lot of young Black women whose first exposure to a sorority will be through this show. That’s not a good thing. Imagine if A Different World had been a ratchet show. At some point we need to be concerned with how these shows are going to affect younger people. Television is the greatest brainwashing tool ever invented. So, I’m not dismissive of how much of a negative impact it can have.

    And, also, Mona Scott has taken over as head-Satan-in-charge from Debra Lee.

    • Can we have a male Satan for Black America? Or is that just Joe Budden’s job? :)

      • Val

        How about Clarence Thomas?

        • Clarence Thomas, while important, doesn’t have much of a public presence. Like he’s had like 2 TV interviews in the past 15 years. Satan has to be more visible than that.

          • Camilleblu

            They say that Satan’s greatest trick is convincing the world that he doesn’t exist.

    • BeautifullyHuman

      I agree. It also continues to debase the image of Black women because it creates the illusion that even educated Black women can’t rise above stereotypes and certain behaviors.

      • Val

        Yeah, I think educated/ professional Black women are the new target. Isn’t there a show about Black women doctors too? It just never stops.

        • BeautifullyHuman

          Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a show. I don’t have cable and I watch tv in moderation in general, but nothing surprises me when it comes to tearing down the image of Blacks through media. This has been happening since the advent of media.

          • Val

            I’m cableless too. A few years ago I decided I didn’t want to support this kind of craziness and cancelled it.

            • AlwaysCC

              our family had been cableless for the past 6 months and we haven’t missed a beat!

          • ??Jessica??

            There is on Bravo I believe….

        • pls

          wives of plastic surgeons…

    • Maya K. Francis

      Hi, Soror Val! :)

    • If you learned from a sorority from watching VH1….I don’t think you ought to join a sorority

      • Val

        Lot’s people didn’t know anything about HBCUs until A Different World, so…

    • AlwaysCC

      it’s even scarier since so many parents are letting tv raise their children and expect the people on tv to be the role models

      sidenote: i always forget that you’re one of “them” lol #oooop

  • skinnynow

    “There’s a much larger sorority, the sisterhood of Black women, whose reputation is at risk here. I’m a part of that, too, and one’s not more important than the other.”

    You’re a hero for this one!

    • Maya K. Francis

      :)

    • Lea Thrace

      That picture is TERRIFYING!

      • skinnynow

        Agreed :( I tried attaching a gif and it came in as a screen shot. Sorry about that.

  • Jiovan

    I don’t watch reality TV period and as a Greek I can understand the disdain for this show however, I don’t blame the VH1 or Mona. All of these people doing these shows for a paycheck at the expense of their character shoulder the blame in my opinion. Whether it’s Love and hip-hop….basketball jump-offs….or sorority sisters…all of these shows have people who don’t stand for much standing in front of a camera. There was a time when we policed our own (black folks as well as Greek organizations) now its all a cluster!@#.

    • Val

      You can always find a weak link. My concern is who is giving them the platform.

      • Jiovan

        It can be attacked from both ends in my opinion. Addressing those who would capitalize on these types of portrayals as well as checking these fools who do it for a check seems like a good plan to me.

      • NomadaNare

        That is always one of the most important questions. Who is the audience and who is paying for these images to reach the mainstream? That will tell you all you need the know about images being portrayed.

    • h.h.h.

      There was a time when we policed our own (black folks as well as Greek organizations)

      i think that’s called respectability politics now.

      Maseltov! *turns to worldstar on his phone*

      • Jiovan

        Watching Niggas vs. Black people with a heavy heart….

    • Amazonian Midget

      *applauds this comment*

  • Ashley S.

    I applaud you!

    And to those who are upset: If you don’t like a TV show…OMG, don’t watch it!

    • Maya K. Francis

      * curtsies *

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