Dr. Boyce: Why is Shaunie O’neal a Spokesperson for Black Females in Media?

In a CNN article that appears designed to promote her upcoming appearance as an “empowerment speaker” at the Essence Music Festival, Shaunie O’neal, executive producer of the hit show, “Basketball Wives,” was given the solemn task of analyzing the complex issue of black female portrayals in American media.  Choosing Shaunie to represent the disappointing images of black women in media is like having a Malcolm X lecture delivered by Flava Flav.

Rather than thoroughly analyzing the problems with black female portrayals in media, Shaunie appears to go out of her way to defend the buffoonery of her show by portraying the women on basketball wives as misunderstood souls who’ve been dealt the misfortune of being placed with other individuals whose minds aren’t quite right after the end of their relationships.

“As you see on the show, I’m not a big supporter of the bickering, drink throwing and fighting, but when you put a group of strong, independent and vocal women who are going through or just came out of a bad relationship together, there’s bound to be a little drama.”

Shaunie fails to mention that she and other producers carefully orchestrate the circus that the audience sees on TV every week, and that these women would likely be taken off the show if they weren’t catty, ghetto-fabulous and vicious toward one another.

In her article, Shaunie also mentions the “rags to riches” story of Tami Roman, former wife of retired NBA player, Kenny Anderson.  She notes that Tami was homeless after Kenny blew all of his money and divorced her too.  So, perhaps Shaunie should refer to Tami’s story as a “rags to riches to rags” story, which happens to far too many women who go chasing after financially-irresponsible athletes.  In too many cases, the dreams of glamour and glitz being promoted on shows like this one only leave the women with a divorce, an empty bank account and a couple of nasty venereal diseases.   At least that’s what I explain to girls I mentor as they (gasp) watch this show themselves.

As I listened to Shaunie miss the mark in her effort to complain about the very same stereotypes she’s perpetuating, a few questions came to mind.  First, given that most of the women on the show either aren’t married or never were married to the men on whom they’ve built their stardom, should the show really be called “Basketball Wives?”  Perhaps a more appropriate title might be “Basketball Baby’s Mamas.”

Secondly, how did Essence get to the point where they somehow considered women like Shaunie O’neal and the hyper-dramatic ex-stripper Nene Leakes to be empowerment speakers?  Were Angela Davis and Michelle Obama busy that weekend?   I would love for someone to email me and explain exactly how Nene Leakes is empowering….in fact, I dare you.

Third, why would Shaunie agree to let CNN misplace her as a spokesperson for black women who feel that their images have been shamed by shows like Basketball Wives?  A strong feminist scholar or respected public figure might be more appropriate, and I am insulted for my daughter, mother and grandmother when I see Shaunie misrepresent their demographic.   Perhaps we are now learning what happens when black minds are controlled by black media that really isn’t being run by black people – CNN should never have done this.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coaliition.  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

 

 

  • Jerjorju

    I heard that.

  • Lisa

    The same bafoonery is going on with the white reality shows, Housewives of OC, NY, and NJ all of those women act equally as ignorant and they represent charities of all kinds, and no one has one thing to say concerning that, as if disagreements between women is a black woman thing! Marrying men with money or for money is a black woman thing too I guess?   No one wants to talk about the white women’s ignorance for fear of sounding racist, but we go hard on black women and each other as a race with no remorse!  NeNe Leakes would be ideal for empowering women because of what she has gone through and how she overcame her obstacles, I think that is very empowering!  If we would stop joining in with white people in putting each other down when they are doing the same things or worse than we are, then we can make better choices! But if everyone is putting our race down including our race, our self worth will continue to deflate and we will continue making worthless choices!

  • Ersula

    I am no fan of Dr. Boyce but he doesn’t miss the mark here. Basketball Biatches is one horrible cluster ****!!! I thought I would never witness anything worse than NayNay Lacks…alas, I was wrong! This Basketball Fiasco is the worst yet!  SHAME, SHAME, SHAME!!!!

  • Meanchick

    I agree that the word ‘empowered’ has been diluted by the wrong kind of thinking. I also agree that we need to be more responsible in who we deem spokespeople or the voice of empowerment. Money does not equal empowerment. I do watch BBW and I see it for what it is: basketball ex-wives, basketball fiancees, basketball baby mamas, basketball girlfriends and basketball jump-offs. Nothing more. It’s entertainment and I’m thoroughly entertained. I think Shaunie is a smart businesswoman and I do think that the show can be a warning to other young black women who think that dealing with a pro-athlete is the key to a better life, who think that getting pregnant is the way to have it all, even if there is no love, no ring, no marriage. It’s a cautionary tale. We should pay close attention. Did the money buy them love or happiness? Young girls and mature women who think a baby with a spoiled, cheating athlete is the key to the good life have a chance to see what could happen with that type of thinking.
    On the other hand, NeNe is no spokesperson for anything positive or empowering. She speaks (loudly) without thinking and she takes it a step further by using threatening language to intimidate. a truly empowered woman can accept criticism, welcome debate and disagreements if done in a healthy manner and does NOT scream and yell like a possessed fool whenever the cameras are rolling. I questioned why Essence would include her on their empowered women tour.

  • Anonymous

    I watched the show one time to fully understand the nature of the content. Tell me this is not serious. This sends Black womans image back 50 years.     
     

  • Ladyrae3

    I was considering going to Essence until I saw BBW as empowerment speakers and decided it wasn’t worth my time.

  • Bdflo2002

    I am thoroughly disappointed and over “reality” television shows as they are not reality and all the drama that happens in more often than not, scripted as a regular series. The only difference is that they are getting the “actors” at a discounted rate since they are not professionals. 

    As per the Shaunie O’Neal and Flava Flav comparison, I believe it fits as the counterproductivity theme is more than abundant within mass media and especially Black media. Considering that particular thought process, it would be similar to comparing shows like “16 and pregnant” and “Teen mom” with the abstinence promotion of Bristol Palin who happened to be a hypocrit in her consistent inconsistency. Moving along though… I think the intent behind what the show is, is respectable, however as the old adage goes “the road to hell was paved with good intentions”. 

  • Anonymous

    There is nothing else to be said. You said it all, and very well.

  • Tunjii

    Who cares about Caucasian and their bafoonery. This is about us. Can we just stick to the current discuss for once. Please? The Media is intentionally, with the ignorant cooperation of foolish Negroes, portraying us in the worst possible light. Only those who’s analysis, is based upon what they’ve been fed by the Media, could feel the necessity of equate our circumstances with Caucasians. The biggest difference is this: Caucasians run the planet, and we are worrying about the bafoonery of Caucasians. This is all done to placate those of us too ignorant to understand who really runs the planet, how it’s being run, and what purpose they are running it the way they do. The Media is the most powerful entity influencing people’s minds, especially our own people’s minds, because we don’t read anything independent of the dominate Media’s control. We don’t seem to understand the importance of image and how that negative image of us is being perpetuated around the world. That image is how the rest of the world sees us, whether we like it or not. And until we understand this and change our behavior, this will continue. There is other information out there that we must consider and researched, if we are serious about changing the power dynamic in this country and the world. It will help give us a more balance outlook of what’s really going and why. We need to be concentrating on how we can empower ourselves as a race of people. This must be our goal if we really and honestly care about our own children and the legacy we want to leave them.

  • Tunjii

    Who cares about Caucasian and their bafoonery. This is about us. Can we just stick to the current discuss for once. Please? The Media is intentionally, with the ignorant cooperation of foolish Negroes, portraying us in the worst possible light. Only those who’s analysis, is based upon what they’ve been fed by the Media, could feel the necessity of equate our circumstances with Caucasians. The biggest difference is this: Caucasians run the planet, and we are worrying about the bafoonery of Caucasians. This is all done to placate those of us too ignorant to understand who really runs the planet, how it’s being run, and what purpose they are running it the way they do. The Media is the most powerful entity influencing people’s minds, especially our own people’s minds, because we don’t read anything independent of the dominate Media’s control. We don’t seem to understand the importance of image and how that negative image of us is being perpetuated around the world. That image is how the rest of the world sees us, whether we like it or not. And until we understand this and change our behavior, this will continue. There is other information out there that we must consider and researched, if we are serious about changing the power dynamic in this country and the world. It will help give us a more balance outlook of what’s really going and why. We need to be concentrating on how we can empower ourselves as a race of people. This must be our goal if we really and honestly care about our own children and the legacy we want to leave them.

  • Ames192002

    AMEN