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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Social Commentary:
In The Company of Misery
(aka Bitch Is The New Black)

I thought long and hard before writing this piece. After attending "Belle’s Holiday Cocktails" event on Monday night, surrounded by scores of talented, successful, and charming women gathered in the name of sisterhood, I am somewhat remiss to even broach today’s topic of conversation. It seems wrong to damper the after glow of such a positive evening by discussing the recent announcement of Ms. Helena Andrews’ upcoming book Bitch Is The New Black (Harper Collins.) The author, a regular contributor at The and self-described “mean girl,” has pitched and sold the rights to the currently unpublished BITNB to Miramax Films as the Black version of Sex and The City. I can see the movie byline now The Browner, Bitchier, more Bourges Bradshaw.

I suppose if the old adage “misery loves company” rings true, Andrews, Harper and Miramax will have a hit on their hands. The angst ridden Andrews seems a youthful miserable mess by all available accounts and it’s clear from the pre-promotion for her book that she is actively seeking your companionship. In the last two days several blogs have picked up the announcement of the book to movie deal, all of which are using the same Washington Post article as their information source. In that article, Andrews touts BITNB as “a satirical look at successful black young women living in Washington [D.C.].” She delves slightly deeper into the premise by offering this:

[The] book attempts to reveal what's behind the veneer. 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?

The rest of the article is somewhat convoluted, filled with contradiction after contradiction, summed up perfectly when Andrews states:

What I am trying to say about single black women in any urban environment is, you don't know them as well as you think you do. They may not know themselves as well as they think they do."

I’m hedging bets that Andrews herself falls into the latter category. From the article she seems totally oblivious to her own cluelessness, a fact that was not lost on Tambay of, who writes:

Reading the article about Andrews, as she makes her case on the difficulties she faces finding a suitable black man, she does herself no favors, as I see it.

As the title of her book suggests, she describes herself as “mean,” and she essentially looks down on the men she dates, even the “nice” ones. She’s certainly free to have her standards, but recognize that what you “put out” will be received accordingly, and she comes across as depressed, with all her self-loathing, which isn’t at all attractive.

Other than emphasizing her degree, her job, the closet full of clothes and shoes she has, and real estate, Andrews says nothing about what makes her a real catch; she really doesn’t demonstrate (or even bother to state) reasons why any man would want to be in a relationship with her! I wouldn’t want to be in relationship with her! My response to her would be, so what?

I can appreciate and understand some of the issues she brings up, but her approach is all wrong, and she’s painting herself into a corner that won’t bring her anything but the superficiality she puts out!

Andrews, for all her success, seems (unapologetically) self-indulgent on a grandiose scale. She clearly exists in that age where “logic” is born more out of a visceral egocentric thought process than anything based in reality. It’s an infantile age we all go through where women look outside themselves for answers to their problems, when they should start by looking within. It's an age where women are still worried about meeting some arbitrary and often unattainable standard instead of setting their own standards of happiness. It's an age where we view ourselves as better for our independence and unwillingness to settle, instead of admitting that we are at our best when we are part of something greater than ourselves. It's an age that, once we've matured, we happily leave behind, no longer waiting to exhale.

With little information available about the book, I can only hope that Andrews first literary offering ends with a self-actualizing epiphany, a moment of clarity that allows her the ability to recognize why her own behavior is the most likely cause of her single status. If not, I worry that her contribution to the universal understanding of Black women may erode recent public image gains we've made at the hands of Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Gayle King— three women of varying high success levels who personify grace, style, and sisterhood and would never ingratiate the term Bitch, in public language or behavior. (For that matter, as a fan of the SATC brand, I question whether the fabulous fictional foursome would appreciate the comparison to BITNB. The SATC brand is at its core an ode to sisterhood, a remarkably convincing argument for valuing friendship.* Sadly, nothing that I've read thus far about BITNB seems to mirror that sentiment.)

I suppose a Black version of SATC could be an interesting pop culture product. If approached correctly it could be a significant look at the multidimensional psyche of the Black women and their relationships with Black men. A writer with the right intentions and proper backing could influence women to grow past immaturity, hate fueld by insecurity, and faux bitchiness. The movie, if approached with socially significant intention could encourage Black women to evolve into supportive friends of sisterhood, leaving the bitch behind in favor of becoming A Belle.

There isn't anything new about being a bitch. But being a Belle, well that is absolutely the new Black.

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