When a Black woman tells you her worth, believe her the first time
Having confidence, knowing your worth, and advocating for yourself are wonderful traits to have, but they make Black women dangerous.
by Tynesha M. McCullers
For the past few weeks, people have been up in arms on both sides of the argument about Mo’Nique’s video discussing her disagreement with Netflix concerning her pay for a stand-up special — though the excitement has died down some now. In the video, Mo’Nique calls for Black people to stand with her in a boycott against Netflix as she demands more pay for her stand-up special — pay that aligns with her worth.
What followed this request was a slew of criticism about her audacity to ask for more money. Many critiques, comments, and jokes have been made about the “worth” and “value” of the Academy Award winning comedienne and actress. Folks from all walks of life chimed in to offer their perspectives. Most recently, comedian Gary Owens decided to provide his two cents about Mo’Nique and he did so by mocking her and criticizing her efforts to advocate for herself. All of his comments were disrespectful, unwarranted, and unacceptable.
Despite naysayers, Mo’Nique has been fighting for what she deserves by speaking to various publications and across multiple media platforms. Just a week or so ago, she took to Instagram and posted receipts — emails between herself and Netflix staff discussing the details of her contract. Not only did Netflix offer to pay Mo’Nique only $500K for her special, but there were other contractual stipulations designed to limit her in other ways.
The contract stated that Mo’Nique needed to film the special, do promotional tours/work for it, and that she would not be able to work on any other projects with any other entities for the next year. There was also another statement in the contract that read that Netflix would have first bid on the next special Mo’Nique was doing after the year of her Netflix special streaming, and if Netflix chose not to hire Mo’Nique for the next special, only then would she be allowed to reach out to other companies.
Upon releasing this proof, some naysayers began to back down and recant all the negative things they originally said about Mo’Nique. It was clear that she had been telling the truth and Netflix was attempting to slight her.
Mo’Nique’s situation is unfortunately very familiar to countless other Black women, both in and out of the entertainment industry. Tracee Ellis Ross has also been in the news recently, discussing her salary for Black-ish as it is in renegotiation. After the salary leaks of television actors and actresses in 2016, many have been eager to discuss the pay discrepancies between Ross and her co-star, Anthony Anderson.
For Ross, her salary renegotiation being a public conversation is awkward, but she has expressed appreciation for the outpouring love and support. She also gave thanks for the conversations around women’s worth and equality and the need for the tightening of the racial and gender pay gap.
These women are absolutely correct about these conversations needing to be had, but even more important, action needs to follow these dialogues. Being informed and talking about Black women’s pay disparity is only half the battle.
Those who consider themselves to be “allies” should follow the actions of actress Jessica Chastain. After conversations with Octavia Spencer about the significant pay gap between women of color and their white counterparts, Chastain began to advocate for equal pay for her co-star, pushing to ensure that Spencer was paid five times the amount she was offered for the pair’s upcoming holiday comedy. As this story continues to be told, hopefully others will be willing to move beyond simply having the conversations and begin taking risks and cutting bigger checks for Black women.
As I reflect on all of this, I am left feeling both discomfort and disgust, because what these Black actresses are experiencing in the public eye is something that poor and working class Black women experience as well, on multiple levels. Unfortunately, many of us have become accustomed to experiencing these disparities in all aspects of our lives.
We are constantly having to prove our worth at home, at school, at work, at church, in relationships, and the list just goes on. We have to learn self-advocacy before anything else because without it, we would be left to silently endure what other people around us feel we are worthy of receiving — which isn’t much at all.
Living as a Black woman means working three times as hard as our counterparts, still ending up at the bottom, and being called “angry”, “difficult” and/or an “ungrateful bitch” when we ask for what we are due. It’s a damn shame.
Having confidence, knowing your worth, and advocating for yourself are wonderful traits and abilities to have, but they make you dangerous when you’re a Black woman.
Black women having to prove to naysayers that we are worthy of consideration and payment for our time, skill, and labor is getting old. It’s frustrating that women like Mo’Nique and Viola Davis have to defend their worth to the masses and practically beg for what they clearly deserve.
What’s more infuriating is the amount of people who feel as though they can engage in these dialogues about Black women’s worth, when they know that they wouldn’t appreciate being in similar circumstances. If others wouldn’t expect to work for free or be paid less than what they are due, why should Black women have to?
Tynesha is a strong-willed higher education professional in the DMV with a passion for social justice. Born and raised in North Carolina, Tynesha is true to southern roots. Tynesha has a B.S. in Human Development and a Master of Education. Tynesha’s interests include watching documentaries, listening to podcasts, singing, painting, traveling, and writing.