In Defense Of Mo'Nique: Likeability Shouldn't Matter When We're All Disenfranchised And Paid Less

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Amber J. Phillips Feb, 12, 2018

For the past few weeks, my social media platforms have been on fire with memes as Mo’Nique — a veteran comedian, Academy Award-winning performer, New York Times bestselling author, and iconic fat Black woman from Baltimore — courageously fights back against the racial and gender pay gap epidemic in Hollywood.

Personally, Mo’Nique has been (and will remain) one of my favorite comedians of all time. As a dark-skinned, fat Black girl from Columbus, Ohio — who was raised by a beautiful, dark-skinned, fat and Black mother — I will never forget seeing Mo’Nique on my television for the first time as Nicki Parker in The Parkers. I saw my future self in her and she felt refreshingly familiar. My love for Mo’Nique was solidified when she opened the 2004 BET awards as its first Black woman host, with a gang of big beautiful women, as they performed Beyoncé’s first solo hit, “Crazy in Love.”

Mo’Nique’s resume is impressive. Her success in the very white and very male comedic and movie industry is undeniable. A simple IMDb “Mo’Nique” search illustrates that the comedian was in damn near every Black movie and TV show created throughout Black television’s heyday.

Whether Mo’Nique is likeable isn’t important when we’re talking about Black women not being paid what they are owed. Whether you work in the entertainment industry, as a domestic worker, or as a community grassroots organizer, most — if not all — Black women are being underpaid for doing the exact same work as their non-Black woman peers.

Yes, even you.

Yes, even me.

Yes, even Mo’Nique.

Every Black woman who has to work for a living should care that Monique was offered $500,000 from Netflix, the multi-billion dollar online streaming service. While we were wasting our time in comment sections across the internet talking about what this Black woman does and doesn’t deserve, TechCrunch reported last month that Netflix, which is run by a Board of Directors exclusively featuring white people, reached the $100 billion mark for its market capitalization. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t even conceptualize what a billion looks like. So I figured it out so you don’t have to.

One billion equals one million multiplied by one million. And Netflix is worth 100 of those.

Keeping this rich people math in mind, TechCrunch also reported that Netflix expects to spend between $7.5 billion to $8 billion on new original content in 2018. In 2017, Netflix took a major hit and lost $39 million on content that never saw the light of day. And since sexual harassment and sexual assault hold necessary monetary consequences, this includes money lost on sexual predators like Kevin Spacey and the House of Cards series.

Based on these numbers, Netflix quite literally offered ‘The Queen of Comedy’ crumbs. Crumbs flaked off our bread that we, or your ex who hasn’t changed the password yet, pay them every month through our subscriptions.

Misogynoir is prejudice and discrimination specifically directed at Black women, where both race and gender are playing a role in bias unfair treatment. Debating Mo’Nique’s qualifications as if we are about to give her the million dollars Netflix can give her is classic misogynoir. Misogynoir is one of the laziest and overused comedic devices for most Black male entertainers. It is exhausting to see people like Charlamagne Tha God continuously use the practice of misogynoir against his own people to elevate his career and platform. We saw this again when he gave Mo’Nique “Donkey of the Day” for advocating for herself, which jump started a slew of internet memes and the “she aint worth it” jokes.

Additionally, as her peer and someone who would directly benefit from Netflix valuing more Black comedic voices, D.L. Hughley, who lacks an Oscar, should also be ashamed of himself for adding onto the discrimination that Mo’Nique is calling out. Misogynoir determines Black women’s worth long before we sit down at the negotiation table, especially when we allow white people to be the standard for how we treat each other. The way to end this treatment isn’t to try to cross the finish line that white people continuously move for Black folks; instead, it is to boldly call it out.

By not taking Mo’Nique’s boycott seriously, we’re ignoring all Black women who are paid less in America. Her disenfranchisement is ours because most working Black women have, or will experience, the same treatment when it comes to pay inequality.

The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) published a fact sheet entitled “Equal Pay for Black Women” that exposes how Black women are being extorted for our work. In the United States, women in general are paid only 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. Black women specifically, are paid just 63 cents for every dollar a White man makes. This is true for Black women regardless of education level and across industries. In fact, Black women are overrepresented in low-wage jobs and pretty much absent from high paying jobs. Moreover, when we need our money the most so that we might retire, our wage gap widens as we age and gain more work experience.

If we continue to allow businesses and organizations to underpay Black women, we are set to lose up to $840,040 nationwide over our lifetime because of the wage gap. And that includes Mo’Nique. Whether you like her or not. 

It’s not likely Netflix will respond to Mo’nique’s pressure, but if she chooses another platform that actually values her iconic legacy of making us laugh while roasting skinny women in tailored fat girl fashions and sickening hairstyles, Netflix should give at least $1 million of their $100 billion net worth to an organization like the National Women’s Law Center or any organization ran by Black cisgender and transgender women, with the mission of increasing our life chances like SisterSong or The Audre Lorde Project.

Decreasing the pay gap for Black women can be ground zero for making sure all Black people are paid what this country and society owes us. The U.S. government, many American businesses, and universities have benefited from our oppression as well as our culture.

But facts are facts. And if Black women across industries, educational levels, body size, and sexuality demand more for themselves, we all win.

Amber J. Phillips is a writer, digital strategist, and multimedia creative who makes what she likes to call Black Joy propaganda. Amber co-hosts the hilarious news and politics podcast The Black Joy Mixtape and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AmberJPhillips