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‘Basketball Wives’ And Why I’m Not ‘About That Life’

Dear Shaunie & Co.,

It’s over. I can’t. Bye-bye boo boo.

After succumbing to the dreaded spring cold, I found myself catching up with my DVR and sitting through three episodes of the new Miami season of “Basketball Wives.” In last night’s episode, we find Evelyn resorting to teenage-level behavior (at what was supposed to be a “nice” dinner) which led to a shouting match and having to literally be thrown out of posh eatery Philippe Chow. But not before she screamed out to her foe, Jennifer, that ‘You ain’t about that life!’

I don’t know about Jennifer—but I’m definitely not about that life, Evelyn.

I’m no longer about watching eight adult women carry-on like teenagers in the name of “keeping it real” and “being grown” and representing this image of Black women to millions of people globally. While the three main stereotypes are there for us to see: The Sapphire (Tami), The Post-Civil Rights Bourgie Chick (Jennifer), The Jezebel (Evelyn), the rest of the cast add to a revolving display of desperation, embarrassment and a transparent thirst for recognition, attention and screen time. When asked about the amount of drama on the show, creator, executive producer and cast member Shaunie O’Neal had this to say:

“Well, I definitely prefer no drama for me. But I think it’s only normal to have a bunch of women together that much and the drama just happens, it’s nothing that’s planned or set up, it just happens.”

As we’ve said before, therein lies the problem. This type of behavior is not normal or natural for adult women. In grade-school we deal with competition, cattiness, jealousy and more—but by the time we’ve become career women, mothers, all of the things these women parade themselves to be, “that life” is over. We’ve grown, we’ve learned and at this stage we teach young women just by living our daily lives. For “Basketball Wives” (and the other “Wife” franchises) to continue to normalize this type of behavior creates a situation of misrecognition for Black women globally and leads to ‘normal’ women being socially punished for the foolery of others.

Women like myself who work in environments where we not only have to do well, but also constantly re-represent ourselves to others to fight these stereotypes are affected. Women who travel around the globe and have to prove that they aren’t prostitutes/loose/down for whatever are affected. This speaks to a much larger issue, but shows like these continue to propel the same pattern. On a smaller scale, what local business owner wouldn’t think twice about hosting a table of Black women in their restaurant if all they saw was the flipping of tables and middle fingers on television. And it seems that plenty of Basketball Wives agree.

It’s valid to say that shows like “Basketball Wives” are merely entertainment—but if they are place them in that context. Be upfront that these women are not friends, that they are casted and forced into social situations with each other. Admit that alcohol is purposely flowing freely in nearly every shot and that producers are always close by to setup a drama-filled situation. At the end of the day (I had to say it!) the cast can’t blame editors, the women must blame themselves and their intentions.

All of the women on these shows are beautiful, smart and have the potential to be wildly successful without television, but by capitalizing and promoting the darker side of human behavior every week and labeling it “that life” makes “this life,” and specifically my life, more complicated than it has to be. The transparency of these man-made situations isn’t fun anymore—it’s just sad to watch.

Keep the Louboutins and lip-gloss because you’ve officially lost a fan. I’ll keep the earrings though.



Last 5 posts by Shannon Washington

  • Kitkat04

    I am a 21 year old african american woman, as soon as I finished watching the tivo’d version, [lol]…I stated to my mom, “at that age NOBODY should be about THAT life. Im young & I refuse to indulge in drama but shows like this give my peers the idea that its okay to act like this when in reality who wants to get dressed in their finest threads just to leave looking as if they are some type of hoodrat ?!? its a sad situation, but im done. no more bbw for me!

  • Thank you! I often find myself watching BBW and truly wondering, “What grown woman acts like this?!!”
    I literally lol’d like Evelyn can’t be serious when she started screeching “You ain’t about this life…”
    A life of fist first, think never. No thanks.

  • Word

  • Chanda

    I like watching Basketball Wives truly it is a great show, but enough is enough, Evelyn is too beautiful of a lady to act so ghetto.  Yes Jennifer do act like a little over the top with her attitude, but she acting the same way she was always did with her fake contact, why point out thing about your use to be best friend, why hit below the belt.  I like Jennifer didn’t punk out like she did before,  Evelyn knew her man was a whore and what wrong with Jennifer voicing her opinion, Everlyn show do voice her opinion when she wants.  Ever season she has drama with somebody.  Bitch this time Jennifer need to tell you Bitch you are not even revelent!!!! Those new girls need to get a back bone as well!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • I’m always aware of the fact that much of what happens on “reality” tv is in fact scripted but this latest episode just seemed so very contrived. Clearly we’re just in it so that Evelyn can sell more t-shirts. I don’t know who the market is for “Non-Muthafuckin’ Factor” and “You Ain’t Bout That Life” shirts but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Evelyn and the other ladies on the show are making a pretty penny off of being deranged and childish on a weekly basis. At that dinner, I think Suzie said the most profound thing (surprise) when she thanked Shaunie for her bank account. Drama begets $$, begets drama, and the cycle continues. I do love my ratchet tv but I feel like I’m whole enough to enjoy it at a very basic level without attributing the characteristics of the women on screen to all women of color. Unfortunately, not everyone can be so discerning with the images view. I think ultimately it is best if we begin to pull away from these shows. Where there are no viewers, there’s no $$ and the drama will fade.