Black-ish is a television show that was created by Kenya Barris and premiered on September 24, 2014. It has run for seven complete seasons on ABC Studio. The series follows and revolves around a black family in the suburbs. The essay writer family belongs to the upper class in society, which is rare for black families. It portrays the lives of a black family attempting to juggle their personal and sociopolitical affairs. The premise of the third episode, “Feminisn’t,” is about feminism and the struggles black women have to face against racism and feminism as well. It also brings out the way men have misunderstood the meaning of feminism.
In this episode, the topic of feminism is spiked when Bow Johnson learns that one of her daughters Diane Johnson and her mother-in-law Ruby Johnson are not feminists. The episode starts with Bow being excited to be part of a feminist group known as Sherman Oaks Women Making a Difference with her newfound friend Abby. After learning about her daughter’s and mother-in-laws’ position on feminism, Bow Johnson embarks on a journey to teach her daughter Diane about feminism by introducing her to a group of women she is part of with her close friend Abby. Coincidentally, Andre ‘Dre’ Jackson shows his lack of knowledge about feminism. His sons Junior and Jack also teach their father the current acceptable feminist norms. Andre Jackson seems to have difficulty understanding that men throughout his generation have treated women the way white people have treated feminism. He establishes a very thin line between being a feminist and being chivalrous as a man.
Kenya Barris produces the show. Having a producer of African-American descent gives a clear depiction of what black people in the United States go through day in day out. The problems faced in the TV show from a black perspective make it more believable. Kenya Barris also has a family close to that depicted in the series Black-ish. He is married to a biracial wife with six children and raising them in an upper-class neighborhood. In an interview, Kenya Barris stated that” the seed of the show came from my own family. “As he looked at his children, he realized that they were not raised like him (Vickers, 2018). They were being raised black-ish, hence the inspiration to produce the series Black-ish.
This episode brings out the depiction of feminism. First, it shows a difference between general feminism and feminism for black women. At the beginning of the episode, we can observe that Bow’s group of feminists comprises white women, and she quickly realizes that some issues are being left out (Smith, 2020). These issues were those being faced by black women. This can be illustrated with the comment made by one of the ladies in the group, called Sue, stating that,” these are really bad times for women. “Bow, however, was in disagreement and pointed out that the worst thing that has ever happened in history is slavery for black women. The group did not seem to understand her point on this. At this point, she decided to invite her group of friends to the meeting for purposes of diversity. She invites her black co-stars in the legendary TV Show Girlfriends Lisa, Robin, and Aisha. This was to initiate black-up in the group.
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The episode is a good representation of the various blind spots in feminism. It brings out the issues that affect women of color compared to white women. For example, as they were preparing for the wage equality rally, Lisa pinpointed that women earn less than men; however, black women earn even less than white women. This would be the first time in the series that Bow Johnson rallies with women to explore women’s rights and social injustices. The whole series until season six only showed Bow Johnson as a mother, wife, daughter-in-law, and doctor. This particular episode showed her feminist and sociopolitical side. However, the discussion shift from feminism in general to a racial feminism discussion doesn’t sit well with Abby. She fears that Bow has switched the focus of the group to racism. This was when she announced that a woman would be running for congress but based on the reaction from the black women of the group, the black community did not prefer the potential candidate. This causes a tiff between Abby and Bow. This gave Bow the realization that the group was not a safe space for black women since she understood that feminism should be beneficial to all women despite their race. The episode portrays that race and feminism can be why women of different racial backgrounds may not differ even if they are friends. It shows that an honest discussion should be held between parties in society. When they have an open mind, they will discuss such sensitive topics and become very conscious of their actions.
The episode also shows the analogy that black women believe, i.e., feminism is a white women’s affair. Ruby Johnson’s reaction showed Bow’s announcement of being a feminist. This shows that the generation that came before that believed that men were meant to be leaders and women were meant to follow. After the second meeting with her girlfriends, Bow and Diane helped Ruby figure out that she is also a feminist.
The episode stresses the importance of a safe space for all feminist women. Bow and Abby differed in their views, but this did not mean that either of them would conform to the other’s beliefs. Instead, despite their differences, they became allies. Bow, therefore, created a safe space for her and her girlfriends, and other black women in the community gathered together to have their voices heard (Acham, 2018). This causes her daughter Diane to finally change her mind about being a feminist. She felt included, and her views mattered.
Through the representation of black feminists in Season 6, Episode 3, viewers can recognize that these issues are not just in the media but also real life. The show helps us understand that feminism cannot just be tackled in a general nature, but instead realize that women’s race also is a category that brings distinctiveness in the issues. The episode also shows how fundamental it is for the older black women to transfer the narrative to the younger women, such as their daughters, the way Bow Johnson tried to convince Diane of feminism for black women.
“Feminisn’t” Black-ish. ABC. October 2019.
Acham, C. (2018). Black-ish: Kenya Barris on Representing Blackness in the Age of Black Lives Matter. Film Quarterly, 71(3), 48-57.
Smith, K. (2020). Dear White Writers, An Analysis of Contemporary TV Sitcoms Starring Black-ish People (Doctoral dissertation, American University Washington, DC).
Vickers, J. (2018). Black or Black-ish: Decoding Black-ish and Its Place in the Conversation of Diversity (Doctoral dissertation, Syracuse University).