Why I am NOT Mary Jane

I AM NOT MARY JANE

I know the first season of Being Mary Jane has come and gone, but I still want to speak on this. (Partly because I hadn’t been following the show and more importantly because this topic is still relevant.)

Let me begin by saying that after hearing people talk (and blog) about the new show, I did watch the pilot episode last year and was pleasantly surprised. Unlike most of BET’s productions, I actually enjoyed the episode. Minus opening the show with a sex scene (I believe TV’s oversaturation of sex decreases the content’s quality), I thought the episode was very interesting and I also respected the way BET “humanized” Mary Jane by showing her doing “normal” things (e.g. sitting on the toilet while scrolling through her phone).


I’d heard people compare Gabrielle Union’s character to Kerry Washington’s in Scandal, but I was happy to see that Being Mary Jane was not the gladiator-love-affair-B-613 storyline; it brought its own unique plot.

So, then I watched the first episode in January 2014…and I was disappointed. Although very different from Scandal, we still had a woman sleeping with a married man. The fact that Gabby learned of his marital status in the pilot episode was like “Okay, we’ll see what happens; she didn’t know.” But, after not only finding out about his wife and children but exposing the affair to the man’s wife, in the following episode Mary Jane still ends the scene in the shower with him.

Yuck.

I know everyone says, “It’s entertainment, not real life,” but I for one am tired of the sleeping-with-a-married-man plotline.

So I took a step back from Miss Paul.

Fast forward to last week and I’m visiting my mother who was watching the season finale. So I joined her to catch a few snippets here and there, obviously confused by most of them because of my ‘viewing hiatus.’ But I did see that Andre (isn’t Omari Hardwick fine though?) returned home to his wife, so I began to wonder (in my best Carrie Bradshaw voice), Did I fail to give Being Mary Jane a fair chance?

And this thought continued to replay in my mind as I noticed BET show clips of “ordinary women” explaining to the world why they are Mary Jane.

So days later I decided to give Miss “Pauletta” another try as I watched episodes two and three (“Girls Night In” and “The Huxtables Have Fallen”). And after just a few minutes into episode three (and right around the time that BET decided to show a woman performing oral sex on a man), I re-concluded (I know it’s not a word) that I was fair in my previous assumptions: This show disappoints me.

Well, to be fair, not the entire show because I definitely think it has other interesting storylines. But I’m not here for Gabby, Andre and the raunchy sex they have all over her glass house.

It honestly disgusts me. Again, people will probably disagree with me and point out that it’s just a television show, but I’m like…dang. Are we at the point of such a seared conscience that we can so easily look past blatant and glorified adultery and unfaithfulness just because “it happens in real life?” Well, so do homicides but I don’t want to see that on my TV screen each day.

Whether or not you believe Mary Jane Paul’s “image” even matters because she is a fictional character can be debated, but I want to focus more on BET’s promotion of this show (and some of its themes/messages) via its #IAMMARYJANE” campaign.

BET says, “If you’re a powerful woman, upload your video and let us know why you are Mary Jane.” Apparently the winner has a chance to appear on the network.

I watched a clip and some women said they were Mary Jane because she is beautiful, she represents women and their friends, she’s not perfect but she’s relatable—and my absolute favorite—because she likes to have a lot of sex.

Now, while I don’t think Miss Paul is the anti-christ, I certainly don’t think her character is someone women should compare themselves with.

I am NOT Mary Jane.

I do NOT sleep with married men.

I do NOT pressure a man to tell his kids “the truth” that he is divorcing their mother for me, a woman who is not his wife.

I do NOT tell a man’s wife that he is a cheater and then go lay my body beside him, again and again.

Sure, I saw on the finale when she apologized to Avery and finally took responsibility for her role in the matter, but even that was not without BET highlighting the foolish concept of a mistress telling a wife how to sexually please her husband. That’s disrespect at its finest.

Mary Jane certainly has more to her storyline than this affair, but it’s pretty clear to see that (at least for season one) this was the show’s highlight.

A woman left an interesting comment on BET’s #IAMMARYJANE campaign page. She wrote:

I am Avery. I am a strong, independent, self sufficient, intelligent, beautiful woman. Mary Jane has good qualities too. However, there is nothing glorifying about her role/position. The show is hot & steamy. That’s what attracts the viewing audience. And, Gabrielle Union is an awesome actress. Nevertheless, BET, there needs to be some sensitivity for the Averys that watch the show. There’s nothing nice about a family falling apart, being a mistress or going through divorce. So, where can I upload my “I am Avery video?”

*Two snaps for this*

While I pray to never be an “Avery,” there are many women like her out there—real women who have watched their husbands destroy their marriage and family with other women.

And I’m sure it doesn’t encourage the unfortunate Averys of today to see the media (and sadly shows with Black-female leads) put the Mary Janes on a pedestal like their actions are deeds worthy of praise.

It bothers me that so many of us keep seeing Black women depicted as a side chick and a homewrecker and justify these images with “Well this is reality.”

How can we ever change the negatives of our reality if we constantly embrace and promote them? To be better we must do better. We can’t cry out that many in our community keep killing each other, but then support the movies, TV shows and songs that depict this very behavior and simply call it reality.

You always hear about how X amount of black women are not married (one episode even highlighted this), and the images that portray our community keep depicting us as man-hungry, mistresses, and reality TV characters.

Can’t we aspire to be (and project) more? Sure, White women have unflattering roles as well, but you better believe they also project an equal amount of positive images for these women as well. You may see a White woman leading as a mistress, but you’ll be sure to see another one leading as a doctor.

I’m sure many will think I’m taking this show too far, but I don’t believe there’s any such thing as “just” when it comes to how images and media influence people’s perceptions of Black women. I do think Being Mary Jane has the potential to be a great show if it redirects Gabby’s love-life storyline, and I don’t discredit how leading roles like hers and Washington’s will open doors for other Black actresses.

Yet, I do think that, if continuing down this side chick path, these roles will only afford Black women a small slice of the ‘#winning pie’. And as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explained in her TED talk, “…bottom power is not power at all.”


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BIO
Service is her passion, writing is her platform, uplifting women and the Black Community is her purpose. Shala Marks is a writer, editor and soon-to-be author. Through her work, Marks aspires to demonstrate “The Craft of Writing, and the Art of Efficacy.” She has a B.A. in journalism from Arizona State University. Connect with her at: http://shalamarks.com/.

13 Comments

  1. It seems like just from my perspective that… The SIDE CHICK, WOMAN ON THE SIDE, GIRLFRIEND NUMBER 2,3, TROPHY WIFE (sexless boring in bed just look good), Groupies having babies for child support checks are an “In Thing.”

    Women marrying men that say when we were apart for a few months the other woman on the side got pregnant. It’s okay this 5-6 carat ring will make it alright let’s get married. Now you live a lifetime with trust issues. HA!

    Don’t you know the same hole you dig by being selfish you have to reap it?
    Lesson of Time – Karma
    When a bird is alive…It eats Ants.
    When the bird is dead…Ants eat the bird.
    Time & Circumstances can change at any time.
    You may be powerful today.
    But remember.
    Time is more powerful than you! One tree makes a million match sticks…
    Only one match stick needed to burn a million trees.
    SO BE GOOD AND DO GOOD!

    I have a girlfriend who is married to a SOUDI Muslim and she is his 3rd wife (here in America) I think he spends the night twice a week and recently when I was over there I did not like the way her 21year old daughter which is his stepdaughter were interacting.

    Made me sick to my stomach I had to leave. I asked her one day why are you allowing this?..She said she does not want to be alone. I pray for her everyday! That is all I can do.

    I pray every day for women to know their self-worth. Its okay to be alone. Don’t Settle!! Travel the world there are available men.
    I know it’s hard out here for black women finding a mate, with our prisons being filled with black men, black men being gay, black men on the DL, black men having multiple women, Narcissistic Sociopaths that prey on innocent ,kind, sweet women. It’s really hard. I understand.

    However, if you pray GOD will change your circumstances! I know he change mines by waiting patiently not doing things in my own will and having discernment to know when a DOG is lurking!!

    Thank you GOD!

    You are worth more than being a side piece!

  2. BROWN SISTA!! I CONCUR!! I AM NOT A MARY JANE!!! Thank you God!!! I KNOW MY SELF WORTH!! Thank you for this article!

  3. I think it’s ironic Gabby is playing this role after finding out her man had side chick. But just like the women who are side W**res she also sets a bad example by taking Dewayne back after he cheated and had a baby. She even lied and said they were seperated when it happened to try and save face. Unlike Avery’s character she’s not married to Dewayne nor do they have children, she even publically blamed & humiliiated herself for his cheating saying “it’s my fault, I put my career first, we didn’t spend enough time together.”

    I can’t blame a good woman for getting cheated on, especially when she doesn’t know but staying with a man that you know is a serial is about as bad. The loyal gilfriend/wife and jump off are both willing paticipants.

  4. Being Mary Jane is written from a side piece point of view. If a man cheats on his wife than its somehow because of something the wife is doing wrong or not well enough. Mary Jane is no better than Avery in fact she is worst because she knows this man is lying to his family every time he is with her despite the fact that he shares a family with this woman. SMH if he did it to her he will do it to you. You are no better MJ. Avery is no less of a woman than you because she uses a pillow while giving head, and you are not special, you are just the other woman.

  5. I am Mary Jane,but unlike he r I will never force the man I am with to leave his child’s mother. Simply because that has to be his decision, if at one point he does then ok.

    I am in the position I am in because I love him,I have loved him for over 7 years and I will continue to love him, the ring he put on another woman’s finger does not change that.

    I have heard every speech and every word, how I deserve better and how “bad” what I am doing is, I know all this and sometimes when I am with him I think of what I am putting her through. But all that does not take away my love for him.

    In bashing the “side chicks” do remember that we are human, not all of us do what we do because of malice or because we were not raised well.

    So there, in some ways I AM MARY JANE!!

  6. Why would any woman want to be in love with another woman’s husband? I wonder what women who are the side chick do if it was their husband??I understand but I will not stay around for a married man to string me along, no matter how much I love him-because I love myself more. I am a married woman and to think women condone this behavior because they “love” the man is ludicrous. The married man is just as much to blame as the woman but WOMEN we hold the power. I am a married woman who was once “Avery”. I fought for my marriage, my family and through prayer and God I was able to see things in a different light. As a woman I owned up to my part in the marriage and he did as well. I applaud “Mary Jane” for telling “Avery” how to satisfy her husband-cause the truth stands-“What you will not do, another woman will….”. Again, we need to take responsibility for our families, marriages, and community. I am not Mary Jane but I do understand her side and Avery’s side. It’s a voice that needs to be heard.

  7. I don’t get it. Even if you do love a married man, he is not YOURS to “love” and have sex with. Sounds very selfish. I can have sympathy for a woman who did not know because a married man lied about his relationship status, but only if she leaves his lying butt, which is not what Pauletta/Mary Jane was doing. Desperation and lack of self-value is a motha, and so is good, I guess…

    I have watched Being Mary Jane, and I would like the show a lot if she had of dumped that dude for good. And then in the last episode, she made herself look even worse by going after her ex, who is already in a serious relationship. Ugh…

  8. I meant to say:

    Desperation and lack of self-value is a motha, and so is good sex, I guess…

  9. That is a sad way to live. I could never knowingly share a man. There are too many men on this earth to be had and some women rather share ONE.

  10. I totally agree with you and I AM NOT Mary Jane! As a young professional pursuing my Juris Doctorate dating has been very dry but never would I ever knowingly accept a title of a “side chick”, “girlfriend #???” or “mistress”. At the end of the day we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard morally.
    My biggest issues with this show, as you have mentioned, is their whole segment of women saying that they are Mary Jane especially the one about sex.

    Most women enjoy sex including myself but should only be done with someone who you are looking to establish a relationship with because I once attended a conference at the University of Maryland and the speaker said that each time we give our “core” to another person they walk away with a piece of our soul so when you actually meet that person that God had intended for you how much of your soul will you have left to give to the person who deserves it. I am clearly not perfect but the older I get I see how people in the past have walked away with a small part of my soul.

    Our universe is made up of good and bad karma and people need to understand this because the “Mary Jane” in real life will have a hard life when karma catches up to her.

  11. …or when she ins up pregnant by a man who is not completely committed to her,that’s when stuff gets messy

  12. Sleeping with a lot of people, including married people leads to you having soul ties. So we have to be careful with what we do and whom we’re doing it with. In this world there are so many different types of people. It’s the good, the bad and the ugly or indifferent. Do you really want to have soul ties to people you don’t know? Because that is what we’re doing when we sleep around or assume the person that we’re sleeping with is only cheating with you on his wife. Women, please decrease or put a halt to your burdens and lesson the intake of garbage soul ties. They’re unhealthy and do us a lot of harm… Spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and also, physically. Loving yourself completely means you’re taking care of yourself beyond the surface. It’s the whole you, not just the physical or mental part of you. Mind blowing orgasms are wonderful but are they worth the soul ties?

    Here’s how I measure myself to see If I’m actually taking care of the ‘whole’ me.

    Divide yourself into 4 sections: Mentally…Physically…Emotionally…and Spiritually. Then ‘honestly’ rate yourself on the terms of how well you’re taking care of you in each section. All sections are equally important so, give an honest percentage and you’ll see where YOU need improvement, or else you’ll continue to lie to yourself and neglect your needs.

    Please don’t come out of a bag on me. I just want to help if I can. I’m just a woman who has gone through a lot. Well…I put myself through a lot. I wasn’t taking care of my whole self like I should have. In the name of ‘sisterhood’ I hope this helps someone. Peace.

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