When Women & Sex & Careers Collide

It’s been four days since the premier of the third season of Scandal and I figure that’s enough time for everyone to have watched, rewatched, discussed and speculated over what happens next.

Needless to say (but I’ll do it anyway), there was a lot going on in this episode. I initially struggled with what I’d discuss because there were sooooo many, many, many worthy topics: what happens to Oliva & Co when her credibility goes to hell, the idea that Blacks have to be twice as better to get only half as much, Whitley probably made the right decision in picking Dwayne as Byron has some scary Tiger Mom tendencies, “ambitious sluts,” change and reclaim the narrative (I say this often), “Are we Gladiators or are we bitches?,” and the notion that there’s nothing wrong with a little self-preservation...even at someone else’s expense.


I was glad that Olivia lost her clients when she was “exposed” as being President Grant’s mistress, not because I was rooting against (or really for) her but because I wanted them to explore the real ramifications of when women + sex (sex, sexuality, sexualization...all of that), and careers collide.

Seriously, unless you're a commercial sex worker, being perceived as a sexual being (in your professional settings) who happens to be a woman is rarely a good combination. When women are successful or even present at the table in male-dominated arenas, more often than not, how she got there is asked in some shape form or fashion.

Even more unfortunately, this question is usually greeted by one of two assumptions. If she's seen as sexual, she slept her way to the top. If she's seen as asexual, she's queer and really great at her job.

Think about it, if you step outside of your expansive insights into Olivia's personal life. She's not a sexual being to the rest of the world, she's not even for real really a person. She survives on wine, popcorn and wears white after Labor Day! .

So maybe people didn't assume she was gay, but she was rather asexual and great at her work. To shatter people's understanding of her, to question that maybe Olivia wasn't that great at her job, but great at making useful "connections," she became a fraud. And who wants to pay a shit load of money in retainer fees for a fake fixer?!

The unfortunate thing about this is that a number of season two's resolutions came from the Oval Office. So maybe Olivia isn't a fraud, but her boo and his connections sure come in handy. Even Fitz made a point of saying they would admit to beginning their affair AFTER his election so people would believe she received her job because of merit.

And that's the battle women in particular fields face, we’re constantly being asked to prove (usually indirectly, but sometimes directly) that we have what we have because of merit. People often make assumptions that are unfair and unflattering and we're stuck trying to prove that we know what we're doing, we're “virtuous” (but not “prudes”) and that we're able to do our work based on honed skills, experience, the relationships we've established and the people we know (non-Biblically).

I could say so much more about this (and the other topics I listed) and I'm sure I will but, for now, charge yourself with giving everyone the benefit of the doubt regarding how they accomplished their position in life, especially women.