Hey, y’all! We’ve been gone for a few weeks trying to prepare our pipeline students for their second set of law school finals (if you haven’t heard about D.A.P.P., the 501(c)(3) organization we co-founded to diversify the legal profession and infuse the pipeline with women of color law students, click here and here.), but we’re back with a new post that makes us so very happy. It’s a story of women empowerment, refusing to be bought or sold, and believing in yourself and your abilities when society and corporate America say otherwise. Today, we’re super inspired by Melissa Harris-Perry and the announcement of her new role as editor-at-large at ELLE.com.
As many of you know, MHP left her hit TV show on MSNBC last month after issuing a scathing letter to her team, affectionately known as #nerdland, that described the familiar shenanigans that the network was playing in an attempt to push her show and its powerful rhetoric to the background. You can read the entire letter here.
As women lawyers, so many of the issues raised in MHP’s letter resonate with us. MHP describes being invisible and pushed behind others despite her top-notch education and experience.
I have stayed in the same hotels where MSNBC has been broadcasting in Iowa, in New Hampshire, and in South Carolina, yet I have been shut out from coverage. I have a PhD in political science and have taught American voting and elections at some of the nation’s top universities for nearly two decades, yet I have been deemed less worthy to weigh in than relative novices. . .
Man. We’ve pretty much lost count of the number of times our respective Duke and Dartmouth educations, law degrees from Howard Law and WashU Law, and top-notch legal experiences have been overlooked in favor of male attorneys. The number of times we are presumed to be less than and unworthy before we even open our mouths at an oral argument. The number of times we have watched men with less than stellar credentials be given opportunities for which we were never even considered.
MHP also doesn’t shy away from issues related to race AND gender. Intersectionality is a thing, people, and being a woman AND of color more often than not leads to doubly difficult circumstances across all levels of corporate America.
I will not be used as a tool for their purposes. I am not a token, mammy, or little brown bobble head. I am not owned by Lack, Griffin, or MSNBC.
*Two snaps* You better say THAT, Melissa Harris-Perry! The struggle to maintain your authentic self is like swimming upstream against a strong current that says you will succeed if you just let go of that pesky #blackgirlmagic and let them use and mold you into exactly what they want you to be.
The real victory in MHP’s departure and rebound is that she left on her own terms. No one put her out. She left with her respect and dignity intact, armed with the refusal to sacrifice herself in order to play by someone else’s rule book. A rule book that was never written for her, might we add.
Let us say that again because it’s a critical lesson for women in corporate America, and especially women of color – YOU SET YOUR OWN TERMS. Only you. Corporate America’s rules were not made with you in mind, and you should never dumb yourself down or accept less than you deserve. You set your own terms and stick to them. So what if it doesn’t work out? Your self-respect is worth a lot more, and if MHP’s story is an example, you will always land on your feet and dive into the next opportunity when you put you first.
Our mothers always used to tell us, “One monkey don’t stop no show,” and it’s so applicable here, too – you are enough, and nothing and no one can stop your show. The show must go on. Keep fighting, climbing, and overcoming. #MHPTaughtUs