The Power and Danger of Being a Difficult Woman
Gabrielle Union’s ouster from ‘America’s Got Talent’ shows it’s sometimes necessary to be ‘difficult’
In the appalling case of Gabrielle Union’s removal from America’s Got Talent by NBC, “A source close to the production disputes that Union was fired,” reports Yashar Ali at Vulture, “and specifically that she was fired for being perceived as ‘difficult.’”
In case you missed it, here’s what was “difficult” about the wildly popular actress during her stint as a judge on the performance contest show, which led to her three-year contract being cut short after one season: According to multiple press reports, she complained to NBC higher-ups about comedian Jay Leno making a racist crack about Koreans eating dogs; the decision to cut the 10-year old black rapper Dylan Gilmer in favor of a white group from Texas, because they were an act “America can get behind”; and an incident where a contestant imitating Beyonce pulled on black gloves, which Union saw as imitating the singer’s skin tone. There was also apparently friction about Union asking drag performers for their preferred pronouns, and repeated criticism of Union’s choice of hairstyles as being “too black.” Oh, and then there were Union’s complaints about Simon Cowell, the show’s creator and executive producer, persisting in smoking indoors, despite Union’s allergy to smoke and California’s workplace laws.
So, yes. Difficult.
“Difficult” here, as you may well recognize, is code for rocking the boat, especially when some folks don’t want the boat to be rocked. “Difficult” means, Gee, is your tone ever off-putting. Why are you so angry all the time? Maybe you could calm down and stop being so emotional. You may not be the right “culture” fit here.
Raise your hand if any of that sounds familiar. It’s familiar to me. The experience of being labeled “difficult” for speaking up is familiar to almost all women.