“Black Women and the Olivia Pope Syndrome”


There is perhaps no television character more popular in Black communities than Kerry Washington’s, “Olivia Pope.” Olivia is a highly educated, beautiful stylish Washington operative who is noted for solving the most intractable problems of her clients–most of whom are high profile officials and business people. Of course, the intrigue of the show is that Olivia has crossed her own ethical line by conducting an affair with her previous client–the President of the United States.
Although the steamy sex scenes attract most viewers’ attention, this post is about Olivia’s role as a “fixer.” This is the same role that far too many Black women play in the lives of their families and friends. We are too busy trying to fix things. We think it’s our responsibility to fix the money problems that our families and friends encounter. We think it’s our responsibility to fix the relationship problems of our friends and families. We think it our responsibility to fix the emotional problems of our friends and families. The problem with all this fixing is that it leaves us precious little time and energy to attend to our own care.Black women have some of the worst health (physical, mental, and emotional) outcomes of any group in our society.
Almost 80 percent of Black women are overweight or obese. We have a high percentage of high blood pressure and hypertension. We have increasing rates of type 2 diabetes and heart disease and stroke. No group in the society is as likely to be raped, assaulted, and otherwise physically, mentally, and emotionally abused. All of these things characterize our lives and yet we are still running from pillar to post trying to “fix things” for everyone else.
One of the key examples of a Black woman fixer is Gloria Naylor’s character Mattie Michael in her book, “The Women of Brewster Place.” Mattie spent her life indulging her only son Basil who eventually cost her the home she inherited. Mattie lost her home because she was trying to “fix” things for her son.
Far too many Black women neglect themselves in order to fix things for the other people around them. While there is nothing wrong with being generous and caring, Black women find themselves rarely having reciprocal relationships. Their friends and family members don’t pay back the loans, cook them meals, or come to their aid in the midst of an emergency. Instead, when Black women are in distress they are likely to hear someone say, “Oh, but you’re so strong…you’ll get through it!”
Given that most of us will never live in the lovely condo with the Crate and Barrel wine glasses, and the designer clothes, or rub elbows with the world’s most powerful people like Olivia Pope, we need to refrain from taking on the burdens of Olivia Pope–we need to stop trying to “fix” everything!

Stay Black & Smart!

4 thoughts on ““Black Women and the Olivia Pope Syndrome”

  1. The fixer syndrome is not limited to Black women … AND I agree with everything you wrote above. That thin line between being “helpful” and being “into everyone’s business in order to fix it for YOU” is dotted and vague … greyed out and hard to get into focus. I love the Olivia Pope character, but I do question her addiction? to President Grant. More importantly, I question his addiction to her! He exemplifies the White master who wants her to be available night and day, “protected” and at his beck-and-call. Yet she is always trying to fix Melanie and Fitz’s marriage as well. Then there is Olivia’s father, who is always trying to fix Olivia! as if! … I can’t think of a character on “Scandal” who isn’t trying to fix something or someone. Power and control … finger-pointing at others … with three fingers point back at yourself.


    • I think that both post above is in line with I’m thinking. I like to think that Olivia Pope has more self esteem than what she portrays in “scandal” While I like watching the intrigue I am thankful that it’s not real life But I am aware that this also happens in real life. It seems though, that Olivia Pope is always fixing something with an “I’ll handle that” attitude is that possible?


  2. Pingback: A Whole New Wardrobe. | A Portrait of the Scientist as a Young Woman

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