This post contains spoilers about Episode 6, Season 4 of "Scandal."
It's no secret that the shows of ShondaLand -- "Grey's Anatomy," "Scandal" and "How To Get Away With Murder" are using can't-take-your-eyes-off-it melodrama to slowly chip away at how viewers think about sex, power and gender roles. And last night's episode of "Scandal" was no exception. In just three sentences, Olivia Pope spelled out exactly why calling a woman a bitch is so very problematic.
After former gladiator, now Press Secretary, Abby confronts the president about what he's doing to Olivia's most recent lover, Jake -- and calls him out on being a "married man who used to sleep with my friend" -- Fitz shows up at Olivia's door, ready for an argument.
"So, Abby's kind of a bitch," he says, as soon as he walks into her apartment.
"Don't say that!," Olivia immediately hits back. "The words used to describe women! If she was a man you'd say she was 'formidable' or 'bold' or 'right.'"
Calling a formidable woman a "bitch" is an easy way to cut down her actions or words, and is often used to invalidate any power behind those actions and words.
Last night's episode not only had this badass Olivia moment and a few more (like telling her super spy, super scary father that he may be Command, but she has "other powers" at her disposal that he'll never have), but also an excellent complementary storyline for First Lady Mellie Grant.
While Fitz concerned himself with romantic drama and whether or not to turn Jake over to B-613, Mellie was shooting the shit with another former first lady, and learning to seize her own authority instead of simply standing by and supporting her husband.
"Scandal" is a show filled with powerful women, from Olivia, Quinn, Abby and Mellie, to the more minor female characters, like Portia de Rossi's RNC chair Lizzie. The beauty of Rhimes is that she doesn't just put these women in starring roles; she and her team use the characters to call out the barriers women -- even the most successful ones -- face on a daily basis.