This past weekend, I experienced transformative television as I watched Iyanla: Fix My Life (OWN, Saturdays 10 pm). The episode, "Iyanla: Fix My Backstabbing Friends," centered on six women that came together to create an online blog known as "Six Brown Chicks." As the popularity of the blog grew, communication breakdown and animosity led to demise of their friendship. At the time of the episode, the women had not spoken to each other in a year.
Iyanla Vanzant is known for her appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show and has now found a home as a spiritual leader on the OWN network. Iyanla brought the six women together to stay at a house in Chicago for three days. The show captured some powerful and raw moments between the women. In one of their sessions, Iyanla hands out cards with words describing each individual's behavior towards one another. The women were invited to discuss their feelings towards one another related to the cards. As Zondra, the leader of the group, was listening to criticism she put her middle finger to her cheek directed at the member of the group that was talking. Iyanla turned slowly to Zondra, slammed her hand on the table said, "Not on my watch. Not on my watch will you disrespect another woman. When you disrespect another woman, you disrespect me and I will not allow you to disrespect me."
As I watched, I thought about the many other reality shows on television, like Basketball Wives or Real Housewives, where women are viewed as screaming shrews. It's becoming commonplace to see a woman flinging a drink or a bottle across the table at another woman because of a look or something said. We even watched young talent, Nicki Minaj, flinging curses and insults at musical icon, Mariah Carey, on American Idol.
Impressionable young girls think this is entertaining, which has translated into YouTube videos of girls attacking each other over comments on Facebook and Twitter. While we are moving to a society that communicates more through social media, we are no closer to expressing ourselves where it counts or in a manner that is productive. If women are the backbone of society, it may be time for a check-up.
As the show continued, another member of the group, Dawj, was caregiver to her husband who was stricken with terminal brain cancer. Dawj was shouldering the burden of caring for her husband without any support from her friends. She admitted to the group that she was unable to trust the women. Iyanla looked Dawj in the eyes and repeatedly asked for her trust. Iyanla's voice was warm and motherly as she pleaded, "trust us with your heart." Iyanla noticed Dawj's body was rigid, so Iyanla practiced her hands-on approach. She placed her hands on either side of Dawj's face and continued to ask for her trust.
Iyanla spoke about Dawj's husband as she said, "He is going to leave you, not because he wants to, but because he has to answer the call." Dawj closed her eyes and wiped tears, but she continued to hold the pain in her body. Iyanla continued to talk to her and remind her she is going to need the women around her when her husband leaves. Iyanla says, "It's a choice for you to suffer right now. Here's the choice, suffer or trust me?" Finally, the woman dissolved into gut-wrenching sobs. Iyanla grabbed each woman and brought them to embrace and encircle Dawj as they all cried together. The women created a circle of support around their friend as they witnessed her pain.
This episode reminded me of how women are healers, caregivers and nurturers. At the end of the episode, Iyanla Vanzant says, "Why can't women get along? Because we are afraid of our power. We've been taught it's better to be bad than to be powerful." Our power, as women, is in our ability to love, to feel our feelings and to connect. We can do that whether it is in the boardroom or the home. We don't have to fear one another as women because we all possess the power.
How many times do we share our true feelings, fears and emotions? Everyone could use someone like Iyanla to sit down with their family or friends and get them to spill their guts. Iyanla's ability to open people up is because you can see that she opens her heart to everyone in the room. Women can do the same thing for their own friends and families, but they have to open their own hearts to give everyone else permission and safety. The girls who watch the shows with drink-throwing and fights will raise children that will never know the love of an open heart unless we change the landscape of television. It looks like Iyanla: Fix My Life is trying to do that one episode at a time.