This post is hard for me to write as a woman, because to be candid I am still in shock.
If you heard the audio tape of actress Rae Dawn Chong's open, hostile and notorious radio rant against Oprah last week (AUDIO link here) then you are likely still in shock too.
It's not that we haven't heard the stories of how women bad-mouth, denigrate and degrade one another before. We have. It's not that we don't know women gossip about one-another, engage in cat fights, drag their girlfriends in their mess to take sides, or worse. We do. But, it is very rare that we capture audio tape or video of one prominent woman, going "OFF" on another prominent woman, with no care, concern or remorse for literally ripping that woman to shreds with envy, insults, and toxic language.
Last week we all witnessed such savagery by one woman: 1980s acting icon Rae Dawn Chong. I need to state upfront that I like Rae, and I was a huge fan of her early work. She was gracious enough to submit a Celebrity Essay for the hardcover edition of my first book, Black Woman Redefined. I always viewed her as a low-key, friendly type of woman, who loves her craft, and who is easy to like and work with all at once. Hence, her very public tirade against Oprah last week, is beyond shocking, it violates the laws of human decency, and it violates the ancient and timeless values of what I like to call "The Woman Code."
The Woman CODE is a set of universal laws and principles that is often unspoken, but we all know it innately. We know it because it is in our DNA. We know it because our grandmothers, mothers, aunts, and the women we all admired growing up exemplified it and they did their best to live it out daily in both principal and practice.
It is sad to say that in this modern time, where women have so much more -- more power, more prestige, more wealth, more opportunities there seems to be little recognition of, or dedication to living by a CODE of conduct. Clearly, being a "mean girl," "alpha chick," or what I like to call "sister thug" is en vogue now. We wear our vents of rage and anger on other women as a "badge" of power. We believe that by tearing another woman down, we elevate ourselves. Nothing my dear fellow women could be further from the truth.
You will only soar as a woman, when you understand that supporting other women is how you successfully climb to the top. The old adage of lifting as we climb applies here and somewhere in Ms. Chong's rant she felt slighted by Oprah. She felt not well regarded. She felt that Oprah did not pay her the respect she deserved apparently as a co-star and colleague during the 1985 filming of The Color Purple and beyond. The great tragedy of this public attack by Ms. Chong on our beloved Oprah is not that she felt slighted, or that she was harboring some ill will, but that she was not woman enough to confront Oprah in love (years ago), invite her to talk it out, invite her to collaborate together, or humble herself and go to Oprah for help to aide in her otherwise stalled acting career.
This is where the CODE steps in. Had Ms. Chong been operating by the laws of the CODE, she would have handled her internal conflict about herself and about Oprah in a way that would have set her up to WIN. Instead, by harboring ill will for years, bathing her mind in jealousy and envy about Oprah's success versus her own stalled career as an actress, she got in her OWN WAY. And she badly crashed and burned. I really hope Iyanla puts her on OWN's "Fix My Life" because Lord knows she needs it bad.
While I cannot yet disclose the 20 laws of the CODE (you have to wait for my next book, The Woman Code due out in 2014), I can tell you that one of the universal laws of "womanhood" is that you must handle your emotions before they handle you. Jealousy of another woman's success is as old as the Bible. And we all know that jealousy left unchecked becomes self-loathing, and self-loathing becomes anger, and anger becomes danger. Ms. Chong's attack on Oprah as "vile," as a "fat girl," and most demeaning as a field "Negro" raises some ugly issues as to the state of her own soul. Sadly, Rae is not alone. Many women dwell were she does. In self pity, self-loathing, and rage at another woman's success. Then they explode and spew their venom all over the rest of us. It's a sad way to live.
The key takeaway for us all with this unfortunate event is to see how each woman handled herself after the offense occurred. Oprah up to this point has had no public comments that I am aware of, and she has not returned fire for fire. She has remained above the fray. Allowing Ms. Chong to dwell in the gutter of name calling all alone. Worse than running her mouth off and attacking Oprah, once caught in the act of attacking another woman, Ms. Chong couldn't even admit she was wrong.
Instead she attempted to excuse her vile conduct and speech and sweep it all under the rug. This too, sadly, is common behavior from women like her. I have met them (far too often) and so have you. They heap abuse on women who are "doing it" in the world. Women who are successful, kind, loved by many, and changing the game. They sit on the sideline angry and envious because they can't fathom how the so-called "fat girl" or "unpopular" girl from high-school turned out to be the queen of the universe once adulthood set in. They don't get that high-school is over, and that everyone else grew up and made something of their lives, but them. So they sulk, call names, lie on, gossip about and tear down those of us who did the hard work, paid the very expensive life dues, and yes in some cases got the good breaks.
In the final analysis, I would like to see Oprah reach out to Rae, invite her to OWN, and host a Life Class on what not to do when unhappy with your own life. I am only suggesting, what I myself would do (and have done) when women like Rae have spewed their venom on me. Ladies, there is a CODE. It's called CONDUCT. And when we live by the code of respect, mutuality, sisterhood and lifting as we climb, we all win. Not just some of us, but all of us, can win!