How Olivia Pope Represents & Combats A Culture Of Slut Shaming

Shondaland Thursdays are an addiction that we’re just not ready to give up. The idea of three of our favorite shows (Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy and How To Get Away With Murder) on television one after the other gives us the kind of euphoria we only experience after a fresh mani/pedi.

Grey’s Anatomy gives us the energy and perseverance to get dressed for those 8:00 A.M. classes. How To Get Away With Murder puts an extra pep in our step and keeps up guessing. But it’s Scandal that really does it for us.

Since season one, we’ve been completely hooked on twisted plots, the amazing and powerful dialogue and most importantly, the love story of President Fitzgerald Grant and D.C.’s ‘fixer’ Olivia Pope. Scandal holds a dear place in our hearts for many reasons, most of which can be summarized in one single conclusion: Scandal explores unprecedented and oft-ignored ground on television. It dives into topics and taboos that are mostly untouched by television networks, the first being placing an African-American woman at the forefront of the entire series.

Olivia Pope is not your average leading lady. She earned her undergraduate degree at Princeton and then pursued higher education at Georgetown, becoming a lawyer and a PR-professional. She is a crisis manager, fixing the lives of the elite in Washington’s political and business circles. Her wit, charm and intellect give her the ability to talk her clients into or out of any situation at hand. She’s African-American. She successfully ran the campaign of the show’s current sitting commander in chief, President Fitzgerald Grant. And between all of that, she’s also sleeping with him.

Through the twists and turns of Fitz and Olivia’s love story, we find reality among fantasy. While Olivia is extremely successful, beautiful and intellectual, her successes are quickly overshadowed by the popular societal pastime that is slut shaming.


What is slut shaming?

By definition, slut shaming is the action or fact of stigmatizing a woman for engaging in behavior judged to be promiscuous or sexually provocative. In reality, slut shaming takes many different forms and lives in many different ideologies that people carry with them today. In today’s day and age, slut shaming lives vastly on the internet, manifesting itself in remote places like Twitter mentions and Instagram comments.

In Scandal, we find slut shaming discreetly hidden in nearly every episode that Olivia and Fitz’s relationship is publicly discussed. It isn’t until the season three premiere that we find Olivia being openly, aggressively slut shamed… by her own father.

“You’ve gotten yourself in a bit of trouble Olivia and I’m here to fix it. Now listen to me, YOU RAISED YOUR SKIRT and OPENED YOUR KNEES and GAVE it away to a man with too much power” -Eli Pope, Scandal.


Like people, slut shaming comes in different sizes and shapes.

When it comes to societal praise, sexual decisions and ownership are not the aspects of female identity that people tend to focus on. The world also has an opinion about where and how a woman should display her body, particularly parts that have been sexualized. We’re all guilty of it. The world scrutinized Monica Lewinsky about her relationship with President Clinton until Lewinsky was forced to live almost recursively for many years. President Clinton on the other hand? He’ll go down as one of America’s greatest leaders, his indiscretions considered minor setbacks or hilarious anecdotes in the story of his term.

We’re all guilty of it. The world scrutinized Monica Lewinsky about her relationship with President Clinton until Monica was forced to live almost recursively for many years. President Clinton on the other hand? He’ll go down as one of America’s greatest leaders, his indiscretions considered minor setbacks or hilarious anecdotes in the story of his term.

More commonly, we look down on the girl who posts a photo in her underwear. We terrorize the girl whose nudes got leaked. We laugh at the girl who wore a slutty outfit to the party. We take those judgments and make assumptions about the person in question, simply because of that post, that mistake, or that outfit, all while subconsciously keeping slut shaming alive.


Why do we slut-shame?

We slut-shame simply because we were taught to. The same way that we were taught pink is for girls and blue is for boys, slut shaming was conditioned into our brains before we could decide the difference between wrong and right. It’s really derived from society’s views on women, how they believe women should behave and how they believe women should live their lives. Innocence and virtue prevail all in regards to women in the eyes of society, even trumping their successes.

“If you want a world that respects women, stop slut-shaming them.” -Nico Lang, Thought Catalog.


How severe is slut shaming?

Slut shaming is extremely common, making it a rampant problem that is routinely overlooked. While many people feel slut shaming only hurts the feelings of a person and nothing else, it can be far more dangerous than that. A 15-year-old teen, Felicia Garcia, committed suicide because of the slut shaming she faced. She had sex with four football players and became the target of slut shaming via bullying and harassment. Felicia was teased, tormented and constantly called a slut. She ended her life by jumping in front of a subway train. Two days before killing herself, Felicia Garcia tweeted, “I can’t, I’m done, I give up.”


Celebrities hate slut shaming too. 

Amber Rose and Kim Kardashian have far more in common than Kanye West. Each of them has found their own unique ways against fighting slut shaming. While Kardashian likes to keep it simple, exercising her right to flaunt her body on social media no matter what the haters have to say, Amber Rose went all out in the hopes of raising awareness about the harms of slut shaming.

kim kardashian west slut shaming

Courtesy of the Kim Kardashian West App

Amber Rose started her very own Slut Walk. These marches make up a transnational movement of protests calling for an end to rape culture. Specifically, participants protest against explaining or excusing rape by referring to any aspect of a woman’s appearance. On her website, Rose describes her slutwalk’s mission: “To deliver a flawlessly executed event geared toward raising awareness about sexual injustice and gender inequality. The Amber Rose Slut Walk aims to impact and uplift while shifting the paradigm of rape culture. The event provides a safe, all-inclusive space to entertain, educate and empower.” Rose’s events have become increasingly popular and grow in numbers each year.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BMKMYrGgOza/?taken-by=slutwalk_la&hl=en

In Shondaland, Olivia Pope is constantly reduced to a whore. However, what about the Olivia Popes of reality? Why is it that a woman cannot be both accomplished and sexually liberated? Each day women demonstrate their own greatness, power and agency of sexual choice, their existences symbols of the ever-growing movements against ending slut shaming and its harmful side effects.

Although we’re not the writers of Scandal and we definitely can’t help Olivia specifically, we can help one another. Ending slut shaming begins with awareness. We’ve graciously helped you become aware, now it’s your time to handle the rest. If you want to be a gladiator, you’ll already know there’s one response: It’s handled.

‘Riverdale’ Stream: How To Watch Season 1, Episode 2 Online
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