Despite working just as hard as her white male colleagues, Mindy Kaling almost missed out on her Emmy nomination for The Office.
According to Kaling, she was told by the Television Academy that there were “too many producers” on the list and her name was going to be cut out. Naturally, being the youngest person and the only woman of color on the list, the Academy thought her expendable.
In a recent interview with Elle, she said,
“They made me, not any of the other producers, fill out a whole form and write an essay about all my contributions as a writer and a producer. I had to get letters from all the other male, white producers saying that I had contributed when my actual record stood for itself.”
Of course, the Academy tried to gaslight her narrative, stating that it wasn’t personal and she wasn’t “singled out.”
Not only is such a statement couched in a garb of neutrality and politeness, but it also invalidates the trauma she went through in order for her to make her work visible. It’s a cruel reminder that gaslighting isn’t just restricted to toxic and abusive relationships but is, and continues, to be perpetrated by power structures in order to keep minorities and the lesser-privileged in control.
Of course, exploiting women, particularly women of color for their talents, and then denying that they were even involved isn’t something new.
The contributions of women to the sciences and the arts have often been deliberately ignored and sometimes even erased so that the people in power can benefit from it. And when women and people of color do fight back, try to assert their voices, and bring attention to the systemic inequalities and hurdles that are imposed on them, they are often dismissed.
The very fact that Kaling, the daughter of Indian-origin immigrants, waited nearly a decade to talk about her harrowing experience is a reminder of how women are often too afraid to speak up because, if they do so, they may jeopardize the careers and lives that they struggled so hard to build, and all while battling racism and sexism every day.
Kaling even acknowledged the risk she was taking just by talking about the experience. She tweeted,
“I’ve never wanted to bring up that incident because The Office was one of the greatest creative experiences of my life, and who would want to have an adversarial relationship with the Academy, who has the ongoing power to enhance our careers with awards?”
“Why not say ‘years ago we prevented a deserving woman of color from getting credit for her accomplishments. We’re sorry and it would never happen now?’”
Well, women of color are still waiting on that long-overdue apology.
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Archita Mittra is a writer and artist, with a love for all things vintage, whimsy and darkly fantastical. She occasionally reads tarot cards, has more hobbies than she can count and loves blueberry milkshakes.She lives in Calcutta (India) with her family and rabbits.