Black-ish returns from its season four mid-season hiatus as Bow returns to work and Dre shows respect for Bow and her opinions. Ha, I’m kidding.

“Working Girl” opens with Dre thinking about the struggles women have faced in America, in order to be seen as more than just “Suzy Homemaker.” They pushed until they made it to the very top of the professional ladder — well not very top of the political arena anyway. I mean Hilary still got shut out of the presidency, right? That particular glass ceiling is still firmly in place….for the time being at least.

As Dre eats his bowl of cereal, Bow enters the kitchen, and with just a hint of remorse, expresses her hesitance at returning to work and for some reason Dre takes it upon himself to suggest that she didn’t “need to go back to work,” and to paraphrase her with my own response “What the heck did he just say?” This comment from Dre immediately had my back up (As we say in Barbados) for two reasons:

  1. How did he go from being impressed about all the advancements women have made to be seen as equals in the workplace, to suggesting his wife stay home on her FIRST DAY BACK TO WORK? That leap in rationale makes no sense.
  2. The fact that Dre felt the urge to say this in front of their children and as a casual aside, instead of in private, in my opinion, shows a certain lack of respect. What Dre did was place Bow in the extremely uncomfortable position of appearing to choose her career over being a mother in front of her children, and he did it with absolutely no consideration for how Junior, Diane, and Jack would feel.

When Bow tries to make him understand how important her job as an anesthesiologist is, Dre is flippant as usual, and asks if she didn’t enjoy her time with the children, to which Bow reminds him that she was also suffering from postpartum depression during that time. Of course, Dre had to make it about him by saying “it was hard” on him, and I was ready to push him off the bar stool he was sitting on. If there is one thing that bothers me about black-ish, it’s how Dre and Ruby are so dismissive about Bow’s feelings and how she values her accomplishments. They are constantly making snide comments about her level of education, and her pride in being a Black woman who is successful in the difficult field of medicine.

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Diane and Jack, realizing Bow won’t be home to do their homework for them, look to Ruby to act as their new doormat (sorry I meant replacement), because Junior decides it would be against his code of ethics to do their work for them. Ruby agrees to help the kids and proceeds to teach them how to cheat in class rather than learn their equations.

After Daphne (welcome back Wanda Sykes) tells Dre that wanting Bow to stay home is strictly because it would benefit him, he admits it, and Stevens advises that he should keep asking Bow to leave her job by using a traditional Japanese custom. The custom Stevens refers to is one where the person in potential receipt of a gift turns it down twice, before accepting on the third attempt made by the giver. The thing about this scene is that Stevens made this suggestion to Dre as a method for him coerce Bow into doing something she had already said no to.

For the Japanese and Chinese, this custom is about etiquette, the refusals are made because in their culture an immediate acceptance makes the person receiving seem greedy. It has NOTHING to do with the person not actually wanting the gift. So for me this made Dre even more selfish and, frankly, a jerk, because he took the advice of his divorced, passive-aggressive, racist boss, who literally said that Bow’s decision shouldn’t be respected, over not only Daphne’s statement that plenty of women actually enjoy their work, but most importantly over Bow’s feelings.

On her first day back at work, Bow is presented with a cake that has a huge section missing, when she asks what happened, her co-workers say they pulled a “Smitty.” Feeling left out of what is clearly an inside joke, Bow tries to laugh it off, but when a nearby baby starts to cry her breasts leak milk. Instead of acting like mature adults who work around pregnant and lactating mothers, Bow’s fellow doctors point and laugh at her, and said “Now that is so Smitty,” and I became annoyed.

I began to see where this episode was going and honestly I didn’t appreciate it, because I could tell this was going to be used as plot device to make Bow feel out of place at work, and thereby more suggestible to Dre’s insistence that she stay home to mind the kids, and wouldn’t you know it, I was right.

Eventually, Bow decides to stay home because with Zoey going off at college she doesn’t want to miss time with the other children. When she tries to express her feelings, Dre attempts to interrupt her and she stops him and explains that she is the only one who has a say in what she does with her career. Feeling that people only see her as a doctor because that’s how she introduces herself, has Bow feeling as though they don’t really know who she is.

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Despite admitting that she is multi-faceted, Bow acquiesces and says that she can’t be everything that she is at the same time and I was left feeling disappointed and confused. Now don’t get me wrong, my disappointment isn’t that Bow stayed home, my issue is how she came to this decision. I don’t understand how being a doctor stops her from being fashionable, I don’t understand how being a doctor prevents her from being a great mom or just great in general.

Up until this very scene we’ve seen Bow maintain her intention to not only stay at work, but also be proud of her accomplishments in this episode, throughout this season, and even from the beginning of the show. As a Black woman I look at Bow as an inspiration, an example that not only can women indeed have a successful career and home life, but Black women, in particular, are capable of being everything we set out minds to. For me, Bow has been a character that faces whatever challenges her family is going through, with strength, openness, and vulnerability. But at the end of the episode, I realized that we’ve never really seen what challenges Bow faces at work.

If you think about it, we don’t really know much about Bow’s work life, we don’t know her co-workers they way we know Charlie, Stevens and even Connie. We’ve never gotten to see her have any significant moments at the hospital the way we’ve seen Dre have at Stevens & Lido, heck I don’t even know the name of the hospital. (Bow barely has any friends either.) In the end, this episode was a disappointment for me not only because we won’t get to see who Bow is as a doctor, but also to me it seems as though Bow didn’t come to this decision out of genuine want, but because she was essentially guilted and coerced into it.

Johnson Family Musings

  1. Diane needs a psychological evaluation, that child has major issues.
  2. Junior finally stood his ground against Ruby, and she doesn’t know what to make of it which I find hilarious.

 black-ish airs every Tuesday at 9 p.m. EST, follow the show on Twitter @black_ishABC .