Scandal showrunner Shonda Rhimes used last night's episode of the hit political drama to take a stand on how the media scrutinizes women in Washington, just as Hillary Clinton prepares to announce her long-anticipated bid for the presidency in 2016.
Rhimes' shows might be best known for their crazy plot twists, but another hallmark of her work is the powerful soliloquy, delivered quickly and emphatically. On last night's episode of Scandal, White House Press Secretary Abby Whelan (Darby Stanchfield) contemplated resigning from her post when another woman, played by Lena Dunham, threatened to write a tell-all about the sex lives of several men in D.C., including Abby's boyfriend, political consultant Leo Bergen (Paul Adelstein). When Leo tells Abby she doesn't have to worry because he was the one who committed the "disgusting" sexual acts, she fires back that of course the scandal will hurt her too.
The fictional Press Secretary says the media has long had double standards for women in the Capitol: reporters write stories about how she looks and who she is dating just as much as they write about her accomplishments. Read a transcript of the monologue below:
What happens to you happens to me. I'm good at my job, Leo. I am a lion up there. I own that room. I work for it. I give a strong briefing. And they write about that. They cover the news. And there are articles about how well I do at my job.
But they also write about me. If I wear lipstick, I'm dolled up. If I don't, I've let myself go. They wonder if I'm trying to bring dresses back. And they don't like it that I repeat outfits, even though I'm on a government salary. They discuss my hair color. There are anonymous blogs that say I'm too skinny. They have a running joke that I'm on a hunger strike until I can be liberated by the democrats.
They also write about you. Every article that comes out about me has your name somewhere in it because apparently there's this rule: In order to mention my name, they also have to report to the world that there's a man who wants me. My work, my accomplishments, my awards—I stand at the most powerful podium in the world, but a story about me ain't a story unless they can report on the fact that I am the girlfriend of D.C. fixer Leo Bergen, like it validates me, gives me an identity, a definition. They can't fathom the concept that my life doesn't revolve around you.
My life doesn't revolve anywhere near you. It's horrifying: property of Leo Bergen. Tell me, when they write articles about you, Leo, how often do they mention me? Do they talk about your clothes? Write about your thighs? There is a difference. There is. So, what happens to you, happens to me, which is why I'm writing a letter of resignation. Are we done?