The Backlash Against Mindy Kaling’s Success

Hey ladies — just in case you forgot: even if you jump through hoops, soar over hurdles and work your ass off for your career, when you finally succeed, you should really make sure to shut up about your accomplishments! The recent criticisms of Mindy Kaling, who presently co-writes, co-produces and stars in Fox’s new The Mindy Project, attests to this.

First of all, Mindy Kaling is damn talented. Not only did she write for and act in an acclaimed series, write a successful memoir, graduate from Dartmouth, writes insanely funny Tweets and probably shits diamonds, Kaling is unapologetic with her personality. She doesn’t pretend she somehow just got really lucky and her ambition, talent and intelligence had nothing to do with it. Many people who work with her agree that she’s truly special: Fox’s Kevin Reilley stated, “She’s really smart about how open she is to being a mixture of both vulnerable and strong; she’s a woman that I think other women relate to.”

However, not everybody is so impressed. There are those who feel Kaling’s success is not only undeserved, but that her confidence is downright unsettling.

Writes Gawker’s Rich Juzwiak:

She’s self-effacing to inflate her ego via ensuing audience laughter when she isn’t being flat-out arrogant… Many people are in love with themselves and little in today’s culture would have them ashamed to express as much; however it takes a certain kind to be in love with her own narcissism. Mindy Kaling truly is exceptional. She backs it up, though. “I feel like I can go head-to-head with the best white, male comedy writers that are out there,” she said.

Um, yeah, she’s exceptional: she’s 33 and has her own television show. Yet as Jezebel points out, “in an industry dominated largely by white men, Kaling is a threat to the status quo: she’s young, a woman, and a minority.”  Plus, she’s 5’2″ and probably a size 6-8, so she’s even more dissimilar to 95% of young actresses on television. But by calling her names like “smug,” people who wish to find something, anything to criticize her on can do so while still acknowledging that she’s successful.

Kaling is playing a character that appears similarly to her public image: silly, hilarious, unapologetic, occasionally sexual. Writers like Lena Dunham have also been criticized for being similar to the characters in their shows, but why? If we looked at every book written by a male that was a “classic” and used the writer’s own personality and life as an inspiration source, it would be difficult to find reviews that criticized it primarily for being “too similar” to the writer. Yet a woman doing the same, even in 2012, is still seen as something to be frowned upon.

It goes along with the way ambitious men in the workplace are seen as determined and serious whereas women are seen as cold bitches. Men who are proud of themselves are confident; women who are proud of themselves are conceited. Female success is something many men have yet to adjust to; the success of a young non-white female? Hmm…

I'm gonna go with "no."

So next time you’re planning on offending people through your success, ladies, don’t forget to shut up and curtsey to remind them that they’re big strong men and little ol’ you ain’t no threat! Or just take their jobs and do them better than they do.

[via Jezebel]

Pics via FastCompany / Flickr

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    • Charisse


      It’s sad that every time we THINK we’ve come really far in the quest for gender equality and squashing the double standards that have been an issue for so long, someone or something always reminds us we still have so much further to go.

      Mindy is awesome. She knows it. Her peers know it. Haters gonna hate.

    • Katy

      “…to be in love with her own narcissism” I know that’s meant to be criticism, but there’s something awesome about the thought of not only being in love with yourself or being narcissistic, but being in love with your own narcissism… that’s a diss that I would wear proudly!

    • Renee

      Fuck that dude. Seriously sexist shit right there. Any man saying that combination of words “I feel like I can go head-to-head with the best white, male comedy writers that are out there”, would just be called confident. And yes, she has amazing confidence, which she would have needed to accomplish what she has. She also seems strong, sweet, funny, and human.

      And people fucking love arrogant male characters. Don Draper, anyone? Half of the male cast of Mad Men, for Christ’s sake are incredibly arrogant. But they are well loved characters. But call a female character arrogant, and it’s such a big flaw. How dare you lady genitalia having women, walking around with those traditionally male traits!

      Get it through your thick skull: We are all people. That includes every human, regardless of gender, race, religion, class, size, ability, talent, ect. All of us.

      There is no reason that an ambitious successful woman shouldn’t also be confident and sure of herself. That wouldn’t even make sense. I know it might be more comforting to the insecure and threatened males, but they need to grow a pair and deal with it. I’m sure that genuinely confident and secure men wouldn’t have a problem with her at all.

      • Samantha Escobar

        I actually almost used the example of Jon Hamm! He goes on different programs and it’s a running joke that he’s ridiculously good looking, which he goes along with, but if I woman ever said anything but “Oh, thank you!” when people called her good looking, she would be immediately criticized as being overconfident, conceited, whatever.

        Even though it’s pretty obvious that she’s not some conceited asshole running around Hollywood going, “PICK MY SHOW BECAUSE I’M PERFECT, HAHAHA!” (because she would’ve not really gotten anywhere at all), there are those who find her humorously confident speak to be upsetting. Oh no! Sound the alarm! Somebody with a vagina that doesn’t pretend everything she has achieved is entirely due to other people!

    • Lastango

      THIS is what you’ve found as a vessel for your howling outrage?

      • Samantha Escobar

        Sorry, what?

    • Lastango

      THIS is what you’ve found as a vessel for your howling outrage?

    • Tims

      I like Mindy but using any and all quotes from Jezebel just disgusts me.