When you’re a woman dominating a man’s world, it’s not always going to be pretty.
ABC hit show “Scandal” has been showcasing powerful women for six seasons, and it has recently returned from its midseason hiatus. Once again, viewers can watch from the sidelines as the women of the series demonstrate how to get the job done – correctly, ruthlessly and in heels.
These four leading ladies on “Scandal” are all perfect examples of unapologetic female leadership, a quality all women should possess.
On the surface, Olivia Pope is the Gladiator-in-Charge. She’s the ultimate crisis manager, running the consulting firm Olivia Pope & Associates. She wears many hats throughout the show, but her most prominent one is that of “The Fixer.” She previously worked as the media relations consultant on former President Fitz’s campaign, ensuring that any problem that faces the White House is handled.
Outside of her official titles, however, she is the epitome of a self-assured, intelligent and powerful woman. She is assertive and always carries an unapologetic demeanor. Pope’s role as a leader is important because it pushes the stigmas surrounding female leadership out of the way.
As viewers see in the show (and also experience in their own reactions to her), Olivia is not exactly the most likable person. But what makes her so admirable is the fact that she demonstrates an ambition that embraces her own leadership style, one that isn’t afraid to sacrifice her likability.
Because of it, there is never any doubt as to who wears the pants in her relationships. Olivia does. And they’re always well-tailored and nicely pressed.
In the beginning of the series, it’s easy to feel sorry for Mellie Grant every time you see how her husband, President Fitz, treats his first lady. But outside of his extramarital affairs with Olivia Pope, Mellie is more than just the wife being cheated on.
Mellie is highly educated, eloquent and just as ambitious as Olivia. Unfortunately, she stifled her own ambitions for the sake of her husband’s career. As the series develops, however, Mellie’s character also develops. After years of pushing her needs aside, Mellie’s character reaches a breaking point.
In the audiences’ eyes, she transitions from being the “other woman,” the woman getting in the way of the Olivia-Fitz relationship, to someone you actually begin rooting for. As she starts opening up to Fitz about her sacrifices, you see her beaten-down reaction to her son’s death and her desire to fight back. Eventually, her need to always be politically graceful disappears. Her softness disappears and you start to realize that without Mellie, there wouldn’t be a presidency.
The rivalry between Olivia and Mellie is more a battle of wits than it is a battle over the same man. When Mellie calls Olivia a “whore,” it’s not meant to be about jealousy, it’s meant to demonstrate her calculated thought processes.
“Mellie is always aware. She’s very careful with her words,” Young explains to BuzzFeed. “Even when she’s making an enormous blunder, she’s making it grandly and she’s making it with precision. She’s surgical. So I think her use of ‘whore’ once, much less her repeated use of it, is a very well-sharpened spear, aimed straight at Olivia’s heart, and to shame her. Because it’s such a word of shame, and you could never use it on a man.”
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Abby Whelan was, perhaps, the sassiest member of Olivia Pope’s team. But after Olivia left and abandoned her consulting firm, Abby took on a new role as White House Press Secretary.
Similar to Olivia, Abby is an excellent example of a powerful woman. After surviving a relationship with an abusive ex-husband, Leo Bergen, she’s is no longer afraid to stand up for herself. In fact, one of her most important interactions with Leo was when she had to explain why a scandal about her sexual history with Leo implicates the both of them. In doing this, she reveals a very important lesson about how sometimes women’s accomplishments are attached to the men in their lives.
“Every article about me has your name somewhere in it,” she says in the show. “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 DC 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.”
Her character is the prime example of the double standard women have to face in the professional sphere. Her physical appearance, her accomplishments and her intelligence are often second guessed by the media on account of her gender.
But the best part about her? Like Olivia Pope, she handles it. And she handles it with just the right amount of attitude.
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Quinn Perkins was introduced to the series as Lindsay Dwyer. Lindsay was framed for a murder, but before she was turned over to the police, Olivia Pope devised a plan to save her. With the help of Olivia Pope & Associates, Lindsay became Quinn and she never looked back.
Outside of her strange romantic relationships with two twisted (and murderous) men, Huck and Charlie, Quinn developed into the woman running Olivia Pope & Associates. When the firm began falling apart and as everyone dealt with their own drama, Quinn, the youngest of the Gladiators, is the voice of reason.
Over the course of the show, she has transformed as an individual, learning to get comfortable with her own leadership position. She’s more confident, stronger and braver.
Even Katie Lowes, the actress who plays Quinn, has to remind herself of her character’s massive evolution. “I’m far more like Quinn season one, and I have to remind myself this season to walk differently and sit at my desk differently and get my swag on,” Lowes tells the Hollywood Reporter. “I have to remind myself constantly that Quinn this season is sexy, proud, strong, grounded and the protector and the keeper of Olivia Pope and Associates.”
Overall, these four women embody the different facets of a female leader. And whether you love them or hate them, it’s hard to deny that sometimes we want to be them.
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