We all know that Mindy Lahiri is a feminist, but this week’s episode of The Mindy Project—very appropriately titled “Mindy Lahiri Is a White Man”—dives deep into the issues of sexism and racism that women of color face every day. When Mindy doesn’t get chosen for a second interview for a department head job at the hospital, she knows it’s because she’s a non-white woman. After all, the panel of interviewers is made up of exclusively old white men. One of them even questions her status as a single mother, while another wonders if she can “keep her emotions in check” while on the job. Although he says every candidate is asked this question, Mindy suspects differently. She is a woman of color in America, after all, and is not unfamiliar with the privilege of white men.
So that night, Mindy goes to sleep with one wish on her mind: to be a white man. Ta-da! When she wakes the next morning, she has white skin, blonde hair and a penis! She’s still the same old Mindy on the inside, but now as an attractive, white single father, she exudes privilege. Mindy finds that, as “Mike,” she can easily hail a cab and “manspread” on the subway, and patients don’t question her medical knowledge. She even discovers that this version of herself has a second interview for the hospital position. Coincidence? Probably not.
Since “Mike” gets away with being late to work, Mindy finds herself missing a morning surgery that’s covered by Dr. Lee, the only other Asian woman being considered for the department head position. She, like Mindy, didn’t get a second interview. However, Mindy realizes that Dr. Lee is an amazing doctor and deserves the position even more than her. So she decides to use her newfound privilege for good: to land Dr. Lee a second interview.
That proves tough, however, as Mindy realizes how little the interviewers care about women. While Dr. Lee’s interview is basically a brush-off so she doesn’t sue the hospital, “Mike’s” second interview is barely an interview at all. The men joke around and wave off Mindy’s attempts to discuss her resume. When she asks if they are concerned about “Mike’s” ability to juggle work with his family life, they seem utterly confused—a stark contrast to the way they interrogated Mindy in her interview.
The Mindy Project perfectly encapsulated the casual and monumental ways racism and sexism play a role in the workplace and in everyday life for women of color. By juxtaposing Mindy’s normal routine with “Mike’s,” the audience can clearly see the distinct lines between the privilege of being a white man and the struggles of being a brown woman in America. Whether it’s the ability to get a cab within seconds or being unjustly overlooked for a job, the benefits of white male privilege are clear.
Although neither Dr. Lee nor Mindy get the job in the end (that right goes to a senile white doctor who was technically never convicted of killing his wife), Mindy learns something valuable in the end. She and Dr. Lee bond over the situation and their similar struggles. Racism and sexism may have won again this time, but with these two powerful women working together, that way of thinking won’t last long.