“The Chair” Hilariously — And Painfully — Captures What It’s Like To Be A Woman Of Color Professor

·4 min read

On today's episode of BuzzFeed Daily, we broke down the top pop culture headlines AND discussed Netflix's new series The Chair. You can listen below or scroll down to read more about the interview!

So let's dive right into it! Recently we talked to Beth Nguyen about how women of color in academia are portrayed in The Chair. Here's some of what we learned:

BuzzFeed Daily: Can you talk a bit about your own background in academia and the similarities your career shares with Sandra Oh's character's career?

Sandra Oh, Nana Mensah, and Holland Taylor sitting at a table in The Chair

Beth Nguyen: I've been in academia for about 20 years, which sounds incredible, as I say that. And I've been in all of the positions in terms of like assistant professor, associate professor, professor, head of a department, in terms of directing it and running it and just getting to see along the way how hierarchical and complicated academia is. It is a place of a lot of entrenched values [where] change can often be resisted. And it's really hard to be a professor of color try to enact change.

Eliza Morse / Netflix

BuzzFeed Daily: You wrote about how it's actually painful to watch sometimes. What are some examples of the scenarios that really hit too close to home for you?

Photo of Sandra Oh in The Chair with a white male professor who has his hand on her shoulder

BN: One of the moments that really stood out to me was when the dean, at a party...describes Ji-Yoon with a Shakespeare quote, I think it's something like, "Though she be but little she is fierce." It's incredibly condescending, and I remember that there was a professor who once said that to me directly. It's just the whole "Oh, you're so little, you're so small, you're so Asian, you're so cute. I can't believe you are the one who's supposed to be taking a leadership role.

Eliza Morse / Netflix

BuzzFeed Daily: Women of color are often forced to try and hide themselves, suppress any hint of boldness whatsoever, even down to the way that they dress. Is this something that's really pervasive in academia?

Photo of Sandra Oh and Taylor Holland in The Chair dressed in winter clothes, holding coffees

BN: It really is, because of the bigger picture. The bigger picture is the health of the department, the health of a college university. You want everybody to do their best work. And sometimes, that's what you're thinking about. It's like "I want everything to work out well. So I'm going to take the fall. I'm going to do the work. I'm just not going to say the thing that I wish I could say, because I know it'll cause bigger problems." Just maintaining the comfort of, frankly, a lot of white professors is a significant part of the job. It's just that they don't realize that that's what we were doing.

Eliza Morse / Netflix

Halsey recently shared their feelings about being pregnant in the public eye — and the criticisms that came with it.

They told Apple Music in an interview that despite being 26, financially independent, and pretty far along in their career, they got quote ”treated like a teen mom a lot of the time.”Halsey added: “People were like, 'Oh my god, you're so young, and you have so much to do in your career, and you're not married...'

They told Apple Music in an interview that despite being 26, financially independent, and pretty far along in their career, they got quote ”treated like a teen mom a lot of the time.”

Halsey added: “People were like, 'Oh my god, you're so young, and you have so much to do in your career, and you're not married...' "It triggered all of these feelings of shame from when I was younger.”

They also opened up about facing backlash for not taking it easy during their pregnancy, after experiencing multiple miscarriages, saying "I think everyone who has heard me yearn for motherhood and yearn for this for so long would have expected me to write the album that was full of gratitude," they went on. "And instead I was like, 'No, this shit is so scary and so horrifying.'"

Kurt Krieger - Corbis / Corbis via Getty Images

Moving on, after over 16 years, the US version of Dancing With the Stars has finally cast its first same-sex couple: JoJo Siwa and Olympic gold medalist Suni Lee.

As always, thanks for listening! And if you ever want to suggest stories or just want to say hi, you can reach us at daily@buzzfeed.com or on Twitter @BuzzFeedDaily.