Miscellaneous / News / Sexuality

Don’t air ABC sitcom ‘Work It,’ LGBT groups say

Left to right, Amaury Nolasco and Benjamin Koldyke during a scene from “Work It” on ABC. 

By: Erica Lenti 

Feature image via ABC.

Meet Lee Standish (Benjamin Koldyke) and Angel Ortiz (Amaury Nolasco), two unemployed “bros” looking for jobs during a “man-cession.” In TV land, women dominate the workforce, and Standish and Ortiz are left jobless, unable to compete with their female counterparts.

As the saying goes, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. And that’s exactly what Standish and Ortiz do – dressed in skirts and heels.

Standish learns of openings for sales reps at Coreco Pharmaceuticals – except the company is seeking women to fill the positions. The pair join the company as both employees and women (in drag). Together, they explore the workforce as “new girls” in the office.

Add some B-list actors, an executive television crew and a prime-time television slot, and you’ve got ABC’s newest sitcom Work It, scheduled to premiere Jan. 3. The show, produced by Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen, is being marketed as a “high-concept comedy” for both sexes to enjoy.

But the show has drawn fire from groups that argue it ridicules the transgender community and makes a mockery of the real life struggles and inequalities women face in the workplace. Some fear the show’s comedy may translate to real-life tolerance for discrimination and slurs used against career women.

In the trailer, Standish’s female co-workers assume he was divorced in favour of a “smaller” woman; Standish reduces his lunches to  lettuce to keep his figure following the judgment of his female co-workers; and Ortiz sexually harasses women in the office (“Your ass looks tight in those pants!”), masking his actions as compliments from one woman to another.

These antics, intended to be comedic, have sparked an online debate about the show.

One user, under the alias ChloeAlisonPrince, writes, “What do I think? As a transgender woman: Thanks. Thanks for making a joke out of my life.”

“On Monday morning when I go into work, I can now be teased and harassed with the same one liners from this show.”

“The characters on the show are fictitious, but the lives it puts at stake are real,” adds NYCslugger.

In a letter addressed to ABC executives, Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights organization working on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans asked to discuss the challenges the transgender community faces in the workplace. There is no word on whether ABC has responded to this request.

The Dallas Transgender Advocates and Allies group has also created an online petition against Work It. The petition has since received nearly 4,500 signatures, just 500 signatures shy of its target.

While work may be a “drag” for Standish and Ortiz, discrimination is a reality for most transgender people in the workplace.

A 2011 study by the Washington-based National Center for Transgender Equality found that 90 per cent of transgender people report some form of discrimination, harassment or mistreatment in the workplace.

Yet ABC’s president Paul Lee says he “makes no excuses for [Work It],” adding that the show made him “cackle with laughter.”

Some viewers echo Lee’s sentiments. “I have a transgender sibling and [he and I] are not offended. This is meant to be a comedy, people,” writes Mishel74. “Lighten up.”

Despite its controversy, Work It has garnered a large following online; the show’s official Facebook page  has over 1,400 likes.

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