Can you be a feminist and – YES. Shhh. YES YOU CAN. You can be a feminist and do whatever you want.
I looooooove Reality TV – especially dating shows. My favourite dating shows are of the “_____ of Love” oeuvre. The challenges are over-the-top ridiculous (Mud Bowl!), the glitz and glamour is outrageous (leopard print pool table much?), and the celebrity angle is so kitschy! Flav! Bret! New York! DAISY! Not gonna lie, Rock of Love is my major #HairGoals, big time. Love me some Heather, love some Goldie. But…
Internalized Misogyny & Hypocrisy on Reality TV:
🙆: does thing
👩: does the same thing
🙆: ‘OMG I can’t believe 👩 did the thing she’s a slut’
— Meghan Sara Karre (@MeghanSaraK) January 28, 2016
Sigh. You know, I’m mad, but I’m not mad, you feel me?
I can only imagine how hard it is to be on one of these shows. Dating is hard enough in a normal situation! Add in the fact that you’re ‘competing’ against a dozen or more other women! Forget just trying to make a connection with someone and decide if you like them, you’ve got physically gruelling “challenges,” alcohol flowing freely, late nights and early mornings, one-on-one interviews with producers egging you on to say something that’ll make “good television,” aw, shoot. I don’t think I could keep my head on straight, to be honest!
By the same token, nobody is obligated to be a “role model,” even if they’re on television! They’re not here to be shining beacons of progressive feminism, they’re, as they always say, “here for [insert name of D-list former mega-star recording artist].” And holy cow, nobody’s perfect! You do the best with what you have, and when you learn better, you do better. Watch the “reunion specials” and you’ll see a whole different cast of women, apologizing to each other and acting like old Army buddies. After all, they’ve been through some S*H*I*T* together.
So how can a foaming-at-the-mouth liberal capital-F Feminst like me enjoy watching these shows so damn much? I have a couple of ideas how…
Recognize the Bad: “It was really uncalled for when Jes told the producers that Heather was dressed like ‘a cheap slut.’ With her blonde hair and deep tan, that baby blue halter dress was really stunning on her. What Heather wears has no bearing on the kind of person she is, nor is it bad to be a ‘slut’ anyway.” I actually have a lot of fun turning the negatives into positives. I think it’s good practice for life.
Forgive: “It has to be a really stressful thing to have feelings for someone and try to date them and get to know them in a contrived situation like this. I know I don’t handle jealousy very well, myself. I’m sure she’ll regret saying that to the cameras when this show airs, and it will probably be hard for her to watch.” Seriously, watch the reunion specials. Watch the host’s face fall when (s)he reminds the girls with serious beefs how they told producers they wanted to “kick her ass” and the girls wave it off and say, “Actually, I want to apologize…” The look on their faces when they realize they’ve failed to manipulate the women into fighting is priceless.
Applaud the Good: “Pumpkin and Hoopz are really happy for Goldie after her solo date. These women all show maturity in the face of an absurd situation and don’t let the competition negatively affect their friendship. I’m really impressed!” Believe it or not, there’s a a strong contingent of women on these shows who make great role models. They don’t apologize for their sexuality, strive to have honest relationships with the “bachelor,” and have everyone’s best interests at heart. I still miss you, Rodeo.
Realize that “Reality” is not Real: “The manufactured drama between these girls is just as ridiculous as the notion that a helicopter ride to a picnic on top of a mountain at sunset is a typical first date. Competing in a roller derby to prove you’re the best potential mate is good entertainment, but it’s definitely not a reflection of real life.” Matrix time: if this show is skewed to present a hevily edited for of “reality,” what other media is presenting only one heavily-edited and biased side of the story? Kerplewwwww mind blown.
Watch for Mysogyny “Easter Eggs”: “So there’s a stripper pole in the living room of Bret’s mansion, ostensibly for the girls to get up and dance on it. And yet Heather, who is a professional pole dancer, got kicked off the show because Bret didn’t think he could trust a stripper with his heart? Why are the girls rewarded for being strippers one minute, and punished for being strippers the next? This doesn’t make any sense.” Now that you’re aware, pay close attention to the “man behind the curtain.” Watch for responses that begin with “Yeah, I do think…” and you’ll see exactly where the producers are feeding them lines to say on TV.
Ultimately, I’m still going to enjoy reality TV, especially Flavor of Love, Rock of Love, Bridezillas, I Love New York, Daisy of Love, Frank the Entertainer’s Basement of Love… *pant pant* so on and so forth. Hey, nobody’s forcing you to watch the shows, why not let me have my fun? No judgement! And besides, as they say, “I’m not here to make friends…” No, I’m here to watch some Reality TV.