On ‘The Bachelor’ and Feminism

For my Gender and Women’s Studies course this semester, I will be posting here a couple of times a week about feminism, media, and any crossover between the two. Here is my first post- the rest will only be posted on the other blog. Feel free to comment and start a discussion, or suggest something that I should be writing about.

Julie Zeilinger recently published an article for Mic entitled “Why Women Still Watch ‘The Bachelor’ Even Though They Know It’s Terrible. The article opened by stating the fairly obvious—the fact that ‘The Bachelor,’ while a guilty pleasure for many, it unashamedly sexist and patriarchal. In many ways, I agree with this statement. The concept of the show is less than empowering for women, and the contestants are often featured in a negative light, perpetuating the stereotype that females are jealous, bitchy, and moody. However, I give the franchise kudos for flipping the script every other season and introducing a Bachelorette.

Zeilinger quotes a 23-year-old viewer in her article, who claims to feel underrepresented when it comes to the girls who are usually contestants on the show. This came as no surprise to me. ‘The Bachelor’ is historically filled with thin, white, and presumably upper class. There are running jokes in commentary of the show each season that the black contestants will never make it far in the competition. This concept was recently mocked on SNL. What got me about this viewer’s comments, however, was the following: “What kind of message is this sending? You can only find love if you’re white and thin.”

I hope that it is common knowledge that ‘The Bachelor’ is not the only way for someone to find love. In fact, most contestants within the franchise do not find lasting love. The show is trashy, dramatic, and subsequently captivating. If you’re watching it assuming any of it is real, there is a bigger problem. The cards are stacked against you when you go on weeks’ worth of incredibly lavish dates, and then are thrown back into the real world of blue jeans, Über, conflicting schedules, and paying for everything yourselves. I understand that the viewer was referring to the lack of diversity on the show, and not on the realistic nature, but I digress. I don’t think anyone is watching the show and thinking that this is how things are supposed to be. So while it maybe isn’t sending the best message by featuring a majority of white contestants, I am glad that this viewer was later able to say that she can watch the show at face value and “find it as a means of silly escapism.”

Later in the article, Zeilinger quoted one of the hosts of ‘The Bachelor’ podcast called “Here To Make Friends.”

“Instead of taking The Bachelor franchise too seriously or using it as any kind of model for our own conduct, we take from it exactly what it can give us — an escape from our daily lives; a reason to appreciate our real, imperfect romances; and an excuse to drink wine on a Monday night … sans tears,”

This, to me, is what ‘The Bachelor’ is all about. It is a way for women, and occasionally men, to come together with a mutual love/hate and have a discussion. While sometimes this conversation is rude, controversial, or sexist, other times it can be incredibly empowering. Personally, I have found myself thinking things about the girls through more carefully as I write them. As dramatic and campy as things can be portrayed, these are real women who are young, vulnerable, and capable of having their feelings hurt. I’m not the only one who feels this way; I have found this as I read other blogs about the show. Fans of ‘The Bachelor’ are more of feminists than I ever would have thought, and to me, that is incredibly encouraging. Zeilinger notes the importance of watching the show with a critical eye, noting the sexism, but honing one’s media literacy skills and pairing it with a feminist mindset.

The article is worth a read, just as the show is worth a watch. This Monday, get your girls (and your guys!) together and tune in. It might stimulate intelligent conversation that you never would have expected. Be critical, be kind, and be rational. As Zeilinger says, “we might not have control over the media we’re given, but we do have full control over how we engage with it and even utilize it to our own, feminist end.”


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