A few weeks ago, while watching The Bachelor and chatting with my co-workers, I asked a semi-rhetorical question: Can you be a feminist and still like The Bachelor? You cannot ask a question of an editor and not be expected to explore it further, so here I am.
The hit ABC show that pits 25 single women against each other has some pretty heavy misogynistic undertones. The women are, after all, essentially pieces of meat that one man gets to chew on for a while before spitting out. Sure, there is a female version of the show, The Bachelorette, but two wrongs don’t make a right. No, I am not calling The Bachelor franchise wrong. I watch it every week and even have a podcast about the show.
To be honest, I have never called myself a feminist publicly. Yes, I believe in women’s equality. I also went to an all-girls high school where I learned that being a woman was pretty darn amazing. I have never known any different. I was raised by a woman who is the strongest human being alive. There is nothing she cannot do. My first big career was at a university where all of the positions of power were held by women. What I am saying is that the women in my life are tough bitches.
The struggle with feminism is that it is often seen as this movement that involves burning bras and man-hating. As far as I can tell, that is not what it really is. To me, feminism is about women being viewed and valued the same way men are.
This brings me back to the question. As a lover of The Bachelor, am I allowed to think of myself as a feminist? To figure this out, I needed a good definition of feminism. Merriam Webster dictionary says feminism is “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” Too textbook. I asked the a friend who is a self-proclaimed and proud feminist what it means to her. Her response was “The belief that humans should be limited by capability, not opportunity.” Well, darn, that is eloquent, but not quite what I was looking for.
The struggle with feminism is that it is often seen as this movement that involves burning bras and man-hating. As far as I can tell, that is not what it really is. To me, feminism is about women being viewed and valued the same way men are. So when I watch a show where one man dictates the life of a group of women, am I pushing women back into the kitchen, and telling them that they no longer have the ability to make choices?
The answer is no. First, the women on The Bachelor go on the show because they want to. They send in audition videos hoping to get picked to be on a reality TV show, that is certainly not real life. Sure, you can fall in love with someone after a few dates, but when those dates include seven other women, I am skeptical. The women know better, we all know better (except for maybe Kelsey from last season. She was her own special snowflake with a beautiful story about the death of her husband, that she was going to use to woe farmer Chris, which was tacky to say the least).
You cheer when a woman makes an incredible choice, like Lace realizing that she is not ready for a serious relationship and takes herself out of the competition.
Do I support strong women who pave a way for themselves and do something kickass? Absolutely. Does that mean I have to cheer for Leah as she throws Lauren B. under the bus? Definitely not. That is not being a strong, independent woman. That is being a petty monster, and no one, male or female, should support that kind of behavior.
I did high-five my TV when Andi told Juan Pablo that it was not OK for him to be a huge prick, because he was being a ass and someone needed to tell him. That is what being a feminist is to me. You cheer when a woman makes an incredible choice, like Lace realizing that she is not ready for a serious relationship and takes herself out of the competition. On the flip side, you rage when a woman does something truly terrible, like everything that Tierra did (faking a medical emergency is never a good look).
The Bachelor is a not-so-real reality TV show that is fun to watch and tweet about. It makes you take a hard look at what kind of woman you really are. And in the end, isn’t that what feminism is all about?
Photo via Kumar’s Edit/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)