Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Feminist’s Take on The Bachelor Franchise [Guest Poster: Rebecca]


If it has the word “bachelor” (or some variation of the word) in the title, I’ve watched it. The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Bachelor Pad, Bachelor in Paradise — I’ve seen them all, and I love them all. Although I fully recognize the franchise has evolved into a platform for fame and publicity rather than a space for hopeless romantics to find a shot at love, I put that skepticism aside for two hours each week, eating up the contestant’s stories about their personal struggles, failed relationships, and openness to finding love once again. I get invested in these people’s lives, and each season I develop a tiny glimmer of hope that this time, the relationship will work.

I also identify as an intersectional feminist, meaning that my feminism includes more than just gender equality — I also take into account race, class, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, or any other identity a person may have when viewing and critiquing our sociopolitical system. This means that The Bachelor franchise often enrages me... and yet, I keep coming back for more.

I’ll be the first to say The Bachelor has a multitude of issues. We hardly ever see non-white contestants, and if we do, they usually get cut within the first couple of weeks. And why have we not had a bachelor/bachelorette who identifies as LGBTQIA+ before? It’s a very straight, very white television program — a show that should face criticism because of these things. But if we choose to only consume inclusive and diverse media that aligns with our personal belief systems, I have a feeling we’d be sitting in an empty room, staring at a blank wall. Even what the general public would label our most-feminist media (like BeyoncĂ© or Orange is the New Black) sometimes have problematic aspects.

But I don’t think enjoying The Bachelor makes me a bad feminist. It’s very similar to liking rap/country music — two of the biggest music genres that I think negatively portray women and promote toxic masculinity —and still considering yourself a feminist. I think it’s okay to support this kind of media as long as you think about why you enjoy it. Do you enjoy The Bachelor because of the concept and cast, or do you enjoy it because society has engrained into our minds that we should find enjoyment in other people’s drama? Either answer is perfectly valid. I like The Bachelorette infinitely more because of the power the show gives the woman. She is in charge of the progression of her relationships with each man and in control of her sexuality. And, of course, I enjoy breaking from the trend we get so often of pitting women against each other. But that doesn’t mean the show is without flaws, and I fully recognize that.

My feminism pervades throughout every aspect of my life. I write articles like this one; I attend protests, rallies, and speakers; I speak about intersectional feminism on all my social media platforms; and I take my beliefs into consideration when deciding who and what to vote for in elections. I work hard to be a good feminist, and because of that hard work, I think it’s okay for me to “take a break.”

I do feel a little bit guilty whenever I watch The Bachelor (or any form of the show) because I know I am feeding into a culture that preys on female stereotypes and validates white standards of beauty. But as long as we recognize how the media we consume affects our society and ourselves on an individual level. We should think about why the music we listen to, the shows and movies we watch, and the books we read are so popular, and how those reasons may stem from promoting stereotype, or delegitimizing a certain type of people’s experiences. Living in today’s world is hard work; the things we do for pleasure shouldn’t have to be.

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