I have a deep, dark secret. It’s one I’ve long hidden from my feminist soul sisters. Few know the truth. In an effort to be more forward than Jodie Foster during her Golden Globes speech, here goes:
I love reality shows.
I know what you’re thinking, that’s not bad. We all love a little Hoarders every now and then. Alas, I admit my problem is much greater. It may just be the largest contradiction in my life.
I am a self-proclaimed feminist, and I love reality shows that infiltrate women. What is wrong with me? And why can’t I stop?
Every Monday, I settle in for The Bachelor excited for the mindless drama my brain craves after a long day at work. Yet, as I flick on the screen I can’t help but feel a twinge of guilt. If I were a “real” feminist, I tell myself, I would turn this off right now and write a blog post that demoralizes and derails the show. But, each Monday, I don’t. I sit there and get sucked into the demoralization and derailing of women.
The Bachelor isn’t my only weakness. You name it, I probably love it. The Kardashians, any wedding show, the list could go on.
At times I sit through these shows a mindless gimp, other times a rage unravels at the outlandish portrayals on the screen in front of me. Where is it written, in the manifesto of the modern women, how to balance what we see, what we feel, and how to react? The choice is in front of me, and yet I do nothing but delve in deeper while waiting for my popcorn to pop. Each show I watch troubles me. I watch in anger as I watch producers manipulate a perfectly smart women into acting like a lesser, bubblegum, man-hungry version of herself. The Bachelor is reliant on goals of “true love” and “fairytales” which boil down to a woman needing to resort to desperate measures to find “happiness” ie: a husband. It portrays women as catty, dramatic, and maybe worthy of this “All-American Hunk”, but probably not. And why not? Because they don’t laugh enough, they don’t care enough, their bust is too small, read: they are not female enough. This is ridiculous, as the show casts each season a particular type of girl, one who would only be recognized as traditionally female and girly. I dream of a rose ceremony where a girl marches off in pride, reliant and confident in no one but herself. Instead they leave humiliated, vapid, and without the prize of a husband. If the prize at the end of the tunnel is man who designates your happiness, no wonder my brain has to turn off to enjoy the show and take it face value. Analyzing inspires a headache and despair – embarrassment for my season long support of the show.
The Kardashians are a whole other headache. I wobble back and forth between “Are they good role models for women?” or “Are they not?”. They have risen from the fame of a man and made a fortune for themselves, become successful business women while exploring sisterhood, marriage, and mothering. While it may be easy to fall down hard on them and make them martyrs of their own (very put together image) there is value in the Kardashian females. They talk openly about their bodies and their struggles with image. They stick to their guns. They don’t marry if they don’t think it’s right. They exemplify sisterhood and family. There is realness in their experience. They also, have their downfalls. Kim’s relationship with Kanye has garnered criticism I tend to agree with. (An excellent article on the matter here.) Khloe has found a purpose in being a wife to Mr. Odom — too much of a purpose and a loss of self. Kourtney is portrayed poorly by the producers as being “crazy” after giving birth — instead of embracing the natural process of hormones after an exhaustive toll on the body. The mother of the clan, Kris, shows unabashed favoritism. The youngest daughters are being trained to be sex symbols only a short while after puberty. The Kardashians embellish the tip-toe world of conflict between being a woman: some actions are inherently feminist, and others are subtlety patriarchal.
Reality shows play a negative role in shaping feminism, so awareness when watching is crucial. Final rose: not accepted.