After my “Intro to Women’s and Gender Studies” class, multiple readings of Gloria Steinem’s “If Men Could Menstruate” and a role as the communications co-chair for HoyasForShe, I am faced with a question: Can I enjoy “The Bachelor” and still live with myself?
It is a question I long struggled with, but one that I could eventually reconcile with my concept of feminism.
Since its premiere in 2002, ABC’s “The Bachelor” has featured countless female contestants competing to reach the timeless goal of any woman’s life: getting engaged to a steamy white man. Upon realizing the potential profit margin from filming two seasons per year, the producers of “The Bachelor” created the spin-off, “The Bachelorette,” allowing nearly 30 steamy white men to pine over a single woman and effectively end gender inequality in modern America.
With the franchise boasting a marriage survival rate of 17.64 percent — low enough to rival Georgetown’s admission rate — the shows’ producers have decided to tackle another social justice hurdle in the next season: racism.
After 34 combined seasons of “The Bachelor” franchise, not including additional spin-offs, the show will finally debut the first black Bachelorette with this season’s “Bachelor” contestant, Rachel Lindsay, next season.
Usually a few women of color appear each season, but the steamy white men generally hand out roses to white contestants. Since the next bachelorette is determined from popular non-winners of the previous “Bachelor” season, women of color often do not advance far enough to be considered for the next bachelorette. We had a black president before we could handle a black bachelorette.
Aside from that, to apply for “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette,” contestants must be 21 years of age and list all visible tattoos. The video application must include biographical information, but the bolded instruction is not to forget close-up and full-body shots. The producers need those to make sure they can keep their ratings high and get gratuitous shots of chiseled bodies emerging from the shower. This is probably why we have not seen a lanky bachelor or a size-14 Bachelorette.
An uncomfortable binary also exists in “The Bachelor” franchise: You can be the bachelor, choosing a wife from nearly 30 attractive women, or you can be the bachelorette, choosing a husband from nearly 30 steamy white men. On top of that, heteronormative standards are just as heavily promoted. Simply ask the women who must have the two remaining men propose to them on “The Bachelorette” season finale.
Admittedly, “The Bachelor” does sprinkle some dialogue-provoking moments between the drama and heartbreak that dominate two hours of America’s Monday nights. From concerns of Chad Johnson’s abusive language on the last season of “Bachelor in Paradise” and female contestants’ voluntary exits from the show to focus on their careers, to an ongoing slut-shaming debate, “The Bachelor” franchise is no stranger to tough topics.
So how do I still allow myself to watch “The Bachelor” despite its flaws? Why am I okay with the show’s premise? It is a concept of feminism I have often struggled with, one that Amy Poehler eloquently states in her Nobel Prize-deserving memoir, “Yes Please.” She writes, “That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again. Good for her! Not for me.”
This is what feminism should be about: allowing women, regardless of age, race, size, sexual orientation, religious beliefs and biological gender, to have the freedom to be ambitious, to do what makes them happy and to reach for their own dreams. For many women, getting married is their ultimate goal. For a smaller subset of these women, competing with several other women for said husband on national TV seems like an appealing opportunity. Good for them. Not for me.
Angela Caprio is a sophomore in the College.
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