This is the start of a new semi-regular series called “We Deserve a Podcast” about the intersections of reality television and gender justice.
We once again find ourselves at the end of another season of The Bachelor in what we would call arguably one of the worst seasons of the franchise. To celebrate the season ending, we’re breaking down a few gender justice themes we saw pop up throughout the season.
The Bachelor contestants have been notorious gaslighters to the women competing to be their fiance. From every single word out of Juan Pablo’s mouth to Arie Luyendyk’s dismissal of Bekah Martinez’s dream to settle down and start a family just because she’s young, almost any Bachelor could be the subject of the Dixie Chicks’ latest banger, “Gaslighter.”
During this season’s finale, gaslighting went a step further into rewriting the truth. Peter’s retelling of what went down between him and Madison to Hannah Ann? Gaslighting. Chris Harrison’s retelling of what went down between Hannah Ann and Peter to Madison? Gaslighting. Neither woman was ever told the whole truth because the storyline was framed to always make Peter (the man) look better. In doing so, Peter denied both women the agency to make the best decisions for their lives, and employed an age-old tactic men have been using to convince women of various things throughout history (no women shouldn’t have the right to vote, access to abortion and birth control is blasphemy!).
PLAYING THE SHAME GAME
Sexual shame—especially around virginity—has long been a story line featured on the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise. Bachelor Sean Lowe was the first to openly bring up being celibate which paved the way for Colton, Heather, Luke P., and Madison—each with their varying levels of shame. Some people were praised for their decision while others (who weren’t claiming religious reasons for their decision) were basically the butt of the joke for entire seasons. *cough cough* Colton.
You should be able to make decisions about your body without shame, period. Whether that’s choosing to not have sex for whatever reason, choosing to have sex before marriage, choosing to have lots of sex, we don’t care! We just want you to be able to make that decision for yourself, and not because your community or society wants you to. This season featured Madison, who had decided to abstain from sex until marriage. It’s not great that Peter didn’t have that knowledge earlier in the season so he could decide what that meant for him before he was approaching proposal time. It’s also not great that Madison interpreted all criticism of how she communicated her decision to not have sex as criticism of her decision to not have sex, when that wasn’t necessarily the case.
WOMEN RULE, MEN DROOL
The Bachelor franchise is known for a lot of things, being progressive or a beacon of feminism is not one of them (a lot of viewers even use the show as a sort of reprieve from feminism). What has become apparent in the show’s history is that our sheroes of the franchise often have their big “moment” when the men of the show have treated them the worst. Hannah Ann wasn’t a crowd favorite throughout the season but her break up speech to Peter had all of Twitter backing her up. Why does it take mistreatment of women for us to root for them? (Psst: probably the patriarchy). Other similar moments: when Andi Dorfman told off Juan Pablo, how Clare also told off Juan Pablo (he needed a lot of it), and…lots more.
EMOTIONS, EMOTIONS, EMOTIONS
No surprises that The Bachelor franchise evokes all kinds of emotions. Each season involves a lot of crying, fighting, and even a fence-hopping or two. But with a lack of relationship content to focus on, the topic of emotions was brought front and center.
Okay, let’s just say it: Kelsey. Kelsey had a looooot of emotions this season. She was often found crying, whether it was by the pool, or over her champagne set-up being foiled accidentally, or any number of other things. Tammy, another contestant this season, decided that having emotions was the same as…having an alcohol use problem?! It’s not. And in a show that has consistently labeled women as “crazy” or “emotional” for having the slightest feelings, we’re not here for it, no matter who’s the one to label women overly-emotional. Because the thing is, having emotions is a part of life. It’s who we are, and we need to reckon more with a generation of men who are taught to suppress rather than engage with emotions than some women who cry sometimes while on a reality tv show.
IS THIS EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE DESIGNER?
Women are constantly shouldering the emotional baggage of this country, and of men specifically. This season of The Bachelor was no different. Whether it was Madison having to openly carry the baggage that is Barb Weber while defending her relationship during the finale or Peter still chasing after Hannah B., it was clear: Peter was expecting the women of this season to carry his emotional baggage for him.
IN CLARE CRAWLEY WE TRUST?
How could we do a Bachelor season wrap up without mentioning the next Bachelorette, Clare Crawley? Clare was not an obvious choice for the next Bachelorette but one that we think will hopefully bring the franchise back to the ~golden days~. Clare wasn’t our favorite when she was originally on Juan Pablo’s season and Bachelor spin off, Winter Games, but we always like Bachelorette seasons better than The Bachelor (does this need any explanation?) so I’m excited to see her take the reins! We also think her personality (aka not being a wet blanket) will be better-received now that The Bachelor has started allowing women to have personalities (thanks, Bachelor!). We also approve of the show’s bold decision to admit women above the age of 26 deserve to find love too, and are excited that 38-year-old Clare will be supported in her quest for love!