Is ‘The Bachelor’ The ‘Love and Hip Hop’ of White America?

January 20, 2012  |  

An old coworker coerced me into watching the last season of ABC’s “The Bachelor,” and while I found it hard to watch in the beginning, after the first few episodes it became sort of a guilty pleasure because I had to see what was going to happen in the end. What turned me off most about the show, despite tuning in every week, was the was the fact that contestants would have full-blown breakdowns over not being handed a rose after knowing some random guy for a day or two and the idea that a woman would actually agree to marrying a stranger after a few months. I couldn’t turn away from the cries and the embarrassing confessionals, but to me, the overall concept was silly.

A pastor at St. Sabina Catholic Church in Chicago is taking “silly” one step further. He says the show is degrading to women in the way that we criticize the representations of Black women in the “Basketball Wives,” “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” and “Love and Hip Hop” series. Rev. Michael Pfleger told the Chicago Sun Times:

“This whole concept, I mean, how sick is this that 25 women are throwing their bodies and their hearts at this one man, who is having all these little romantic runs with the different women here and there, and the women are doing whatever they gotta do to try and get him. How degrading is this for women?

“I mean these women were crying their eyes out when they weren’t accepted, and one even fell out on the floor, and I’m just amazed that this show is allowed to go on,” he said. “What is this teaching our young girls about what it takes to gain the acceptance of a man, and doing whatever you gotta do to sell yourself?”

Reverend Pfleger definitely has a point. While we complain about black and latino women throwing drinks and punches, he’s concerned with white women throwing themselves at men. He even said he’s shocked the National Organization for Women and other associations haven’t spoken out about “The Bachelor,” and to my knowledge he’s one of the first people to say anything about the portrayals of white women on reality TV (that’s the only shade 99% of the show’s contestants come in). Granted, I’m surprised he takes more issue with this show than some of the Real Housewives series, but the reverend does have a point about the desperation these women exude and what they’re modeling for young girls.

The south side pastor even went so far as to say the portrayals of women on the show are equal to video vixens in rap music videos.

“To me, this is just as negative,” he said. “And if we’re going to condemn negative rappers, particularly African-American rappers, calling women names and degrading them, which is wrong, then let’s equally do it with shows like ‘The Bachelor.’ The whole principle of this show is wrong.

“The women cry, fight, and plot against each other, acting as if they are a piece of meat being dangled from a hook for the bachelor’s selection,” Rev. Pfleger said. “In one episode, the bachelorettes climbed the San Francisco [Bay] Bridge and even went skiing in bikinis. They fell and purposely bent over just so the bachelor could see their most private parts. The whole thing should just make us all sick.”

I really applaud the pastor for calling out society on its double standard. I can’t even count the number of articles that have been written condemning the representations of black women on reality TV while everyone else gets a pass. “White women do it too” should never be an excuse to continue with stereotypical portrayals on TV, but with so many people—white and black—being quick to call out rappers for how they degrade women, maybe the “The Bachelor,” in its 16th season should be criticized just as harshly too. The only serious critique I’ve seen of the show is related to the lack of diversity in its casting, and it would definitely be interesting to see how the show was received if there were women of color behaving the same way the current contestants do.

I’d never given much thought to the portrayals of women when I watched the show, probably because I didn’t see myself in the contestants so I felt much more separate than I do watching Bravo or VH1. But I think Rev. Pfledger is making a much larger point about society overall: if you’re going to call out one industry for the way it represents women, you have to call them all out.

What do you think about the pastor’s view? Do you watch “The Bachelor?” Do you think it’s as degrading to women as some rap lyrics and videos?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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