The Bachelor UK: Light Hearted Entertainment or Problematically Anti-Feminist?

The popular US reality tv series The Bachelor has recently come to the UK on channel 5 which caused a lot of excitement and anticipation. Having not watched the bachelor before, I decided to see what it was about, however something felt a bit off about how the women on the show interacted.

 

The main premise of the show involves a group of 15 women hoping to ‘find love’ and compete against each other in order to ‘win’ the affection of one conventionally attractive bachelor. This involves the bachelor going on dates with pretty much everyone and gradually whittling the number of women down until he finds the one which he likes the most. Romantic I know.

Whilst most tv dating shows (take me out, dinner date etc) aren’t meant to be taken seriously, this one was particularly uncomfortable to watch and appeared to conform to old fashioned notions of heterosexual dating where the man has all the control. In the first episode the women had to do all they could to impress the bachelor in order to stay in the competition. In a tense, talent-show esque elimination the bachelor awarded a red rose to the women who had impressed him the most and those who did not receive one were sent packing.

Even though slightly cheesy this seems relatively unproblematic and could just be down to personal preference, however as the series goes on the women are encouraged to compete with each other in order to be taken on dates and this even leads to a physical fight in episode two (sorry for the spoiler). They are hostile towards each other, frequently try to sabotage each others efforts to impress the bachelor and continue to make negative personal comments about each other all for the prize of the bachelor’s affection.

To me, this promotes a damaging message that women should be in competition with each other to the point of physical aggression for the sake of a man, and it is suggested that one women is somewhat better than another just because they have been chosen for a date over someone else. They even have to take part in physical challenges like running and tug of wars on the beach, which I can’t help think aim to appeal to a certain type of audience. In an era where gender equality and female empowerment is becoming a lot more prevalent, it seems old fashioned and almost anti-feminist to still have dating shows where the men have all the power and women should be in competition with each other. Throughout the show there are only a few opportunities for the women to make the first move and ask the bachelor out on a date, however this is only possible when they have received ‘the white rose’ from the bachelor himself, so the power they have is still on his terms.

Whilst there is a version called the Bachelorette where roles are reversed, this has yet to come to the UK and its existence still doesn’t undermine any of the issues discussed in regards to The Bachelor. This version is also guilty of undermining feminism and gender equality by similarly suggesting that men should compete for female attention where the women is seen as the prize, and only one party seems to have all the power. Whilst it may just be a bit of light hearted entertainment, it is difficult not to notice the hostility amongst the women towards each other and there is a question as to whether this is actually promoting a harmful message. It doesn’t seem necessary for women to be encouraged to compete against each other for a man, and there are plenty other dating shows that are equally if not more entertaining that don’t have to rely on this outdated and frankly pretty problematic stereotype.

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