Feminism, Gender Equality, Women & Media
Comments 10

‘The Bachelor’ Group Date that Nobody is Talking About

The Bachelor contestants get ready to ride tractors in the bikinis in downtown Los Angeles. Image c/o ABC.

The Bachelor contestants get ready to ride tractors in bikinis in downtown Los Angeles. Image c/o ABC.

Okay, I have to confession to make. I watch The Bachelor and I admittedly *guiltily* enjoy it. With my glass (bottle?) of wine beside me, I go into these episodes with an understanding that what I am about to witness will be completely sexist and will inevitably stereotype its female cast members as backstabbers, crazy, drunkards, airheads, damsels in distress, and/or the I’m-here-for-the-right-reasons-and-am-innocently-looking-for-my-one-true-love girl. (Why else would anyone ever want to be cast on a high ranking national television show? Certainly not for the five minutes of fame.)

However, a portion of last Monday’s episode was a little harder to stomach than usual.

Chris Soules, dubbed the handsome and perfect bachelor (a.k.a. Prince Farming…because he lives on a farm, get it?), invited a group of six girls on the season’s first group date with a date card that read, “Show me your country.” The date aimed to show Chris the girls’ so-called ‘country side.’ So how did The Bachelor’s producers tackle this difficult task? Why, by making the contestants strip down to their bikinis, walk around downtown Los Angeles, and ride tractors through the streets, of course! Because what could be more country than women walking around in bikinis?

Let me repeat. The show’s producers (two out of three of whom are men, along with the show’s writer) equated ‘being country’ to women parading around downtown Los Angeles in only their bikinis while straddling tractor seats (no sexual innuendo there or anything). Not only this, but ‘being country’ also meant being subjected to street harassment as cars honked at them and men whistled at the nearly naked women – moments that have been conveniently edited out of the clip on YouTube.* Additionally, seeing as how Chris wore a zip-up sweatshirt on the date, one can assume that the weather was not conducive to swimsuit attire. Television at its finest. (Stay classy, ABC.)

With all the recent steps forward in building awareness to end street harassment, from Twitter’s #YesAllWomen trending hashtag to The Daily Show’s Jessica Williams’ plan to end catcalling to the viral video of a woman being catcalled for ten hours while walking in New York City, last Monday’s episode was a major step in the wrong direction. Even Emily Maynard-Johnson, a former contestant, agreed that the show had taken a step too far.

I’m sure some of you reading this will say, “If the group date was so bad, why didn’t the women stay home or put on some clothes?” That is easier said than done. For starters, the contestants do not know what the date entails until the moment arrives. As a result, the women are put on the spot and expected to agree with whatever the producers have arranged. With millions tuning in and their chances of getting a rose (i.e. advancing to the next round) at risk, there is incredible pressure to just go with the flow. Nobody wants to be characterized as the lame girl who wouldn’t participate in a ‘fun’ little game (except me, but I guess that’s why I’m not on the show) and nobody wants to go home early. (Free luxury vacations, amirite?)

Even the group date’s description on ABC’s website is incredibly cringeworthy:

Description of group date c/o ABC

Description of group date c/o ABC – Click to enlarge

The producers, by not only merely creating this group date, but by also airing this group date on national television, seem to condone the idea that gawking at women in the street is A-Okay.

https://twitter.com/ProseccoAndPups/status/555086190874202112

If you think street harassment is harmless, think again. There have been countless reports of women being killed or seriously injured after rejecting their harasser’s advances. In Michigan, a mother of three was shot and killed. In New York City, a 26-year-old woman‘s throat was cut. In Florida and Washington respectively, a 14-year-old girl and a 33-year-old woman were run over multiple times by men in cars. Shoshana B. Roberts, the woman featured in the aforementioned viral street harassment video, received countless rape and death threats. There is an entire Tumblr dedicated to stories of violence inflicted on women who reject sexual advances.

Sexism on television and in film is nothing new. We’ve witnessed it time and time again, as women are more often than not portrayed as sex symbols, objectified, and treated as if they are subordinate to men. In fact, sexism, for so long, has been so closely intertwined with media in pop culture, that many viewers may not even realize it exists.** (And in case you missed it, advocating against sexism and gender inequality in the media was a major theme at this year’s Golden Globe awards.)

“These girls are looking smokin’ hot on these tractors, it’s incredible. I’m the luckiest dude with two thumbs [shows thumbs up sign], right here.” – Chris Soules

For those of you who will argue that ABC’s The Bachelorette objectifies men the same as The Bachelor objectifies women, I say to you that until the day comes where a man feels the constant threat of a woman potentially threatening, raping, or killing him as he walks down the street at night (or day!), these two topics cannot be compared.

We all know that media plays a powerful role in influencing pop culture, and misogynistic shows that continue to live in the dark ages must not be tolerated. As for me, you won’t find me watching The Bachelor next Monday night – at least not without a big bottle of wine.

PS – If you currently watch the show but do not follow along on Twitter using #TheBachelor, you are doing it wrong.

*You can watch the sexist group date in its entirety here beginning Monday, January 19th.

**The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media exists solely to promote gender equality in the media.

This entry was posted in: Feminism, Gender Equality, Women & Media

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Hi everyone! I recently earned my Master’s degree in International Development from The New School in New York City in May 2012. With a concentration in International Development and Global Health, I have worked behind the scenes as a Research Intern for the PBS documentary Half the Sky in addition to serving as the Research and Advocacy Intern for The Hunger Project. Globally, I have taught English to kindergartners in China, have researched clean water and HIV/AIDS in Kenya, and have gained first-hand experience understanding how migrants and refugees deal with public health issues in both Mexico and Thailand. I am especially interested in food security, nutrition and hunger and the role of women and girls in each of these issues. In my free time, I enjoy playing with my ever-so-fluffy Siberian Husky, eating delicious food, training for marathons and traveling. Follow me on Twitter @E_Epstein!

10 Comments

  1. Teresa says

    Don’t they know you can get gonorrhea from riding a tractor in a bathing suit?!! Hehe, I miss Seinfeld 🙂

  2. If you watch it, you condone it. Where there is no demand, there is no product. Don’t watch it. Tell everybody else not to watch it. Stop making the fight for equality so difficult!

  3. I was so horrified to be watching that show with my 13yo daughter. Great lesson you’re teaching there, ABC. Neither she nor I will watch again. And frankly, I should have known better than to let her watch – it went from mother-daugher bonding and laughing to maternal mortification via soft porn plots and female condescension.

  4. On another note, he said the he was impressed because the girl was behind 2/4ths of the race. Hey dude, that is also 1/2.

    I am a married family man and find this disturbing. How can he smile, talk about being the luckiest dude, sit there with coffee, watch this all go down, and really feel good about himself? Let’s not even get to the ‘I am looking for a soulmate, wife’ thing because THAT went out the window when you have them compete in bikinis driving tractors for your attention.

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  6. This type of scene on a group date is nothing new for The Bachelor. The contestants on Ben F’s season had to wear their bikinis while skiing down a closed-off street (with onlookers) in San Francisco. They were shown wiping out, too, which had to be painful along with the embarrassment. I’m sure there were similar dates on other seasons, but this was just one that came to mind.

    I’m guessing the women are told beforehand by the show’s production staff that they will be expected to participate & comply with these standards.

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