the bach­e­lor: 10 times the show made fem­i­nists proud

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Suzannah Weiss

“The Bach­e­lor” is nowhere near the most fem­i­nist show on tele­vi­sion; it’s a far cry from shows like “Girls” and “Broad City” that ex­plic­itly call out and cri­tique pa­tri­archy.

“The Bach­e­lor,” af­ter all, show­cases 25 con­ven­tion­ally beau­ti­ful women who are putting their ca­reers on hold to com­pete for a hus­band. The pro­gram has ma­jor prob­lems with racial un­der­rep­re­sen­ta­tion, and there cer­tainly are con­tes­tants who ad­vo­cate tra­di­tional gen­der roles. Plus, the women are rou­tinely ob­jec­ti­fied with date ac­tiv­i­ties, such as mod­el­ing beach­wear for Sports Il­lus­trated and ski­ing in biki­nis.

Al­though “The Bach­e­lor” and “Bach­e­lor in Par­adise” might por­tray their con­tes­tants as in­se­cure, ro­mance-ob­sessed women with­out agency, the as­sump­tion that the fran­chise is al­ways sex­ist it­self con­tains sex­ism.

Whether they’re there for ad­ven­ture, fame or a gen­uine in­ter­est in the bach­e­lor or bach­e­lorette, each sea­son man­ages to at­tract strong women both on screen and among those who tune in. The re­al­ity shows — and now all the blogs and so­cial me­dia ac­counts as­so­ci­ated with the shows — pro­vide a plat­form for women to stand up for them­selves and one an­other.

I’ve watched ev­ery sea­son since 2010, and here are the mo­ments that stand out to me as the most em­pow­er­ing.

1. Ali Fe­do­towsky puts her ca­reer above love. Al­though fi­nal-four con­tes­tant Ali Fe­do­towsky was taken with 2010 bach­e­lor Jake Pavelka, she left the show to keep her job at Face­book, teach­ing women across Amer­ica not to sac­ri­fice their am­bi­tions for love. “I am the big­gest ad­vo­cate of women go­ing out there and hav­ing ca­reers,” she said dur­ing that sea­son’s “Women Tell All” episode. Fe­do­towsky went on to be­come the next Bach­e­lorette — de­cid­ing it was time to pri­or­i­tize love (or the money ABC of­fered her) over work, but she’s still best known for leav­ing the show for her ca­reer. And Pavelka turned out to be a to­tal jerk.

2. JP Rosenbaum fol­lows his wife Ash­ley He­bert around the coun­try. De­spite com­plaints about Bach­e­lor Na­tion’s women al­ways re­lo­cat­ing, “Bach­e­lorette” sweet­hearts Ash­ley He­bert and JP Rosenbaum moved to New Jersey to be closer to He­bert’s den­tal res­i­dency. In 2014, the cou­ple re­lo­cated again to Mi­ami be­cause He­bert craved warmer weather. JP told Wet­paint of the move, “Happy wife, happy life.” The cou­ple has bucked gen­der roles on other oc­ca­sions, too. In a TV in­ter­view last year, soon af­ter the birth of their son, He­bert calls JP “the mas­ter di­a­per changer.” In an­other video, she asks him, “Are you gonna cook for me for the rest of our lives?” “For­ever,” he re­sponds.

JP isn’t the only man who has re­lo­cated for a “Bach­e­lor” lady. “Bach­e­lorette” sea­son 8 win­ner Jef Holm moved from Utah to North Carolina to be with his then-fi­ancée Emily May­nard and her daugh­ter, and Cody Sat­tler moved from Chicago to Utah for Michelle Money af­ter they met on “Bach­e­lor in Par­adise.”

3. Sean Lowe con­demns racist beauty stan­dards. When sea­son 17 con­tender Robyn Howard asked bach­e­lor Sean Lowe how he felt about his sea­son be­ing more racially di­verse than past ones, he wel­comed her cu­rios­ity with the re­sponse, “I love this ques­tion,” then con­tin­ued, “Peo­ple look at me, blonde hair, blue eyes, and they think, ‘He prob­a­bly goes for white girls who are blonde.’ Hon­estly, phys­i­cally, I don’t have a type. ... I’ve dated ev­ery­body, and when I say ev­ery­body, I mean His­panic, Per­sian, my last girl­friend, black. ... It’s the mind, and it’s the woman be­hind the phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance.” Props to Lowe for tak­ing down racist, pa­tri­ar­chal stan­dards of beauty. He mar­ried win­ner Cather­ine Giudici, who is half Filipino, in 2014, and they’re ex­pect­ing their first child.

4. Kelly Travis calls out Juan Pablo Galavis’ ho­mo­pho­bia. For­mer com­peti­tor Kelly Travis told off bach­e­lor Juan Pablo Galavis for call­ing gay peo­ple “more per­vert” on sea­son 18’s “Women Tell All” episode. When he back­tracked and claimed the state­ment was “taken out of con­text,” she wasn’t hav­ing it: “Taken out of con­text? Per-vert?” Vic­to­ria Lima chimed in: “Please stop us­ing English as a se­cond lan­guage as a cop-out.” Out­spo­ken women shut­ting down an ig­no­rant man to sup­port LGBT rights is some­thing any fem­i­nist can get be­hind.

5. Andi Dorf­man isn’t afraid to be sin­gle. Andi Dorf­man chose to exit “The Bach­e­lor” af­ter it be­came clear that Galavis “didn’t care about who I was or what I want in life.” The pros­e­cu­tor knew a nar­cis­sist like Galavis wouldn’t treat her as an equal, so she stood up and left.

6. Josh Mur­ray be­lieves quit­ting his ca­reer was worth it — be­cause it led him to Andi Dorf­man. Like Fe­do­towsky, Dorf­man was re­warded for valu­ing her in­de­pen­dence with the ti­tle of “The Bach­e­lorette.” As fi­nal­ist Josh Mur­ray picked out her en­gage­ment ring, he said, “Andi’s a very strong woman. ... I like that. That’s a sexy qual­ity to me.” Mur­ray also said on the show that he quit play­ing pro­fes­sional base­ball so he’d have time to start a fam­ily, a wel­come role re­ver­sal and re­minder that Bach­e­lor Na­tion’s men are of­ten sac­ri­fic­ing their ca­reers as much as the women to find love. Though they broke off their en­gage­ment af­ter eight months, Mur­ray and the other men vy­ing for Dorf­man’s heart val­ued her strong­mind­ed­ness. 7. Lacey Fad­doul, Michelle Money and Christy Craw­ford tell off “misog­y­nis­tic a-hole” Jesse Ko­vacs. When “Bach­e­lor in Par­adise” play­boy Jesse Ko­vacs cheated on Christy Craw­ford and bragged about it to the sea­son’s other men, Lacy Fad­doul and Michelle Money weren’t amused. They fol­lowed him off the show, yelling, “Us women are not stupid!” and “Girl power!” Craw­ford called him “a misog­y­nis­tic a-hole.” I was so in­spired by Money’s speech on how women must stand up to ex­ploitive men like Ko­vacs so they don’t re­peat their be­hav­ior that I told off a sex­ual harasser on a dat­ing app the next day.

8. Chris Soules sup­ports Jade Roper’s right to make her own choices about her body. When con­tes­tant Jade Roper ad­mit­ted that she posed for Play­boy, Chris Soules said he wouldn’t judge her for it: “Don’t feel bad about that. I mean, you are a beau­ti­ful woman and that’s not some­thing I feel is some­thing that would af­fect our re­la­tion­ship in any way.” When he sent her home, he made it clear that it wasn’t for that rea­son.

9. Kait­lyn Bris­towe and Nick Viall take a stand against slut-sham­ing. Last year, bach­e­lorette Kait­lyn Bris­towe de­fended her choice to have sex with com­peti­tor Nick Viall be­fore the “fan­tasy suite” dates (the episode when the show per­mits “off-cam­era time,” Bach­e­lor Na­tion’s eu­phemism for sex). Viall tweeted that “both men and women have an equal right to have sex with­out judge­ment [sic].” Host Chris Har­ri­son wrote in a blog post that crit­ics of Bris­towe’s move were “un­fair” and told her he’d choose her as a role model for his kids over any­one who ha­rassed her about it. To­gether, Bris­towe, Viall and Har­ri­son re­minded view­ers that it’s not OK to judge a woman’s char­ac­ter based on her sex­ual de­ci­sions.

10. Ju­bilee Sharpe shows off her strengths in her in­tro video for Ben Hig­gins’ sea­son. Mil­i­tary vet­eran and cur­rent “Bach­e­lor” con­tes­tant Ju­bilee Sharpe shoots a gun and throws a man to the ground in her in­tro­duc­tory video, where she ex­plains, “Peo­ple have this per­cep­tion of fe­males in the mil­i­tary. It’s so hard to get away from.” Hope­fully, she’ll get enough screen time to change that per­cep­tion.

Fan fa­vorite Sean Lowe wel­comed a more racially di­verse crop of bach­e­lorettes to choose from in sea­son 17 of “The Bach­e­lor,” in­clud­ing Ash­ley H. Pro­vided by ABC

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