HELLO, my name is Petra and I like The Bachelor.

I’m also a feminist, which is rather like being a vegan with a leather fetish.

But as of this week, Wednesdays and Thursdays have become special in my house. They’re the nights I take an hour off from caring about sexism to watch The Bachelor.

If you’ve somehow missed this show, it’s the reality TV version of ancient Rome’s Colosseum, if the Christians and lions were replaced with Miss Universe contestants in sequined gowns and too much hairspray.

Yes, there is a bachelor in The Bachelor, but he’s sort of irrelevant. The show isn’t about “finding love”, or “making dreams come true” or whatever other Hallmark sentiments they pepper through the ads. It’s about throwing a bunch of women into a rose-trimmed pit and hoping they fight each other in creative ways for our entertainment.

I’ve read lots of feminist defences of The Bachelor. That it’s good practice in critical thinking. That it gets people talking about gender roles and the commodification of women. That feminism is about choice, and one of those choices can be to go on a reality TV show where you’re made to look stupid while vying for validation from a man.

That it’s cathartic. That you can’t restrict your TV viewing to shows with a feminist underpinning, because there’s only so much Amy Schumer you can watch without passing out, so you might as well not try.

The best justification I’ve heard is that it’s an excuse to drink every time Osher Gunsberg nearly blinds you with his teeth. (And if you’re going to do this, I recommend a low-alcohol beverage or you’ll be under the table by the first ad break).

Ultimately, there is no feminist defence of The Bachelor. It is insulting to women. It is a fairy-lighted, tealight-candle-decorated, waxed, plucked and Botoxed version of the Disney princess “some day my prince will come” romance myth women are fed from birth, in which the most important thing in life is finding a man to “complete” you.

It perpetuates sexist female stereotypes, like the “crazy girl” (hello, giggly children’s entertainer who wouldn’t stop banging on about unicorns and sunshine), the “girl next door” (hello Nikki, the chatty blonde from small town WA), the “bitch” (too many to mention).

The show presents a stylised version of femininity that is horrendously exclusive: pale skin, long hair, long lashes, pouty lips, heels and frocks with plunging necklines. The women may have careers and interests outside of looking gorgeous and trying to snag a bloke, but you don’t hear much about them.

Not to mention the bachelor himself is always pretty two-dimensional, too. He’s never much more than a smile in a suit, except when he takes that suit off and then he’s a smile with abs and pecs. This, we are meant to believe, is all it takes to make women go crazy with desire, even when they’ve only known the guy a few hours.

The whole thing is enough to make any feminist gag on her sequins.

And yet ... I can’t get enough of it.

I thought I had made peace with this personal failing. I tell myself I can watch and enjoy a dumb show of the patriarchy while simultaneously wanting to tear it down. But then I see Alex using her white rose privilege to dominate Richie at the cocktail party and I start finger waving and “Oh no she didn’t”-ing and I realise I can’t fight it.

Can you be a feminist and watch The Bachelor? Yes, just not at the same time.

Now pass me a shot, Osher’s just smiled again.


First published in The Advertiser on July 29, 2016. CLICK HERE to read the original article.