Popular show “The Bachelor” perpetuates sexist standards

Rachel Myers, Regulars Managing Editor

I was first introduced to the world of “The Bachelor” during my sophomore year. A few friends of mine flocked around a computer screen, watching a group of flawless girls in evening gowns emerge one by one from a limo. I watched as a bland white man delivered the same impersonal phrase to all of them and they flashed their blindingly white teeth in turn. This merited a few eye rolls from me, as I knew of  “The Bachelor” and its ridiculous premise. Out of sheer curiosity, I decided to watch the whole episode. And another.

I used to label “The Bachelor” one of my guilty pleasures, but I am not even ashamed of it anymore. Do I watch “The Bachelorette” too?  Yes. “Bachelor in Paradise?” Yup. The newest addition, “Bachelor Winter Games?” Heck yeah.

I ask myself frequently why, two years later, do I still watch this cheesy, anti-feminist, anti-everything-I believe-in TV show weekly, as if my life depends on it? Because “The Bachelor” feels like something that should not be allowed to exist, and oddly, that is intriguing to me.

If you are not familiar with “The Bachelor,” here is the gist of it: 30 women vie for the heart of one irresistible man. Each episode, a few more women are “sent home” and our man is one step closer to happiness.

What drew me in initially and keeps me watching to this day is the sheer outrageousness of the concept. “The Bachelor” is a world of its own. Dating has never, (and hopefully will never,) look like this. Engagements do not happen nine weeks after meeting a person. Yet, in the world of “The Bachelor,” one man dating 30 woman is completely normalized and each woman is not only aware of this, but is voluntarily putting herself through it and co-existing in the same house, even befriending her competitors. It is a bizarre, twisted version of our own reality– yet these people actually exist.

An early review of the show by the New York Times in 2002 entitled “One Small Step for Man, Twenty-Five Backward for Women,” claimed it was outdated in terms of feminism. This is true, but I have found from my own experience that being a feminist and watching “The Bachelor” are not mutually exclusive.

Like a moth drawn to a flame, I tune in weekly to watch these caricatured personalities bicker over glasses of wine and accuse the other women of being there for “the wrong reasons.” And later, as the bachelor brings one girl on a million dollar date, he gears up the courage to say “I love you” even though he’s only known her for two weeks. It is like watching a car accident because you cannot really look away.

I am not going to pretend that I watch “The Bachelor” solely through a lens of irony. Yes, I laugh at the girls who cry too much and have artificially high pitched voices, but I will also choose one girl to root for every year, the one who seems the most sincere and down-to-earth. And once in a while, the allure and fantasy of it all, as well as one smoothly-delivered line from the bachelor, tricks you into thinking it is actually romantic.

Having said that, there are some real issues surrounding “The Bachelor” that should not be overlooked. There is a glaring lack of racial, ethnic and body diversity among the contestants. Given that “The Bachelor” is watched by women nationwide, one would hope that the directors would try and use the power of that wide viewership to showcase this much-needed diversity. Thankfully, many women have noticed and have taken to Twitter to express these concerns.

I have no doubt that women’s empowerment will continue to strengthen as the years go on, just as I believe that girls like me will continue to need guilty pleasures like “The Bachelor” in our lives.

“The Bachelor” should not exist, but it does. And I am here for it.