The hot-catch Bachelor feigns somber nervousness as the final, trembling-lip Bachelorettes approach his stage. Teetering on stilettos and wrapped snugly in revealing duds, these women look like overeager Barbies. Their sparkly costume jewelry radiates the very hope in their hearts: each wants that rose. I first saw The Bachelor a decade ago when a group of my now-husband's business school classmates invited me over for a girls' night. We drank Chardonnay and snacked on appies, smooshed together on a plump couch in one of their apartments. These women were pals, bonded by the experience of successfully navigating an old boys' club. They were kind, but I knew I stood on the periphery. I was just a fiancée, a partner of, an educator for christs' sakes. I felt time-warped back to high school: unsure and ill-at-ease, the odd girl out amongst these pretty, confident femmes.
Their excitement was palpable. Who would Bob reject? Who would he consider loving? I remember watching with revulsion. Did these contestants really think they'd fall in love this way? How disgusting that in looking for a life partner, you'd have to be a contestant. It all seemed so desperate and sad and utterly constructed; a modern-day race to a coveted MRS degree.
Bob looked smug, so satisfied that I felt ill. He had nothing to lose, for even though none of the contestants seemed to have much in the way of dignified sense-of-self, he was the one who got to dip his toes in each pool as often as possible with nary a hint of 'please.' I could not imagine why any woman enjoyed watching this play out, much less participating in it.
Of course Bob chose Estella, to her credit a seemingly equally-calculating individual, and of course they broke up shortly after the final tape rolled. The rose was a ruse, an empty ploy for viewers and ad money. (I am shocked anew each and every time I see a photo, that Trista and Ryan are still together.)
Fast forward several years, and The Bachelorette aired. Inevitable I guess, but as a woman, I didn't feel terribly empowered by this nod towards my team. That both the His and Hers versions continue (The Bachelor is now in its 19th season!) to run still makes me green around the gills, but we're all so inured to fake "reality" TV these days, that it seems less desperate and sad in some ways. I think that's pretty sad in and of itself.
I never watched another episode and haven't thought about The Bachelor in years, save for the regular US Weekly updates on famous people who aren't famous for anything. But yesterday, during the Super Bowl, I caught a glimpse of the Patriots cheerleaders. Don't get me wrong, they are cute as buttons and fit as fiddles. But do they really pep up the team? The crowd? Or are they there for show? I don't know the honest answer, and if each woman is doing the job for herself, then cheer away you badass vixens.
All to say that I was reminded of The Bachelor and how too many women seem to feel they need to be for show. As if their worth derives primarily from what they can obtain with looks and those ole feminine wiles. Just look at the the "Real" Housewives, such obvious iterations of their predecessors. They are vapid, soulless creatures; it's Stepford redux.
We send these messages throughout society, laterally and, more perniciously, down the chain to our girls. I'm old enough (and dealt with the whole image thing long ago), but youth is an impressionable substance, and with the constancy of media these days, well, I'm somewhat relieved to just have my sons. Boys and men can feel the pressures of beauty too, but it's often different and doesn't onset as young.
We need more ads like the Always #likeagirl spot that run during the Super Bowl. More shows and stories and films and plays and all sorts of things in that vein, #likeagirl tropes that celebrate the vast strength and self-determination in "girlness" rather than pay any attention to the porcelain-doll shell- game that diminishes women again and again.