Richson: Gender politics and The Bachelor


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Despite my having Monday night class and thus cannot guiltily indulge in the current season of “The Bachelor,” I have social media and the Internet to thank for keeping me updated. And really, is there an element of the show that couldn’t be condensed into a few sentences of summation? (Does anyone else agree Kelly has a lazy eye? Is America really supposed to believe “free spirit” is a profession? Sharleen needs kissing lessons, etc. … the end.)

I don’t need to suffer through the commercials an ABC-online episode of “The Bachelor” imposes on viewers; I get the general gist. Furthermore, “The Bachelor” pretty much always proves to be basically the same (just as unapologetically sleazy) every season. But I, and you, continue to pay attention, regardless of the double standards at play.

Only recently were these double standards anything more than underhandedly depicted. This season is notably different from most because our bachelor, Juan Pablo … or affectionately “JP” … has a young daughter for whom he allegedly doesn’t want to set a poor example. Presumably this involves showing himself as a chivalrous male and his potential suitors as self-respecting adult females.

Initially, his intentions seemed relatively honest — I’m sure we all “aww”-ed at his declared intention to not go all-in and make out with everything on the show that moves. He only wanted to kiss a select few. Obviously agreeing to go on a show where a man dates more than one woman simultaneously would set a pristine precedent for his daughter, but kissing too many of them would be bad news.
But, in true “Bachelor“ fashion, things got sexual and went bad fast.

Die-hards certainly all remember when, in Ben’s season, Courtney lured Ben to the beach, and they went “skinny dipping.” No one thought much of it, because people hated Courtney to begin with.

This season, viewers watched a similar scenario unfold, albeit with a non-villainous contestant.
Innocent Clare, high off her own personal success in winning the coveted rose for the day’s group date, paid a visit to JP’s hotel room in the early morning hours, and the two made way for the ocean.

Viewers could only assume what followed, but is really anything left up to the imagination when we see someone get summoned at 4 a.m.?

The next day, JP took Clare aside and essentially said they were in the wrong for … whatever they did, once again playing the daughter-card. Teary-eyed Clare expressed that she had been under the impression their actions had been mutual, and for once, the “Bachelor” depicted a real issue: slut-shaming when it’s convenient for the male.

Had there been no cameras around, would JP have proceeded in the same manner in the ocean? Absolutely. Did he know cameras were present for his post-midnight escapades? Duh. And he still did it anyway. Not to say that Clare isn’t responsible for her actions, but why should she take all the heat?

JP had to slut-shame Clare — cast her as a seductress — so he didn’t come off like a scumbag. For once, “The Bachelor” actually made explicit the double standards that underlie the entire show; it’s OK for a guy to go after more than one woman, but when a woman reciprocates with a similar degree of sexuality, it is viewed as inappropriate. Why can’t two play the game?

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