Since premiering in January, my Monday nights have been dedicated to the hot mess that is ABC’s “The Bachelor.” Thirty women showed up on the first night, having taken time away from their careers, families and friends to pursue love with a man most of them knew only through tabloids and past seasons of The Bachelorette.
Over the course of filming the show, which takes around nine weeks, Bachelor Nick Viall is expected to whittle down the 30 women to the contestant he believes to be the one he will spend the rest of his life with, and hope the woman he chooses feels the same way.
For me, Nick’s season thus far has pointed out a large flaw in the franchise, which is how degrading the show is to the female contestants. This season was supposed to bring in a more diverse group of contestants, both racially and career-wise.
ABC largely succeeded, bringing in more women of color than any season I can remember, and including women who are lawyers, nurses, teachers, small business owners and chefs. These are all obviously prestigious careers that require a woman that is educated and driven.
But with their choice to appear on The Bachelor these women are effectively putting these careers on hold for a man they have never even met. While dropping everything for “true love” might have been the norm in the 1950s, it should not hold as such in the 21st century.
I understand it is the women’s choice to do go on the show, no one is forcing them to give up their lives for two months. But the expectation that they will drop everything reinforces the idea for young women that finding “Mr. Right” is worth sacrificing your hard work, ambition and livelihood for.
Pouring salt on this wound is Nick, who rarely, if ever, asks these women about their careers unless they bring it up themselves. Rather than talking about the accomplishments of the women he’s dating, Nick spends his time making them listen to him drag on about his two exes that dumped him or asking them about their past heartbreaks.
In any other scenario, these conversations would signal a bad first date, with both people still obviously too hung up on their exes to have any sort of meaningful conversation. But, because this is a multi-million dollar TV franchise, all dating faux-pas are set aside, and Nick is allowed to wallow in self pity in front of women who are worth far better conversation.
Perhaps worse than the stale conversation is the constant show-produced anxiety felt among the women. Nick and past bachelors have created an environment in which their “girlfriends” constantly fear rejection because they were forgotten or looked over for someone more beautiful or intriguing or outgoing. This is an understandable fear to have in the world of dating — it makes sense to a point.
What is not normal is making women repeatedly feel as though their self-worth is based solely on the validation of the man they are dating, which is exactly what this show does. The roses are positive reinforcement for the girls who kissed Nick the most, or who pretended to have the most fun doing random activities all day, and negative reinforcement for anyone who was passed over.
A true relationship should not rely almost solely on the woman having to prove her utmost devotion to her boyfriend time and time again, while constantly being worried that his attention is being stolen by a woman that he likes more. Again, this speaks to the idea that these female contestants are somehow reliant on Nick, and that in order for him to love them, they need to sacrifice everything they have, including their true self.
Aly Niehans ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in international studies and intending to major in journalism.