My Take on Reality TV


According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, feminism is “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” Modern human rights groups sometimes refer to themselves as “equalitarian” to dispense of the false belief that feminists want women to be ‘better than’ men, or to punish men for their perceived advantages. No matter what it’s called, the name of the game is equality. And in some games, equality stays just a theory.

I remember the first time that I saw a reality TV show that made me question whether or not women were getting a fair shake in a visual medium that rewards appearance above intellect. One man, choosing between dozens of woman, who had appeared to spend their entire lives between the gym and a make up counter. The Bachelor, when it came out in 2002, was a concept that pitched itself as a search for love but read like a sheikh with a Malibu harem dreamhouse.

What about The Bachelorette? Arriving a year later, this show seemed to level the playing field a bit, at least on ABC. The idea was still manipulative and the “dates” were still thinly veiled attempts to outsex one other. However, if you want to be on a reality TV show, that’s your choice – so long as you’re attractive enough to be chosen in return.

Fast forward to today. There’s a newer, cheaper type of reality television in the world, in which people are followed around their dramatic lives. The men in these shows are antiques dealers, fishermen, and rappers. The women… mostly housewives.

The problem, in my eyes, doesn’t seem to be that these women are sex objects. It’s not even that they make no contribution to society. It’s the appeal of a lazy life that consists only of the high school drama and all-day shopping trips that are normally left behind once the real world swallows young adults. Even shows like The Kardashians, in which the stars claim to be working constantly, their business deals get little camera time compared to personal drama. Perhaps it’s because their business isn’t providing the catty drama that can only come from family members with years of blackmail material – and the motivation of millions.

Like it or not, these women have become heroes. Are they a good representation of the self-actualized, independent woman? No. Most of them have married or fornicated their ways into the public eye. They represent the fantasy of a “light” life without the pressures of bill paying or the boredom of having friends who aren’t Kanye West. The flip side seems characterized now by the reality shows that set themselves up as contests. Only on Food Network are women seen as more than token competitors, but serious ones, who chose to come on shows to show their abilities and win money to publicize their businesses.

But is it really a success if the shows paying the most attention to women’s passions are literally in kitchens? Maybe the best way to watch television these days, and to teach our children to watch it, is with a whole shaker filled with grains of salt.

Juliette Spirson

Juliette Spirson is a copywriting student in San Francisco. She spends a good portion of her time wandering around with her dog looking for Narnia, and the rest of the time making breakfast foods.

  1. AMEN, thank Geezuz! I so agree with you. Television is just not what it used to be, it’s sad that all these reality shows have nothing to offer, lack of substance in an understatement. I caved the other night to see what all the noise was about ” Honey Boo Boo, ” – my jaw dropped to see such stupidity being broadcasted. Those were the days when I would sit up and watch the Carol Burnett Show, Three’s Company and laugh out loud. Nowadays there is not much out there to sit and watch. And you are right, what do they do for society, NOTHING! Great Post, LOVED it!

  2. I don’t envy you the TV lineup you had to watch in order to write this. I do enjoy the cooking “reality” shows. I am also addicted to FaceOff (the SyFy channel makeup contest) where the playing field of women/men is pretty even. I loathe the way that women are portrayed in reality tv…the lack of support for one another, their catty and demeaning behavior, and the way they get “cred” by acting like absolute bitches. Hate it. Ugh. Thanks for a great article, Juliette!

  3. Thanks for writing this. If there’s one thing I really dislike, it would be the portrayal of women in the media. I work in a department mostly comprised women. We are all very motivated and passionate about our jobs. When I see women like ” The Real Desperate Housewives” I think about how it is not an actual reality for a large portion of the population. Women work hard where I am, and we would rather it be that way than to be like those women. I fear what young people think of what they see, and I desperately hold on to my role models.

  4. Thank you for writing this. I constantly remind my daughters that reality TV women are not “real.” It’s a shame that intellectually challenged women behaving badly provide such entertainment for the masses. I also tell my daughters that most women go through daily life without being called a bitch by a “friend” — or anyone else. And the women are so high maintenance! Scripted television is more creative, but there are fewer roles, always have been (Tina Fey is the exception, but she’s operating on the highest level). It seems like the world has changed so much yet still — for women to make money in front of a camera we must be over sexualized, morally challenged, or selling weight loss methods — Or we’re looking for a man (The Bachelor) or showing off our life having snagged a wealthy man (Real Housewives) or we’re trying to be a model or fighting with other women so that our daughters can win dance competitions or beauty pageants. The women doing the shows are finding success, but at what cost? Really, it’s a lot of watching women shop or cut each other down. There are exceptions, of course, but it’s the women behaving badly that seem to get the most attention. Sigh. Great post.

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