BRING ON THE BACHELOR #DoucheDate

By   /   February 4, 2015  /   10 Comments

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2014 was the year that the public finally started to discuss, define and question what the term ‘rape culture’ means here in Aotearoa. Somewhere amidst this discussion TV3 announced they were going ahead with the New Zealand production of The Bachelor.

TheBachelor_2015
2014 was the year that the public finally started to discuss, define and question what the term ‘rape culture’ means here in Aotearoa. Last year was also the year when women in New Zealand were reminded how the society we live in values us. Somewhere amidst this discussion TV3 announced they were going ahead with the New Zealand production of The Bachelor.

In brothels around the world it is standard practice for the sex workers to do a form of line-up for the clients so that the client can select which woman they wish to spend time with. In some countries it is not unusual for the women to wear an identifying number. This practice is no longer carried out in New Zealand. We used to have version of it. The client would sit in the lounge and if he requested a ‘visual’ the women on the shift would stream out, one by one, say their name and then go back to the staff room. The practice was pretty much discontinued in the late 80’s and replaced with a more informal introduction procedure. Now the women sit around in a lounge or bar setting and the client comes and sits with the sex workers. He can then either approach the woman he prefers directly or notify a receptionist. Back in the day when ‘visuals’ were conducted the women put in little effort. Even in the lounge or bar area of a brothel there is a code of conduct around the practice of ‘hustling’. The practice of hustling is considered tacky. Sex work is a legal commercial transaction in New Zealand and I take no issue with sentient adults interacting in this manner. For the most part, people know why they are there. It is place to purchase sex.

Another place you will see a group of women lined up. Waiting to be judged and selected is a beauty pageant. Women are judged by an arbitrary set of rules which defines what is commonly perceived as ‘beautiful.’ The attraction for the contestant is some sort of financial enticement along with the idea of creating a profile or some amount of celebrity status. Like the line up in the brothel, pageants are in decline. They are after all a commercial venture and I question their relevance in today’s world but I support women to make their own decision. They will have their reasons for being there. It is a place, like a brothel, of financial gain.

The last place you will see the women being lined up like cattle, encouraged to perform tricks and compete is the TV show The Bachelor. 2015 is the year TV3 has finally decided to embrace the reality TV show. Wahoo. I mean how exciting. Thirteen years after it first screened in the USA we are finally going to embrace that trend. It’s being produced by Anna Lynch who also brought us New Zealand’s Next Top Model. The extreme reality TV pageant. Who won that again?

Following a year when NZ media was dominated by stories that highlighted the prominence and prevalence of a deeply embedded rape culture the introduction of dating show seems a bizarre choice. A year that ended with the air waves of talk back being assailed with men defending their right to call women pet names, like darling and babe in the work place. The catch cry of talkback “Its PC gone mad!” was the dawn chorus of day time chat. I can hear those same voices now defending The Bachelor as just a dating show. Just some good ole boy searching for love. It is harmless entertainment. Nice continuity TV3.

The Bachelor is not a dating show and it is not about dating or finding love. Looking for love on reality TV makes as much sense as searching for love in a brothel. Take away the financial inducements and would anyone really show up? The advertisers sure as hell won’t. Without advertising do you even have a show? This show is about rating not dating. The premise however is what is really compromising and where the cost comes. It is the cost of any pretence of equality between genders, it is at the cost of the contestant’s self-respect and the cost of the audience selling out to the commercialisation of the same ritual that inspires art, music and literature.
The setup is twenty four women who are competing for the attention of a man. They are lined up primped and primed and then set in competition where some guy can pick and choose what he considers to be the more superior. How is this not offensive? How is perpetuating this culture of patriarchal entitlement to select women like race horses not an outdated and dangerous precedent? While this is the same procedure used in brothels it is not the same principle because this is packaged and sold as a quest for love. This is sex work sold as romance.

A local example of how this precedent has now permeated local culture is the unfortunate example of Liam Lorigan. The story of his self-motivated quest for love based on The Bachelor model, #DateLiam, was brought to my attention by the Twitter Trolls. Liam Lorigan is a 29 years old who has set up a website and social media campaign offering women the opportunity of applying to date him on a public forum, where his friends and family can weigh in and his mother will select the lucky winner for a date with Liam on Valentine’s Day. This is a story that is not a story in many ways. So far there are no applicants in sight. #DateLiam is not going viral. Well not in the way he planned. I messaged Liam and requested an interview. I was amazed he agreed as my tweets surely indicated I was of the opinion that this ‘bloke’ must be an arrogant self-obsessed narcissist or incredibly ill informed.

As it turns out he is all of the above. #DateLiam is an example of men thinking that a framework for meeting women that encourages women to compete and totally disempowers them is okay. With only two weeks to go and no contenders tings might not be working out as he had hoped. In fact if people did apply, Liam hasn’t yet got as far as working out a system for dealing with them. He told me he had received queries from people who wished to nominate friends. He thought that might work. When I asked about people’s safety and right to privacy he just looked puzzled. In fact he looked puzzled throughout the entire meeting.

Liam wanted media attention. I’m giving him some. Liam stated to me and on his site that he was doing this in such a public manner because he was scared of internet dating. Well sure. That makes perfect sense. If you’re sacred of internet dating you set up your own website. It’s a hard line to swallow. I don’t believe it. When pushed and I asked him about using one of the platforms that already exist he stated that his own forum allowed him to “take back the power.” He also states that he wants to see how big this can go on social media.

I don’t think Liam Lorigan is malicious but I also didn’t buy his naive and vulnerable act. You wouldn’t embark on this exercise without a certain level of arrogance and entitlement. Liam admitted to me that he hadn’t considered any of the points I had made about how his forum positioned women, and what kind of women might respond. At this point if he isn’t lying, then it is hard not to consider the endeavour as plain stupid. Liam was keen for media attention. In fairness one of my opening statements was to advise him to google all future interviewers. That’s just good practice. Unlike launching a website encouraging women to vie for your attention and then allowing your mother to arbitrate. I would be really keen to hear from Liam’s mum. I could ask if she really supports the idea of encouraging women to compete and risk public humiliation for a chance at a date. I could ask if this is something she would encourage of a daughter.

This is a long blog. This is a huge topic. I have no doubt I will blog shorter angrier posts as the year progresses and when The Bachelor screens. Already I have heard from an unreliable source that one contestant left because of an issue regarding the swimming pool. The women who choose to put themselves forward for The Bachelor and for #DateLiam have agency. They are making their own informed decision and I am sure they have their reasons. However the quest for love may not be high amongst them, and if it is, well….we ban a lot of things in society in the name of harm minimisation. I see no reason why this shouldn’t be one of them. For years circus trainers tried to tell us that some bears love to dance and some tigers enjoy flaming hoops.
The Bachelor is political. The personal is always political when it comes to feminism and the place that women occupy in society. The Bachelorette is often touted as the balancing point. It is promoted by followers as the proof that this platform isn’t misogynist. Hoorah for equality.
Bullshit. The Bachelorette is the perfect example of what equality under patriarchy looks like.
Anyone who invests in the premise of this forum is buying into what must surely be the penultimate corruption of romance and the neo liberal capitalisation and commercialisation of love.

Bring on The Bachelor. #DoucheDate is ready to go.

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10 Comments

  1. Louisa says:

    Interesting and well-written blog Kate, and I completely agree with you! Looking forward to your blogs on The Bachelor when it starts.

  2. countryboy says:

    ‘ The Bachelor ‘ is truly vile on all levels . So to ‘ Real Hollywood Housewives ‘ They display a rare kind of repugnance that could only be found within societies that have been stripped of their humanity .

    Idiocracy / The movie . Coming into reality near you .

    My lovely ex girlfriend used to call everybody ‘ Darling ‘ and rated this movie as a prophecy .
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0387808/

    You say
    ” This is sex work sold as romance. ”

    Sounds like ‘ marriage ‘ .

    While I love your writings, a problem I have with some of your views however is that like the awareness of racism, sexism is a divisive mechanism that can be used for evil . ( Metaphor . Not actual evil like spinning heads or flesh burning crucifixes’ ) and I certainly don’t mean that you are indulging in that particular dark art . Far from it . And no disrespect .

    When I was a younger man and being dragged around by my penis I went to a brothel once in Auckland . I sat there amidst lovely young women, oblivious to the greater forces at work there . Dysfunction , abuse , mother hated / father fiddled/ beaten victims of circumstances beyond their control. ( Let me tell you , you guys reading this . The Happy Hooker is a myth . )

    And sadly , most working girls are single parents trying to pay power bills while the fathers to their kids are paying a pittance to the IRD . And most of those girls experience on-going abuse from those same partners who think that because they have children to those women , those women are their possessions . Just like Da did aye boys ?

    And now ? Those women , carrying their abuse and the kids they love fathered by abusers can sell access rights to their vaginas to other men, also abuse victims .

    But how can men who visit prostitutes be ‘ victims ‘ you might ask ?

    Anyone can be a victim to his or her ignorance . And ignorance is a tough old beastie to lose because one of the down-sides to losing ignorance is to achieve enlightenment and enlightenment comes at a price . And that price is the guilt . Ahhh , the guilt . Trying to live with ones past indiscretions is the stuff that packs churches, is that not so Father ? And it also makes good money . Is that not also right Father ?

    So, what about forgiving oneself then rejoicing in one of lifes greatest achievements instead ? That of enlightenment ?

    But when do we stop ? At what point do we say ” Jesus ! I can’t look at that man/woman and see beauty and think ‘ Rower ! ‘ without being cast out onto the moors so I’d best whip impure thoughts out of me ” Is it when money no longer plays its dubious part ? Shall we burn the bus because the girl paid it a dollar to get her to the Parade ?

    Society is in free-fall and it was dropped by Us . We failed each other to allow fiscal dysfunction to dominate us all . The weirdy creations of sociopaths to generate ‘ cash slow ‘ ( i.e. Bachelor NZ ) happens because we others gave up giving a shit and now we toil for foreign owned banks to pay compounding interest to live dreary , dull lives trying to support the mental illness that is our lifestyles .

    Pay women well enough to live with their wee kids by themselves and safe from their abusers and see how many brothels close over night . Give us enough time in our lives , free from banker tyranny and see what comes of that ? Wipe out mortgage debt and re nationalise our assets ? Take away the anxiety of striving against the tide.

    Sometimes @ Kate Dickie-Davis, I think we’re fucked . Sometimes I think there’re no solutions . I look down into the streets and I see spiritual ugliness and stupidity and the spiritually ugly and stupid are profiting from that . They’re feeding off their own excrement .
    Sex that up and sell it, you swine Advertisers, Bankers and Money Lenders .

  3. esoteric pineapples says:

    I enjoy The Bachelor myself and yet I would be considered Left Wing in my political views. I also enjoy Coronation Street, The Hotel Inspector, and Hell’s Kitchen. I have more of a problem with violence as entertainment than sex and romance. For instance all the CSI series and The Stalker. I tend to think these are enjoyed by owners of SUVs for no particular reason, and tend to think of SUV owners as being more likely to vote National.

    One has to be careful about mixing moral positions on sex with political positions.

    • Kate Davis says:

      I have a mySky box just so I can record Coro. My objection to The Bachelor is a concern about how the women are framed. They are presented to compete for a guy. While I don’t see this issue as a partisan issue, I do see it as political.

      This is not a moral position on sex. In fact if they were completeing for a shag I would object less than the ridiculous assertion this is a quest for love. Which brings me back to the politics. This is not a blog about the politics of sex, it is about the politics of gender.

      • Lara says:

        I would also count myself as almost radical left wing, and definitely a radical feminist. Yet I watch The Bachelor.

        It’s like a really bad train wreck, you just can’t stop watching.

        The Bachelorette is better though IMO.

        With a fair few relationships that lasted a while, and five marriages (some resulting in children) and one current engagement, it does work for some of these people sometimes.

        Of course it’s horribly sexist, in that the men and women participating display highly stereotyped behaviours and appearances prescribed by our ideas of what men and women should do / look like. Its racist and transphobic too.

        Which is a pretty accurate reflection of wider society as far as I can tell.

        Lets stop pretending that television is any good for anything but the most vacuous stupid “entertainment”. Let TV do what it does best; absolute crap.

        I don’t have TV. Haven’t had it for over 10 years now. I watch the occasional rubbish online.

        I’m quite capable of watching something like The Bachelor critically, yet still being entertained. Its light relief from my job.

  4. Rae says:

    God help us.

    Confession – I have a reality tv guilty secret, Project Runway, gutted that it has gone to a Sky Channel as I haven’t gone to Sky.

  5. Kate Kate says:

    Hi Kate, I am really glad you are angry. It is a sad pathetic shallow shit show and demeaning for woman to be acting so desperate for what is deemed an “elite” man.
    (But I was rather repulsed when many of my cousins started marrying their partners, and the mothers (my Aunts) became competitive over who had the best wedding. Then even more ridiculous one of my Aunts started competing over which couples had kids the fastest and who had problems with their speed of reproduction! And how many grandkids she has… This is a well educated very wealthy person who has never had a job other than bringing up her kids, and now they are ” winning” this competition she is running in her mind, she must be so proud!
    I feel really sorry for these young people who are so desperate to look the part with a show pony rich husband, (or show pony trophy wife) they will EARN every penny keeping up appearances and living shallow lives.
    I realised later that my well meaning Aunts (maybe a little bit evil) had a scary amount of control over who my cousins had relationships with, it is scary to think how manipulated into the “show” others push each other into. I mean it seems like we are heading back to the fifties or something and are all horrified at being “left on the shelf” or not behaving like the perfect ‘idea’ of a relationship/wife/husband/life. Maybe we need a reeducation programme to teach young woman and men not to fall for the bullshit stereotypes, like these stupid competitive shows feed on, it seems like a hideous waste of energy/potential. These shows are an over the top parody of the so called ‘perfect reality,’ like CountryBoy said about the Real Beverly Hills House Wives, that show is a shocker, but many people aspire to be exactly like it if possible. YUCK! They are demented people who seem to have a frankenstein ‘freak show’ look/attitude about them to me. I am so far out on the fringe of society these days I look in at it as if it was another species entirely.

  6. Sam says:

    This blog post really does seem quite pathetic in current times where there is so much actual female oppression. The writer even admits there is a reverse gender scenario of the show, therefore entire argument undermined, well done. How about we focus on more important stuff facing women first like forced marriage, FGM, honour killings, acid attacks, denial of education, and then we can take a look at TV shows ok? 🙂 These kind of posts do nothing for female rights movements..

    • Kate Davis says:

      Hey Sam, actually what I say is that reversing the gender just reinforces the concept by normalising partriarchal structures & rebranding them as equality. Don’t even get me started on how both shows cater exclusively to the concept of male gaze by reinforcing hegemonic gender roles.

      Also I disagree with you in regard to this conversation doing ‘nothing for female rights.’ It is addressing these underlying basic assumptions that allow for and enable an escalation in behavior. In other words if men don’t feel entitled to treat & display women like possessions none of the other behaviors you reference would take place.

      This is an op-ed and it’s function is to provoke discussion. Thanks for your contribution.