I Hope Watching 'The Bachelorette' Last Night Made You Deeply Uncomfortable
2019 has been quite the year for sexism on dating reality shows now, hasn’t it?
I mean, in the words of Bachelorette Angie Kent, “holy dooley”!
In case you missed last night's cringe-inducing episode of 'The Bachelorette,' Noosa councillor Jess Glasgow went for the trifecta of everyday sexist behaviours: gaslighting by “joking” and having “harmless fun”, saying disgusting things, and outright sexual harassment.
And let's not forget Married at First Sight contestant Mike Gunner's behaviour earlier this year, who went on gaslighting and spouting sexist bollocks (“groups of women under pressure don’t cope as well as groups of men under pressure”, it’s their "biology”) virtually unchecked.
This is reality television, sure, but both examples are further proof of the way some men (#notallmen) still treat and talk about women in everyday life.
While dressed as a horse for a photoshoot group date, Jess said to Angie, the woman he is supposed to be trying to establish a deep emotional connection with, “don’t mind if I get some wandering fingers, alright”. Urgh.
As much as I want to roll my eyes and dismiss this guy’s gag-worthy moves, we need to confront the fact that he has just “jokingly” threatened to sexually assault Angie on national television.
And I think we also need to confront the fact that almost every woman who has set foot in a nightclub or bar has been subjected to this kind of unwanted touching (or threat of touching) and uncomfortable attention. Something Jess himself almost seemed to hint at with his parting words in the limo:
"It was just harmless fun and that's all she wanted. I'm going back to Noosa to find the love of my life in a dirty, dingy nightclub."
Women are often tempted to give these men the benefit of the doubt, as Angie did initially. "He's nervous," she said. "People do weird shit when they're nervous." If we don't, we're called a "bitch”, and when people try to stick up for us, they "can’t take a joke” -- which is what Jess said to Angie and the other contestants before the end of the episode.
So, here we have a prime example of the kind of thing people like Catherine Deneuve said the #MeToo movement was taking too far. I mean, come on ladies, lighten up! It’s just some “clumsy flirting” and attempts at seduction.
But seeing it play out on camera, it doesn’t seem so silly and unimportant anymore. And that’s because it isn’t.
Fortunately, most of Angie’s potential baes are unimpressed by this behaviour, labelling it “inappropriate”, “sleazy”, and “creepy”. The Bachelors seem to be aware that this kind of behaviour and 'locker room talk' like Jess' -- “I would’ve grabbed that sweetie and laid one on her” -- is simply not going to fly anymore.
At least not publicly. Let’s not forget that just last year the Human Rights Commission released a report showing that 85 percent of Australian women had experienced sexual harassment. So, please, don’t try to tell us men who behave like this don’t exist anymore. We all know men who do it. There’s even one living in the White House right now.
But holding Jess up as the target of our rage is a mistake. Attitudes like his are symptomatic of our culture more broadly. This is rape culture. Joking about kissing and groping women without their consent is rape culture. Jess Glasgow is not an aberration. If he was, our solution would be easy: just steer clear of this one guy.
But it’s not just one guy.
Terms like “sleazy” and “creepy” need to die. As much as they’re insults and used to call out behaviour that is completely inappropriate, they also minimise that behaviour and its effect on not only the woman it is directed at, but our culture in general.
And while I’m pleased that good blokes like Carlin, Hadyn, Ciarran, Matt, and a bunch of others are out there calling out the dude-bro behaviour around them, the best part of last night’s episode was that they were just Angie’s cavalry.
She was her own knight in shining armour, dropping a forthright and articulate truth bomb about standing in solidarity with other women and objecting to their objectification with far more grace and aplomb than Mike Gunner seemed to think women should have under so much pressure.
Last night’s episode was validating. It took what is often dismissed as “low level”, held it up to the light, and made us look at it properly. I hope it was uncomfortable. It should be. Because it is sure as hell uncomfortable to be on the receiving end and then be told it’s a joke and no big deal.
This kind of behaviour is everywhere, like a vampire lurking in the shadows and leeching the life out of us. Let’s expose it to some more sunlight.