TV

The Sexist Double Standard on "The Bachelorette"

On The Bachelorette, it's a woman who bears the burden of other people's opinions about her choices and who's saddled with the repercussions. Why?

The main Bachelorettes effected.

ABC

Before Nick Viall became a Bachelor Nation staple, he was the guy who confronted his ex, Bachelorette Andi Dorfman, on national television.

"Knowing how in love with you I was, if you weren't in love with me, I'm just not sure why you made love with me," he said accusingly. Dorfman retorted that was "below the belt" and should "be kept private."

What Nick Viall divulged might have been met with pity if a woman had expressed it—because men take advantage of women all the time. But on The Bachelor, no woman has taken issue with the leading man being intimate with another woman. In contrast, time and time again, the men on The Bachelorette become possessive and force the female contestant to defend her actions, specifically her sexual decisions. It's clear that the Bachelor can have sex with his female suitors whenever he pleases and receive no backlash from the contestants or from Bachelor Nation.

Bachelorette Finale - Nick Confronts Andi About Sex Suite www.youtube.com

Meanwhile, Dorfman received a lot of flack for hurting Nick's feelings. Similarly, the following bachelorette, Kaitlyn Bristowe, also received backlash for having sex with Nick Viall before the "fantasy suites." It's an unspoken rule that the fantasy suites are where the final four contestants are free to do whatever they want during their first time away from the cameras. The production team typically stocks the suite with sweets, alcohol, and condoms for each pair's indulgence.

For Nick to have sex with Bristowe before the "fantasy suite" format seemed hypocritical. Here we had a man who implied that Dorfman was cruel to have sex with him because she did not end up committing to him. A year later, Nick even defended Kaitlyn's choice to have sex with him on the show, tweeting, "Sex is not shameful. Whether we want to admit it or not, sex is an important part of many serious and meaningful relationships." While Nick has since apologized, it's still important to acknowledge that he shamed Dorfman for her sexual expression in front of millions. Yet, it was Bristowe and Dorfman who received the brunt of the backlash, with people across the nation slut-shaming them, while Nick got away scot-free.

Last night, yet another Bachelorette had to address a man's issue with her sexual actions. While on her first one-on-one date in Latvia, Hannah and Garrett bungee jumped naked (as is Latvian tradition). The date was riveting, vulnerable, and fun. It was an experience for the couple and the viewers.

When Garrett came back from his date, he giddily recounted it to the other men, but resident villain Luke P. did not receive the news of the naked bungee jumping kindly. He told the camera that he didn't believe Hannah would do that, and if she did, it'd be a slap in the face to him.

On their group date, Hannah referred to her date with Garrett and confirmed what Garrett said. Reality finally hit Luke P., and he was pissed. During the evening portion of the date, he took Hannah aside to "clarify" what happened on her one-on-one with Garrett and express how he felt about it. He began by referring to her body as "a temple," then cited her nude bungee jumping as "a slap in the face"; he concluded by divulging that he's no longer "confident" that he wants her to meet his family now. When Hannah reacted poorly to this, he put his foot farther in his mouth by trying to win her back, claiming that he'll always stick by her whenever she makes "boneheaded mistakes."

'You Don't Own My Body': Hannah B Slams Luke P. Over Sexist Comments www.youtube.com

Still mulling over the alarming conversation with Luke, Hannah decided to sit down with him on the day of the cocktail party. She addressed her concerns, which included the language he used, calling her nude bungee jumping a "boneheaded mistake" and using his family against her. But, all that aside, Hannah informed Luke P. that at this point, he shouldn't even be concerned with what goes on in her other relationships because, "You're not my husband. You don't own my body. You don't own me. It's my body." Luke P. claimed that she completely misunderstood him. He told her that she might not be remembering everything correctly and that she was twisting his language. Luke P. backtracking in such a manipulative and outright dishonest fashion furthers the argument that he's not only a pathological liar, but downright emotionally abusive.

Their interaction seems to be only the beginning of what's to come. The Bachelorette has teased Hannah's iconic line, "I have had sex and Jesus still loves me!" for weeks now and recently revealed Luke P. is on the receiving end of the sentiment. It's obvious that the narrative around sex and religion will come to a head this season, which will hopefully put The Bachelor franchise's slut-shaming to bed. As much as the franchise supposedly tries to uplift their "independent" women, the Bachelorette constantly has to reassure the men, reassert her strength, and defend her actions: a phenomenon that will most likely persist, since it appears that many men still can't understand that a woman's body belongs only to her.

Recently, host Chris Harrison suggested that The Bachelor franchise has showcased the changing realities of dating. Alas, that's true. As much as The Bachelor franchise wants to keep up with the times, The Bachelorette still plays into damaging stereotypes about relationships, gender roles, and how some men on The Bachelorette react poorly to not controlling the female lead. Luke P. isn't the first contestant, nor will he be the last, to impose his expectations of what a woman should or should not do with her body. As such, The Bachelorette reinforces the double standard that a woman can't express the same bodily autonomy and decision-making as a man.

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Hannah Brown kicked off her journey looking for love last night on The Bachelorette's season 15 premiere.

At a time when most of the television that we've grown up with is coming to an end, the formulaic corniness of The Bachelorette is a comfortable place for indulging in all of the best romantic reality TV tropes. Following the broadcast of Colton Underwood's quest to lose his virginity, though, this season feels a little more milquetoast than past ones. It seems like The Bachelorette franchise has abandoned all hope to pedal out any sort of commercialized diversity in favor of returning to their roots––having a pretty white woman search for love in a sea of mediocre men.

The Insecure Pageant Queen

The episode starts off with Hannah showing host and skit king Chris Harrison around her hometown. Like a true Tuscaloosa, Hannah peppers in a "Roll Tide" whenever she can and then stands awkwardly in a field of hay. Hannah gives a little context on how she's always loved performance and pageantry but felt like she was never enough.

Hannah Brown may seem like an unlikely choice to be the Bachelorette. For one, she's not exactly a great public speaker. The former Miss Alabama may unleash her inner Hannah Beast when the time is right, but on the whole, she can sometimes get a little tongue-tied and awkward on screen. Who could forget her painfully stilted attempt to formulate a toast with Colton that made him look like a skilled orator by comparison? Or her Bachelorette debut on After the Final Rose when she could only manage to nervously giggle and say, "I Like That!" when meeting five of the guys for the first time. But it seems like they are using Hannah B's awkwardness as a ploy to market her as an adorkable beauty queen looking for someone who will love her despite any flaws she may have.

That seems to be what this season is hammering over our heads. Hannah had alluded to her struggles with striving for perfection on Colton's season, but she's really driving home the point of her vulnerabilities this season, as she's looking for someone to love her just the way she is––a beautiful, blonde, beauty pageant queen. How will she ever find someone who will accept those conventional standards of beauty?

Audition Tapes From Hell

The best part of any Bachelor or Bachelorette premiere are the introductions and first impressions where guys dress up in animal costumes, spew corny rap songs, and use bad puns in an attempt to stand out amongst 29 other men who all look exactly the same. This season, the producers really pushed for the men to vlog their audition tapes, and the result was expectedly cringey.

Tyler's intro kicks things off with him sanding down some wood while shirtless before breaking into dance. The contractor from Florida proudly states that he was two classes away from being a dance minor at Wake Forest and then compares himself to Kevin Bacon.

Pilot Peter is certainly a frontrunner. Coming from an aviation family (which he mentions multiple times), Peter shows up in full uniform and appears to sweep Hannah off her feet.

Mike Johnson is the handsome Texan who hasn't made time for love because of his busy work life, except for one woman: his adorable great grandma. If nothing else, keep MJ around for hometowns, so his grandmother can get more airtime.

Joe the Box King has big Tim & Eric energy. The Chicagoan comes from a proud Italian family and is a lover of all things box related. He has a thick Becca K midwestern accent and pops out of a huge cardboard box, filling the screen with a wholesome vibe and plenty of packing peanuts.

We don't deserve Old Matt Donald, the farmer who hails from California and grew up in a deaf family. He arrives on a tractor and sings about a "bro bro there and a bro bro here."

Connor's claim of being interesting is that he's half-Asian and half-White. He also speaks French.

Luke P. is the season's most visible frontrunner. He's a beefy Channing Tatum type who, after having lots of sex in college, had a spiritual awakening in the shower and realized he wants to settle down.

First And Worst Impressions

Soon, it's time to meet the rest of the guys IRL. When Chris Harrison asks Hannah what her type is, she replies that Southern guys are most comfortable for her but maybe not her best choice. Chris urges her to try "new flavors," and soon the guys roll in.

Connor S. kicks things off with a fence jump. Devin joked about being a virgin. John Paul Jones' name is John Paul Jones and his friends call him John Paul Jones so Hannah can call him John Paul Jones, too. Brian is a sweet math teacher susceptible to voice cracks when he gets nervous.

Connor J. introduces himself in French, which I'm sure he thought was very suave. Hannah said "bon jore," in the thickest possible Southern accent. Ryan rolls in on roller skates. Luke P. wants to let everyone know he has a lot of testosterone by climbing on top of the limo and roaring at Hannah, in reference to her signature Hannah Beast roar from last season.

Grant is basically a 30-year-old Jeff Spicoli, and he ambles in eating a hot dog and holding a bottle of mustard. I love when The Bachelorette producers shade the contestants with their lower third. There was Heather from last season whose bio read "never been kissed" and Grant's simply reads "unemployed."

Cam won the first impression rose on After the Final Rose for his cringey rapping (giving Hannah G a run for her money) and he whipped out his cheesy bars again for his second impression. Both times, it was hard to watch.

Chasen is a pilot who rolls up in a tux and says that women love men in uniform. Then Peter arrives in full aviation garb and makes good on that claim.

Next, Hannah redeems her toast skills by making a semi-coherent one, and soon enough Luke P. makes his presence known to the other men by stealing Hannah for a minute.

The (Planted) Drama

As Joe the Box King speaks lovingly about boxes, Hannah goes through the motions of an otherwise pretty tame first cocktail party. That is until Demi and Katie from last season swoop in to shake things up. Demi's gotten word through DM that one of the men here has a girlfriend and in what is possibly the most obviously planted and scripted ploy I've ever seen in Bachelorette history, Demi and Katie set out to find the culprit. They let Hannah know that Scott is dating someone and he might not be here for the right intentions (that phrase has scarred me after Colton's season).

Hannah rips Scott a new one and then effectively drags him out the door like a dog, as she sternly says, "Come On!" in her Southern drawl and sends his ass home. Although it made for good TV, it seemed like a pretty transparent ploy by the producers to present Hannah as someone who won't take smack from any man, despite her traditional-seeming sensibility. If anything, it brought Demi back, and that's good enough for me.

Hannah cries and paces around for a while before the rest of the men get the memo that they should maybe check up on her. Luke P. comes out to comfort her but doesn't take his cue when she says she's freezing (twice!) as he stays toasty in his cobalt blue suit jacket. Not exactly one for taking the hint, I guess, but Hannah awards him the first impression rose.

The rose ceremony comes and a lot of the guys are salty because they think the Scott situation ate up precious time when they could have been making an impression. Oh well. Mike, Connor S., Matthew, Connor J., Jed, Dustin, Joey, Devon, Peter, Dylan, Matteo, Jonathon, Tyler C., Tyler G., Darren, Luke S., Garrett, Grant, Kevin, and John Paul Jones make it onto the next round. We say goodbye to The Box King, Old Matt Donald, Voice Crack Brian, Second-In-Command-Pilot Chasen, Roller Boy Ryan and Thomas (who I don't remember speaking at all in the first episode).

They wrapped things up with a sneak peak of a tear-filled season with Hannah asserting that she's had sex. Buckle in for a very mild ride.


Sara is a music and culture writer.


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