Like millions of other (predominantly female) Americans, I sit down at the same time every week to watch ABC’s ratings powerhouse “The Bachelor,” this season starring aeronautic heartthrob Peter Weber.
But this season, I noticed more than ever that television has developed a clear double standard when it comes to how people are expected to speak about others, and it’s entirely skewed by gender.
As with every season, Peter was chosen from among the cast of men from the previous season of “The Bachelorette,” where he made his television debut as the commercial pilot looking for love. After being sent home as one of the final three contestants, his clean image and relative popularity among fans of the show made him a prime candidate for the role he now plays: the Bachelor.
Both “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” start the same way: the star standing outside a huge house as each of the dozens of night-one contestants parade past them to make their introductions. This was where the difference in expectations becomes glaringly obvious.
In “The Bachelorette,” Hannah Brown was described by the male contestants as “beautiful,” “funny” and generally a great woman that they wanted to get to know better. They talked about how they were interested in her home roots and what her dreams were for the future. In sum, the tone felt like that of a guy who might want to take his high school prom date on another night out.
Que the premier of “The Bachelor” a few weeks ago: some contestants made allusions to Peter’s sexual history and his genitals while others described in overt detail the types of physical relations they were intent on having with him. The tone was completely different -- it felt dirty and, honestly, unnecessarily crude.
I’ll clarify that I’m no prude -- I really couldn’t care less about what people talk about in person or on television. What I don’t understand is this: why do the contestants on “The Bachelor” think it’s appropriate to tell the audience exactly where they would like to lick Peter Weber, while we all know that if one of the male contestants on “The Bachelorette” made a similar comment, he would be crucified.
I’m not suggesting that the men should be allowed to make such comments. I’m suggesting that mutual respect between the sexes is critical if we want to move forward as a society.
When a woman speaks that way about a man, we laugh along, but even if Peter himself doesn’t mind, that doesn’t mean that we ought to promote a culture where that can happen to men who are definitely not comfortable with it.
People should not treat other people like sexual objects or prizes. It’s an antiquated practice that comes from an era where the sexes were not equal, and it is a holdover that frankly needs doing away with.
Shows like “The Bachelor” are not the moral examples for our society, but we should expect them to respect the progress we have made towards promoting the equality of all people, regardless of whether it’s a man talking to a woman or the other way around. Otherwise, I worry we’ll remain stuck in this endless tug-of-war where the result is that no one is treated the way they deserve.