By Taylor Solomon
Its no secret that women are quick to put each other down. We find it easy to make a snide remark about the way someone acts or dresses. This is especially true in regards to sex. Women will put themselves on a pedestal in order to look down on another who they may not believe to be as pure as them, a trait which is stressed to women as highly important. Just as we are taught to brush our teeth twice a day, we are taught to be the most pure chaste version of ourselves who would never use crude language or laugh at a crass joke. When others step out of these guidelines we are quick to point them out and it is only easier to do so if this person is already in the spotlight. With people’s reactions to women like Miley Cyrus and Monica Lewinsky, we see how quick we are to judge without any consideration of their motives, others involved, or the fact that these are people most of us do not know personally.
This Monday, women across the country nestled into couches to watch the season finale of "The Bachelorette." In this particular finale, bachelorette Andi Dorfman had narrowed it down to ex-pro athlete Josh Murray and software sales exec Nick Viall. The day of the final rose ceremony, Andi realized her mind was made up and she unexpectedly visited Nick to break things off with him, sparing him the humiliating rejection rose ceremony.
Chris Harrison told the audience that Nick had tried to contact Andi and that she had refused to see him, but they will have to speak tonight on the live "After the Final Rose" special. Their meeting was, as you would expect, awkward and emotional. Andi said that though she felt strongly about Nick and their relationship, she was never in love with him. Nick responded to this by saying he doesn’t understand, if they weren’t in love, why she would choose to make love to him.
Nick’s choosing to bring this up on live television, though not the best way to handle it, is not what I want to address here. No matter how unconventional, Andi and Nick were dating and sex means different things for different people. Their sleeping together may have weighed more emotionally for Nick than it did for Andi.
What I want to talk about here is the audience’s reaction to this moment. In my Twitter feed came a wave of ugly comments and name calling directed at Andi. Articles and episode recaps published the next day focused less on Andi and Josh’s engagement and more on Andi’s "shocking sex secret." People who had been rooting for Andi since we first met her on "The Bachelor" had suddenly turned against her for having a natural and intimate moment with someone whom she had been dating.
This is an example of how quick we are to judge women who may not follow the unwritten guidelines of femininity. Had it been a girl in Nick’s place, would people have sided with the man, saying she was asking for it and knew what she was getting into?
Sex has always been implied on "The Bachelor," but on the show’s terms. It is "acceptable" when it occurs later in the season, when there are only two or three contestants left, and it must take place in the magical, rose-strewn "Fantasy Suite."
This so-called "Fantasy Suite" plays two very different roles depending on whether the season's star is a man or a woman. When the show focuses on a bachelor, it is almost always a given that he will choose to spend the night with all three women in the "Fantasy Suite." When it is a bachelorette’s turn to take the wheel, there is an unwritten rule that she must wait for an "I love you" or some big, romantic gesture before inviting the men to spend the night with her. This is just one of many ways "The Bachelor" asks contestants to be themselves and then scolds them for doing so.
During the show’s eighteenth season, we saw what can happen when contestants don’t play by the "rules" that have been laid out before them. Clare Crawley and Juan Pablo Galavis clicked early on in the season. After spending all day with him on a romantic date, Clare decided that night to sneak up to Juan Pablo’s room. In the interview portion of the show, the two allude to the fact that they had sex, both seeming confident in their relationship. This confidence did not last for long. Juan Pablo told Clare that he regretted what had had happened and that he hoped no one knew about their night together. In this moment, Juan Pablo shamed and humiliated Clare, and she was labeled "the slutty one" by viewers. Willa Paskin wrote a piece for Slate on this particular instance, point out that:
"At her own expense, Clare exposed The Bachelor’s sexual ethos, which is that the women are supposed to be relatively innocent and chaste, up until the moment the man calls on them to stop being so. (While Clare and Juan Pablo were doing the deed, another contestant — a 32-year-old single mother — was chortling that Juan Pablo had finally kissed her, like a teenager celebrating her first smooch. She was playing the game correctly.)"
We can not continue to think it is okay to slap labels and judgement on women who are just being themselves. By doing it to celebrities, women whom we do not personally know, we only make it easier to act this way toward women in our own lives. Continuing this public shaming teaches girls in younger generations that it's okay. We must change this way of thinking and be more ready to celebrate a woman for her strengths and successes than to shame her for being herself.