Trumping Gender Inequality

How reality TV promotes sexist stereotypes

Settle back into that comfy futon or bizarre Harvard-issue desk chair on any given night and you’ll be confronted with a disgraceful array of lame, chauvinist reality television. Most intelligent people maintain a love-hate relationship with this peculiar programming, not totally convinced but not daring to look away—who knows, another frightful confirmation of a gender stereotype might lie after the next advertisement. You sit glued to the TV.

I should admit early on that I enjoy indulging in these programs; the warm rush of impropriety in shouting at the female characters often overcomes me. But fear not, I do feel ashamed at getting caught up in this hateful display towards women—men don’t get a great run either, but the stereotypes for women are often archaic. In trying to rationalize my enjoyment, I don’t bother with the debate as to whether these programs are scripted or simply acted out. In the end, our gravest generalizations about the sexes are confirmed regardless: Men choose blondes, women choose money and the rest get kicked off the island.

Two programs recently awoke my passion for trashy reality TV. As an aspiring entrepreneur I couldn’t help but watch Donald Trump’s “Apprentice,” pitting male brawn against the marketing power of female sexuality. For those clever enough to avoid such morally-debauched viewing, the show follows a simple pattern. Two teams fight to escape elimination by implementing successful business programs, whilst plugging one of Trump’s numerous business ventures. Put more simply, two teams utilize their female members’ attractiveness to sell products by placing them before crowds of people in ridiculously short and tight clothing.

My other weekly interest started several months ago when Adam Mesh suffered utter humiliation at the hands of his studlier counterpart in the first edition of “Average Joe.” When I heard he returned to redeem himself, naturally I became hooked. Compared to “The Apprentice,” the concept is a little more blatant: A beautiful woman endures several weeks at the hands of a select group of unattractive men who are then removed with great haste upon the introduction of a smaller unit of pedigree gents. Luckily for Adam, this time the roles were reversed.

With ample gender stereotyping, enough innuendo to start a porn film and the occasional need for swimsuit-related tasks, nobody could turn these shows down. If you need to drown your sorrows as the ugly guy who never gets the girl or be certain that a short enough skirt will land you any position, just sit down and turn on the television.

For a morally impressive few, evaluating women for their sex appeal or men for their earning capacity may not sound enticing or even whet your appetite. In truth, the success of these and other like-minded programs is an indictment on our society, reflects poorly on the supposed egalitarian values of the West and severely harms gender relations.

Maybe that sounds a little extreme fortelevision, but small moral concessions in everyday life don’t help our common goal of equality. Encouraging the endless battle between the sexes isn’t healthy—millions of Americans are now convinced that their average looks and even more average salaries will keep them from marrying the people of their dreams. Resentment of the opposite sex ensues.

But let’s get back to the real issues at hand. Nothing is more enjoyable than getting on the moral high horse, especially to call the kettle black. The truth is—like the rest of you with some moral conscious—I love to indulge in the ethical wasteland of “Average Joe.” I only wish that my sole reason for failure were an 80-cent bank balance or the fact that I don’t wear skirts.

Bede A. Moore ’06, a Crimson editorial comper, is a history concentrator in Winthrop House.