Reality TV: Who Portrays Women the Worst?

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Newsweek's Jessica Bennett had a piece this week about how women on reality TV aren't exactly giving women a good name. She takes a look at Jennifer Pozner's new book Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV, and points out that

if your main source of knowledge about women came from reality TV, this is how you'd see the world: a place where your mom is a conniving, deceitful gold digger, your sisters and girlfriends vicious and catty. You would learn that "sisterhood" is a thing of the past, as Pozner puts it--and that girl friendships are not powerful but spiteful. And you’d understand that women were put on this earth to compete for male attention--when, of course, they're not busy pulling each other's hair out or lounging half naked in a hot tub.

But which shows are the "worst offenders"? Kay Steiger asks this very question to Jennifer Pozner in an interview at The American Prospect. Bennett talks about America's Next Top Model and Flavor of Love, as well as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Pozner says "it's a toss-up." In the Bachelorette, there's "mock earnestness about true love," the message being that "every girl wants to be a princess and every boy is Prince Charming, you know, as long as he's wealthy and has a firm ass," and "the only way to be successful, the only way to be happy, the only way to be financially or personally fulfilled or secure is by glomming on to any guy that will have you." Meanwhile Joe Millionaire and Flavor of Love are "done with a sort of a wink and a nod to viewers." In other words, "we're supposed to, on the surface, understand that the women are gold diggers, or that the women are stupid and bimbos, and we're supposed to laugh at them." The sexism is different. Asks Pozner: "is it better or worse when shows package themselves as sincere or when the sexism is totally overt?"

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