I know, I know. The Bachelor is the cheese fries of the television world. You think you’ll have just one fry (or episode), and then before you know it, you’ve finished the whole thing (or series). You know it’s junk, but you can’t tear yourself away from it. The show is extremely cheesy (pun intended), formulaic, and predictable in its striving to be “unpredictable.” But this season, as I had gotten sucked into watching yet another premiere, I noticed something that truly was surprising. And sad.
Every woman on this show is beautiful— especially when it comes to their long, perfectly coiffed hair. But I noticed something surprising about this premiere: it featured a woman who had a short pixie haircut. And I thought, wow, I can’t remember there ever being any female on this show with short hair. (And I have watched, ahem, many seasons to confirm this…). Hollywood gossip sites have picked up on this and confirm, that in 22 seasons, Bekah M. is the first woman on the show to have had short hair.
She is just as gorgeous as those with longer hair. So why have there never been any other women with short hair on the show? This sad question reminded me that there’s a very narrow definition of beauty in our world.
The world gives women a certain set of criteria in order to be considered “beautiful.” We know what they are. You have to be a certain height, have a certain length of hair, be a certain weight, wear certain things. And most of us will never measure up to the beauty standards of The Bachelor. I know what you’re thinking right now: “That’s ‘reality’ tv, of course it’s not ‘reality.’ It’s all fabricated. Most of those long locks are hair extensions anyway.”
We know this. And yet, we still try to make it our reality. We still spend thousands of dollars over our lifetime on clothes and shoes and make up and hair accessories and curling irons all in pursuit of finally feeling like we could be beautiful enough to be on a show like The Bachelor.
The contestants are so beautiful that they must be confident, right? Not necessarily. Part of the premiere focused on how intimidated the women felt when yet another attractive woman walked into the room upon their arrival at the mansion. Beauty doesn’t buy confidence. The Bachelor women often come across as extremely desperate to date the man of the hour. So desperate that we often laugh at the ridiculousness of it all and think, “well at least I’m not like that.” But are we really that different?
Perhaps we are desperate in not-so-different ways from these Bachelor ladies. Desperate to be seen as beautiful, to be liked, to be wanted, to be chosen. Obviously there’s nothing inherently wrong with hair extensions and make up and other enhancements. All of it can be quite fun and bring joy to life. But if we’re not careful, we can start to depend on these things as a source of self-worth, seeing ourselves as beautiful and accepted because of these things, not regardless of these things.
The world reinforces this every day:
Alicia Keys “decided to stop wearing makeup as part of a journey towards empowerment for herself,” wrote Cosmopolitan. She didn’t just do this at home. She went bare-faced to awards shows, to tapings of The Voice, to red carpet events. (I know: Who cares? Why was this news? Women do this every day.) But this is a risky thing to do as a celebrity when your looks are your business card and source of income. She received some nasty criticism of her decision, things that would never be said to a man about his appearance.
It’s not just limited to public derision of celebrities. It can be found in more subtle ways. When we put on make up and put extra effort into our hair, our pictures on social media get more “likes” and comments. So we stop showing our “everyday” selves. We stop putting up pictures without filters, retouching, or flattering angles. We conform to expectations, because whether we admit it or not, we are as desperate to be beautiful, as desperate to be accepted, as the women on The Bachelor trying so very hard to win a stranger’s heart.
The pressure of being on this show–of trying to be perfect-and-yet-yourself, of appearing like you “have it all,” of wondering if something you said will cause you to be rejected– is intense. While we (thankfully) don’t have television cameras filming our every move, we can feel the same pressures in everyday life. Society’s expectations of women are high, whether we are on a television show or not. Both contestants on The Bachelor and women in general feel they have to look a certain way to be accepted, and this comes at a cost.
Jillian Harris, a former Bachelor contestant, writes that “I had re-mortgaged my house and I spent something like $8,000 on clothing” to prep for the show. She also mentioned a recent contestant, Olivia, who had said that she spent around $40,000 on clothing and other items for the show. While our clothing budgets are probably nowhere near those numbers, we can easily overspend whatever our personal limit is because we know that the right outfit can help us get the guy, the job, the Instagram followers. Many women are addicted to shopping and spend large amounts of money on it. I don’t think it’s just because it makes us feel better– we also do it because, like the women on The Bachelor, we know the competition is fierce. And has better shoes.
So what do we do?
There isn’t an easy answer to any of this. “Just love yourself,” “don’t worry about what other people think,” or “love the skin you’re in” can feel hollow and trite when you don’t look like you did before kids. Before an illness. Before an accident. Before stretch marks. Before wrinkles set in. Before acne scars. Societal expectations and cultural “norms” are deeply ingrained in everyone. They aren’t going away any time soon.
We can start with small things. Focusing on the things about ourselves that bring us joy (outside of our looks) on days when we feel down about our appearance. There is so much more to us than what other people see on the exterior. “Liking” a friend’s photo when she goes outside her comfort zone by posting one of herself without filters and heavy make up. And remembering that as much as we poke fun at the contestants on The Bachelor, they really aren’t so different from us after all.
What do you think?
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