We are officially halfway through the two-day premiere of this season of The Bachelorette, and it’s already as painfully awkward and terrible as I had anticipated. For those of you who haven’t had access to the Interwebz for the past several months, let me explain how this season works. This season, we have two Bachelorette-elects: Kaitlyn Bristowe and Britt Nilsson. Apparently, the people over at ABC had “such a hard time choosing between the two” that they decided to throw both women a bone, because they’re just so0oo0o generous.
This would be great if they brought twice as many male contestants (25 for each woman) and just ran the show as normal, but with two love stories instead of one. But no. What they’ve done instead is make The Bachelorette even more like real life (a.k.a. more sexist), and putting the power back in the man’s hands. After just a couple of hours of talking to the women, the men are going to vote for the woman they want to keep around, sending the other one packing. Because having to go through that with Chris Soules on The Bachelor wasn’t upsetting enough, I’m sure.
Guys, there’s just no two ways about: This new Bachelorette formula is complete bullshit. I’ve been saying it since they first announced it a few months back. Seriously, I have:
But isn’t the whole point of The Bachelorette that the woman gets to decide who would make the best husband? Not the man? #TheBachelor
— Sara Steinfeld (@callmesarar) March 10, 2015
And what’s more:
— Sara Steinfeld (@callmesarar) March 10, 2015
The only thing this whole “double bachelorette” twist does is generate higher ratings and buzz for the ABC. It’s not beneficial for the men who may or may not actually be there for the right reasons, it’s not beneficial for Kaitlyn or Britt, who are once again put in a situation where they feel as though they have to prove themselves to a man or look for validation EVEN THOUGH THIS SHOW IS MEANT TO DO THE EXACT OPPOSITE, and it’s definitely not beneficial for the woman who is ultimately sent home. To say that it’s setting women and relationship equality back at least 100 years is absolutely an understatement.
On top of that, this formula is just a downright terrible way to start a relationship. I watched the premiere last night, and, as was expected, some of the men were there explicitly for Kaitlyn and others were there for Britt, and they didn’t have a problem letting both of the women and all of the men know that. They then spent the last thirty minutes of the episode reverting back to college bros, discussing which women they wanted to keep around as if they were staring down chicks in their frat basement, trying to decide which one they wanted to take upstairs and never call again after she leaves in the morning. Can you even imagine how the woman who ultimately becomes the Bachelorette will feel when she knows she’s about to date at least ten men who didn’t actually want to date her in the first place? Instead of approaching each date as an opportunity to find the one person she’s meant to be with, which is supposedly the premise of the show, she’ll be left feeling like a consolation prize, an unwanted consequence of a grossly mismanaged democracy. That’s not how dating should feel.
That said, I know with almost complete certainty that I, and many other women who find this whole concept to be entirely reprehensible, will continue to tune in every week until the show’s finale. Why would I continue to watch something that I don’t necessarily support, you ask? Because this show has now become a social experiment in dating and relationships. As a single and dating woman in New York City—which, by the way, is apparently the worst place in America to be single and dating—I need to believe and see that two people can actually find love, at least in the short term. Sure, the contestants are put into this bubble where all you can really do is think about your growing or waning feelings for someone else, and the epic dates their sent on are specifically constructed to manufacture some kind of feeling between two people, but it’s dating all the same.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ll say this: I think we continue to watch The Bachelorette, despite the way it’s being handled this time around, because we need to know how this story ends. We want to watch two people form a relationship, watch them deal with the reality of getting to know each other, only to ultimately find happiness. We want to at least try to see ourselves in these contestants and think that, maybe, after the seemingly endless horror show of swiping right and OK Cupid dates is over, we’ll find something that feels as good as the relationships on The Bachelorette look. Sure, it’s selfish to watch the ups and downs of someone else’s relationship for our own benefit, but we’ll do it all the same.
I’ll end by saying this: I hate the double bachelorette twist. My heart goes out to the woman who will go home tonight, because she doesn’t deserve to feel as though she’s not good enough for men who barely know her and are probably, in the end, not worth her time or tears. But I will watch, because I have to believe that the shit we all go through for love is worth it in the end. I just have to.