After the last episode of The Bachelorette, twitter user @philadanielle tagged me in something that really got me thinking. Apparently other people were thinking of it, too, because something I thought I would retweet for my own eyes ended up gaining traction and getting almost 500 likes. It's a screenshot of a portion of my Instagram comment section during the height of my "villain" days on The Bachelor, and a screenshot of a portion of Chad's Instagram comment section during his run as the "villain" on The Bachelorette. And, it highlights one very big difference between Chad and the Olivia Caridi fans got to know: It is much harder to be a female villain in Bachelor Nation.
Comments on my page refer to me as crazy or a b*tch — or both. One says, "B*tch is crazy. Ben needs a restraining order once she finally goes." Notice the comments are mostly from women. Scroll down on my page, and you'll see people saying I should die, that I need a nose job, calling me a pig, hoe, saying I deserved to get left on an island. Then we go to some of Chad's Instagram comments, also comments mostly from women, which include "Chad was bullied" and "the guys were pathetic for ganging up on you." My favorite is, "I'm so sorry that everyone in The Bachelor mansion was so obsessed with you that they had to get you sent home because they were intimidated."
Now, I'm not going to comment about Chad as a person, because I know how distorted things can seem on television. So I'm speaking genuinely as a viewer. Does anyone else remember Chad threatening people, saying he would beat people up, and calling JoJo "naggy?" Why don't we see comments about that?
The above photo begs the question: Why is it that a woman gets a villain edit on a show, and she's a b*tch and a psycho, but when a man gets a villain edit, he is the victim, hilarious, honest, and forgiven? Why is it that when a woman is shamed online, she is mocked with sexually violent threats and hateful slurs, while a male villain, regardless of how he acts or is portrayed on television, is often uplifted for being "sexy" and "handsome?" And, if the tables were turned, and the majority of the audience watching The Bachelorette were men, would things be different? Would I be getting comments about being "sexy" and "hot" while Chad would be shamed and mocked? Or will male villains still be celebrated, and female villains attacked, regardless of the audience?
These are questions that I unfortunately don't have the answer to, but it's something I think about often. I do have to say that given events like Gamergate and woman enduring threats of death and rape on pretty much a daily basis on social media, I don't think much would change. It's too easy for any person to attack another online. A 2014 study from Pew Research surveyed 2839 people and discovered that while men are slightly more likely to be the targets of "less severe" forms of online harassment like embarrassment or name calling, "women — and particularly young women — are more likely to experience certain types of 'more severe' harassment, such as stalking and sexual harassment."
In the two years since that study was conducted, another study was released that surveyed 1000 women in Australia. The Guardian reported that the digital security firm Norton found that "nearly half the 1,000 respondents ... had experienced some form of abuse or harassment online. Among women under 30, the incidence was 76 percent." So, if these studies hold true, online harassment is only getting more severe for women as time goes on.
It goes back to a depressing, but all too accurate idea that a confident man is a boss, while a confident woman is a b*tch. In the workplace, for example, a female CEO will often be referred to as aggressive, bossy, careerist, and a b*tch, while a male CEO will be referred to as strong, decisive, and a leader. There is an impossible double standard placed on women that they must look perfect, act perfectly, behave according to societal standards. And, still probably endure harassment online because there's really no winning. Therefore, when a female "villain" doesn't act according to norms, gross words like "b*tch" and "whore" come into play, and, in my experience, it seems like other women mostly using these words. How can women achieve equality when it's our own team bringing each other down?
This kind of behavior is pointless, and, frankly, damaging to everyone. If we attack other women, what's to stop men from doing the same? Let's set an example of acceptance. Instead of commenting daggers at other women, why not try to learn and accept and readjust your point of view? I know that bullies go after people who are less likely to fight back, and because the majority of The Bachelorette audience is female, do women go after other women on the show because women are considered less combative, and are therefore the easy target? Once again, I'm asking questions that I don't have the answer to. I wrote this because I wanted to get people thinking. I personally look at female friendships as a sisterhood of sorts, so it's disappointing when inequity in our gender is still alive and well. I mean, in a time when we could have our first female president and women are becoming leaders around the world, why are we bickering among ourselves and dismissing and judging other women rather than using words to elevate and celebrate each other?
My final question is posed for all reality television contestants and viewers in general, regardless of gender, because we all experience some sort of cyberbullying. If you've commented something negative, why did you take the time to write horrible, crude comments on someone's social media? If you see your comments as harmless or "just a joke," you're wrong. Everyone in Bachelor Nation sees your comments, and whether you're bored or upset or simply taking a reality television show way too seriously, hurting others will never make you more powerful and throwing daggers at someone in a vulnerable state makes you a bully. Just remember: Don't be mean behind the screen, because there's a very real person sitting on the other side.