My name is Justine and I'm a senior in high school in Toronto. Last week I had dinner with Wendy Shalit, and we got to talking about many different topics. One was about television and the ridiculous shows that are so pointedly misogynistic and demeaning towards women. The very first example that came to my mind was an MTV dating show entitled “Date My Mom”. The main concept of the show is that there is one guy, usually in his early 20s, who gets to go on three dates with three separate mothers, and after these dates he chooses which one of their daughters he would like to go out with. The concept seems strange enough, but the weirdest part of all is how the mothers talk about their daughters, trying to make them seem like the hottest thing so that this guy will want to go out with them.
They actually say things like, "My daughter is a hottie with a body" (I’m not even exaggerating!) and other demeaning comments about the attractiveness of their daughter's backside (which they generally refer to as their a**). Usually they’ll throw in the good personality card also, however this is the shallow world of MTV we’re talking about and looks are really all that matter. (As the website sums up: “Will he pick a hottie or will he be hurtin?”) At the end of the episode, the three daughters appear out of a limo, after the guy has already announced his decision; you can tell he is disappointed when he doesn’t get the hottest of the three. Guess that girl’s mother needs to start doing a better job of selling her daughter’s looks.
I’d like to say that this show is exceptionally awful, but the sad truth is that there are so many more of these strange MTV dating shows that it’s hard to keep track. I don’t even know the half of them, because I rarely have the time (or the willingness) to sit down and actually consume episodes of mindless MTV shows--so obviously scripted because each person on every show, it seems, talks the exact same way.
Though there is the odd occasion when I’ll be flipping through the channels and all of sudden on will come “Parental Control”, a show where a guy chooses between two girls his parents picked out for him or his annoying, pretentious girlfriend who his parents despise. Or “NEXT”, where one person has the opportunity to go out with five other people, and if they decide they don’t like the person all they have to do is say “Next!” and the next suitor appears. I have seen cases where it will be a guy choosing between five girls, the first girl appears who is not considered an MTV-standard-conventional beauty, and the guy immediately “Next”s her. I’m talking seconds--not even allowing her to say a word. Imagine how that girl must feel, being humiliated on national television. But hey, that’s MTV for you.
Ever since recognizing that these shows exist, I have acknowledged the ridiculousness of them and left it at that, but it wasn’t until this dinner conversation with Wendy that I thought, “Wow, this seems highly misogynistic”. The reason I say this is that although there are girls who sometimes appear on “NEXT” as the person with all the power, it is still almost always the case that the girl is made out to be the “whore” or the “bitch”. Girls watching these shows are being fed information that they have to look a certain way to get a guy, or to beat out the competition at least. When mothers start talking about their daughter’s “great rack” to get a guy to choose them as his girlfriend, there is a real problem. Girls on these shows are being objectified constantly by guys and by their own family members, while the guy comes out looking like the biggest pimp (and usually the biggest tool also, in my humble opinion).
And it’s not just the dating shows that give off this message, either. Compare two different MTV shows, “My Super Sweet 16” and “Two-A-Days”. Two-A-Days follows the life and times of an American high school football team that is trying to attain the goal of winning their fifth state championship title, while at the same time balancing school work, family and girlfriends. "My Super Sweet 16" showcases various teenage girls trying to attain the goal of planning the "best sweet 16 ever!"--while at the same time mortifying everyone around them with incessant demands for the perfect party dress and the perfect pink Hummer (while sticking to a million dollar budget, naturally). As we can see, the guys are made out to be the great American heroes, whereas the girls are considered spoiled snobs that we love to laugh at when they cry over imperfections. Is this an accurate portrayal of real life? No. But for many people it is entertaining, and this apparently overrides questioning the integrity of such distasteful shows.