Episode four of Bachelor in Paradise brought all the drama we’ve come to expect from the bikini-clad offshoot: hot bods, lots of making out, and a fair bit of toxic masculinity. The August 13 episode featured a verbal confrontation between contestant Clay and newcomer Christian over their mutual GF Nicole. Approaching Nicole and Christian as they lounged under a piñata-clad cabana, Clay attempted to “steal” Nicole away to talk, only to be rebuked. Not by Nicole, but by Christian, who took it upon himself to speak *for* his date.
It was infuriating AF, but also kind of familiar. While we watched Clay and Christian in a verbal tug-of-war over Nicole, I couldn’t help but feel a serious sense of déjà vu. Hadn’t we seen this before? Um yeah—literally the night before. On the August 12 episode of Paradise, human trash can Blake and the love of my life Dylan did THE. EXACT. SAME. THING while vying for this season’s playgirl, Hannah G. It was the same scenario, all the way down to Hannah and Nicole’s wide-eyed stares.
For some reason the men of Paradise don’t seem to get that women can speak for themselves—and that’s a problem.
These are strong, independent women
What’s especially infuriating is the fact that the women in question—Hannah and Nicole—aren’t normally passive. Both have built up reputations in the Bachelor franchise as women who aren’t afraid to speak their minds. Hannah, a fan fave on Colton Underwood’s season, was well-spoken and thoughtful throughout, and this really came to light during the season finale and After the Final Rose, when Bach fans applauded the influencer for her feisty responses and persistence to demand answers from Underwood.
Where was this smart, well spoken and feisty Hannah G during the bachelor?? I love her! Man, editing is serious business. #TheBachelorFinale
— Misty Babney (@BabneyMisty) March 12, 2019
As former Bachelor contestant and FLARE contributor Sharleen Joynt asked in her episode 3 recap: “Where was the well-spoken Hannah G. we got to know on Colton’s season?”
For her part, before Paradise, Nicole was probably best known *for* her outspokenness, after becoming infamous on Underwood’s season for her feud with fellow contestant Onyeka.
Not to mention that, by virtue of having competed on The Bachelor—a show that puts you in direct competition—both women have proven that they’re willing to fight for what they want. Nicole especially has held onto that spitfire quality for much of Paradise, letting her opinions shine through in her interviews; yet for some reason, when placed between these two men, that fire is seriously squelched. And it’s noticeable.
The men are straight up treating women like their possessions
The Bachelor franchise isn’t a stranger to cringe-worthy or uncomfortable encounters, but what makes the interactions between the men on the show so uncomfortable is their blatant misogyny and disregard for the thoughts of the women they’re seemingly interested in. This was first made *very* clear in Blake and Dylan’s war of words over Hannah in episode 3. After Hannah and Blake made out on the beach in front of Dylan (Hannah’s quasi BF), it was pretty much fair game for a heartbroken Dylan to want to talk to her, and for Hannah to handle it however she felt was appropriate. But she wasn’t given that opportunity when Blake tried to speak on Hannah’s behalf, presuming what would be best for her. “This is why I didn’t do this to her when you were with her, because I knew it would make her feel uncomfortable. Like, what you’re doing right now is making her feel incredibly uncomfortable.”
Quick Q Blake: How do you even know that Hannah’s uncomfortable when you’ve neither asked nor allowed her to voice how she’s feeling? In that moment, Blake clearly didn’t care about how Hannah felt, it was all about how *he* thought Hannah should feel. And in turn, how he felt about the situation.
And it was an almost an exact repeat the following episode with Christian, Clay and Nicole; with the former two disallowing Nicole from voicing how she felt and TBH not even caring, until the very end of the interaction. Nicole and Hannah legitimately could have walked away in the middle of the encounter, and I don’t think any of the men would have even noticed.
Not only were the men speaking for Nicole and Hannah, but it was the way they were speaking about them that was super problematic. Essentially, like they were some sort of possession or object. This was never more clear than during Clay and Christian’s weird AF interaction under the cabana. While Nicole looked on wide-eyed, Christian repeatedly told Clay “You are not going to take her, I won’t let you take her.” Later, after Clay finally excused himself, Christian turned to Nicole, telling her—like a caveman to his leg of meat— “No one’s going to take you, no one’s taking you.” To which Nicole then echoed back: “He has every right to take me later.”
Which, what the *actual* fuck?
No he does not.
The idea of “taking” someone from someone else is so disturbing. The terminology *completely* eliminates the autonomy of the desired person—in this case Nicole and Hannah—and their ability to make decisions for themselves; relegating them to a passive role and essentially a vessel that can be passed back and forth. It becomes about the power struggle between the men, rather than the actual feelings they have for the woman in question.
FYI, Hannah may look like an IRL barbie doll, but that doesn’t mean she’s actually a voiceless toy you can take out, play with and trade at your own will. Here’s an idea, guys—why don’t you *ask* your romantic partner what she wants to do or how *she* feels? What about the fact that Nicole can “take” herself and talk to, make out with, or be with whomever she wants?
Not only are Christian’s statements possessive, but they’re also kind of threatening. Saying “no one’s going to take you,” and “I won’t let you take her,” isn’t only implying ownership of someone, but also hints at violence. The absoluteness with which Christian made these statements begs the question, or what? What would happen if Clay had continued to come at Christian? Or if Nicole had gotten up to go with him? We have a feeling his response would be physical—something confirmed later in the episode when he and Jordan got into a physical altercation over an actual piñata.
And somewhat horrifyingly, the women seem to be playing into it, even if unintentionally so. As much as Nicole declared herself “the Bachelorette of Paradise,” unlike the Bachelorette, who has the power of making the final decision, Nicole’s position in this love triangle isn’t one of power at all. While Nicole ended up (barely) making a decision during the Clay/Christian altercation, Hannah sat by passively as Blake and Dylan fought both over her and for her, resigned to let them ultimately make a decision that should be hers. As Joynt wrote in her August 13 recap, Hannah had the chance to make a decision for herself and “failed spectacularly, choosing to do nothing at all.” While part of that can be chalked up to what Joynt sees as a general passivity and need to please others on Hannah’s part, it’s difficult not to feel like it’s a reversion back to meek, docile women who allow men to make decisions for them.
And that’s problematic—for *so* many reasons
Toxic masculinity is nothing new for the Bachelor franchise. The Bachelorette, a show that’s meant to be all about the leading lady, is pretty much one big pissing contestant for men to one-up each other—and usually violently so. But for some reason, toxic masculinity seems to be running wild in Paradise. Something about the sun, sand and surf—and this show in particular—seems to revert people back to archaic gender roles. From the constant barrage of men working out while the women sit around and ogle their muscles, to the seemingly inherent idea that Clay—as someone who has pretty much done the bare minimum by expressing interest in Nicole—has the “right” or some sort of claim over Nicole’s time, is not only incorrect, but seriously patriarchal.
Maybe everyone has heatstroke; or maybe there’s something about being stuck on an island with minimal clothing, that makes people feel innately attached to prehistoric times and ideals of finding the fittest mate. Who knows. But what we do know? It’s a problem.
Because it’s super harmful to these women. Not only does it diminish their personal autonomy and right to make decisions for themselves, but reinforces a dangerous idea of women as objects of ownership for men. And when we think of women as objects, it’s easy to think of them as disposable; to use them and throw them on a whim (*ahem* Blake *ahem*) or to become controlling and possessive (*ahem* Christian *ahem*).
And this behaviour doesn’t set these women—or even men—up for meaningful or lasting relationships. Just toxic ones. And unfulfilling toxic ones at that. In much the same way Luke P. idealized last season’s Bachelorette, Hannah B., before even coming onto the show, by disallowing these women from voicing their thoughts and opinions and speaking for them, these suitors aren’t getting a real read on the potential loves of their lives, they’re getting a version that’s largely dictated by their own desires. So how can they truly know them? The answer is, they can’t. And how long can a relationship like that last?
In the memorable words of Dylan at The Men Tell All: “It’s 2019, man; you’ve got to wake up. You can’t talk to a woman like that.” And, you can’t speak for her either.