Tuesday, August 21, 2007

WE Must Stand For WE Hate Women

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of posts on Women's television programming. The series will run infrequently, when I feel I have enough information to make a decent post. Also, I will talk from a feminist point of view. I won't say that I speak for the concerns of all feminists, but I am speaking for myself as someone who wants all people to be equal.

So, WE is short for Women's Entertainment. This is generally true as much of the programming is oriented towards women, single but primarily housewives. That fact might be because I am watching the channel during the day, a popular time for housewives and new moms. Anyway, the programming on WE consist of pretty much three things: reality programming, syndicated sitcoms, and movies in that order.

Your eyes probably turned when you read reality programming, but it is far worse than you could ever imagine. We's reality schedule consist of shows that forward traditional ideas of what a woman should be: subservient, overly emotional are a couple of good terms. A good example of this idea is the show that I am watching right now American Princess. The teacher Jean Broke-Smith just told all of the women that they can't wear pants, boots, flip-flops, piercings, or tattoos because all of those things are perceived as unfeminine. This is after telling them all that they walk like men, and that some of them look "cheap" (her language, not mine). Later in the same episode, a woman comes to a cocktail party in pants and a gold halter top, which was a bit ridiculous to be fair. But, she has the right to wear what she wants. That's the American spirit.

Anyway, she introduces herself to the men who are running the party (surprise there) and one of the men comments "nice original outfit...for the rodeo this afternoon." This is not a snap; it is just offensive and misogynistic. But, the women will put themselves through this demeaning training so that they can gain the antiquated title of princess, as they have signed up for this show under their own volition. All of the outrage that I may have doesn't matter because there is a woman somewhere who is really into this show and its ideal although they should realize that the concept of being a classical term lady and liberated are in diametric opposition to one another.

Even if I could put the complaints that I have about this show away for a moment, I still wouldn't like this show as it is absolutely terrible. It is boring, over-edited, and cheap. They wanted them to buy a new wardrobe...so they sent them to H&M with 200 dollars. I know H&M is cheap and all, but that's still not enough to buy a new wardrode. Also, there is way too much dialogue from the contestants themselves. The show does not let the event run its own course, create its own drama. But, this is not the case. Actually, writing about this show is making me nauseous, I have to move on to the behemoth of WE: Bridezillas.

So, as if you couldn't tell from American Princess, much of the programming is set out to reinforce the cult of femininity. This ideal is best shown through the program Bridezillas, one of a series of marriage-based shows (This includes, but is not limited to, the aforementioned Bridezillas, Platinum Weddings, Rich Wife, Poor Wife, Wedding Gown Secrets, I Do...Let's Eat, Wedding Central & Race to the Alter) that airs on WE. As I know that many women have no intention of getting married, I find it presumptuous to assume that women want to watch programming about an institution that means absolutely nothing to them. Additionally, it is offensive to women who don't live their lives in a fairy tale, who actually want to have a simple, justice of the peace marriage and save themselves the stress. But, I'm getting into niche complaints. I can get into a more general complaint talking actually talking about Bridezillas.

So, Bridezillas is a show that follows women who are getting married. As can be figured from the brutally unsubtle title, these women are monsters, highly demanding monsters dressed in tulle and silk. They make everyone around them irritated with their constant needling and excessively high standards. Actually, they make everyone's life miserable even people they don't know. I've watched episodes of this show where people are literally left crying because of the demands of the brides. The problems with this show are far too many to name. Along with promoting the idea that marriage is a capitalist institution instead of a union between two people who love each other, the show only helps to further negative stereotypes of women. As a group that has been so constantly battered, the worst aspects of them do not need to be shown on television to the amusement of other women or men, especially as this is a channel that purports itself to be empowering for women. Actually, watching the two shows that I have seen have not empowered me towards women. They've actually given me very negative impressions of women and femininity. If I didn't know better, I might believe some of what I've seen.

While this is definitely the worst of all of the wedding-based programming, I think that all of the wedding program is done in bad taste. What better way to destroy the psyche of all single people (this goes on both sides of the aisle) than to constantly show programming about the one thing that will not be happening to us: a marriage. But, not just a marriage. Oh no. An elaborate, expensive, glamorous wedding. Going through the machinations of such an event is awful to watch and presents stereotypical views towards women, suggesting that women don't really live in the real world and are clouding their minds with quaint notions of femininity.

There is only one show that doesn't cast women in a negative light, and it's not She's Moving In, an interior design show with a woman and a man coming together and suiting one another. By suiting one another, I mean the woman (it is women's television, and the home is the woman's palace!), disregarding the interest of the men. This show also reinforces the idea that women are bossy and must impose their will on their partner instead of respecting their partner as an equal and taking their perspective into account. It also makes the assumption that all women love to clean and that all men are complete slobs, neither of which are true. But, I'm getting away from my point. The show that actually puts women in a positive light is Wife Mom Bounty Hunter, a show that follows a female bounty hunter as she balances her work and home lives. It's actually a good show and doesn't cast women in a negative light; it actually shows the reality of many married women's lives. For this show, I say Bravo! to WE. For all of the other reality shows, I say boo.

I can take care of the other two categories with the following statement: I understand that you hate women, but you can at least show them shows and movies that don't suck. I have yet to see a good movie on WE. I have yet to see a decent sitcom on WE either. The best one of both of these things is Dharma & Greg. D&G is not a bad show. I will admit that. But, I definitely don't want to want a marathon of it, which is usually how it is shown on WE. Kate and Allie and Hope and Faith are flat out terrible and I like Jane Curtin a lot from SNL and 3rd Rock. Formulaic with poorly written punchlines, I wonder if the executives at WE went, "Hey, these shows have women in them! We are a channel about women! Let's show them!" It wouldn't surprise me if they did. The movies are formulaic romantic comedies as well. But, their crappiness is covered up by putting them in a program called Cinematherapy. This show is hosted by generally hilarious Black guy Chuck Nice. Why he is hosting it? I can't say. But, I wish he wasn't. Every time I see him in an ad for this, it makes a small part of my soul die.

When it all comes down to the end, I think that WE is run by a man.* It displays the sensibilities of what a man thinks a woman would want to see, especially in comparison to channels like Lifetime and Oxygen which show a better rounded version of the female experience. Much of the WE programming is based around naive, outmoded ideas of femininity such as fairy tale weddings, considering the home as a palace, and tailoring oneself to traditional ideas. While there are some bright spots and suggestions that WE actually does care about women and things other than marriage, these episodes are few and far between. It is sad because women need more positive images than are being offered to them by Hollywood and other aspects of the world. Unfortunately, this channel is not helping in this cause by also reporting on the vain, self-obsessed celebrity world as well, which it does in full display on its website. WE is a disgrace of a women's channel and should be ashamed of itself.

*When I wrote that sentence, I didn't know if it was true or not. I was just guessing. After doing some minor research (read: going through the WE website), I found that two of the three executives are, in fact, men. And, it appears that they are the ones who control the purse strings.