Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Adventures in Wife Swapping

Another perk of being in Green Bay is that ABC's always enlightening "WifeSwap" airs at 12:30 a.m. so in my insomnia I was able to watch it last night. This week's episode featured an "ultra feminist" and a "pageant princess." I valued the opportunity to learn what the mainstream media considers to be feminism and of course I was not disappointed. Angie the "ultra feminist" was also a preacher/stay at home mother (I assume) who homeschooled her three daughters seemed to consider feminism teaching her daughters about women's history, how to take care of a car, and how to stay away from make up, short skirts and those other trappings of femininity. Nothing wrong with any of that of course, but there is NO WAY that is "ultra feminism." If that is ultra feminism what is Catharine MacKinnon?

A few highlights from the show were when the other wife, the pageant mom Karen, told Angie's husband that learning how to wear make up and pleasing men were "Just things she is learning for the future." Of course in our culture she isn't necessarily wrong but rather than challenge that notion at all, she goes to the other extreme and has the most vacuous, self centered, helpless, and frankly stupid child I have ever seen. (Granting of course that this is television and so spectacle is the whole point.)

The word "feminist" was used 15 times in the show (by my rough count) and it was always used as a descriptive word. They never bothered to explain what they meant or why Angie is a feminist, though she does frequently call herself one.

By far my favorite part of the show was the throw down between Angie and Alicia's (pageant princess) father. He seemed to believe that asking his daughter to cook or to be respectful to waitstaff was degrading. Here is what he told Angie:
"I'd like to see your husband... how can he live with you you feminist pig!"
"You are degrading her you feminist pig."
Ouch. And all because she had the audacity to suggest that his daughter is not a piece of meat.

His wife was scarcely better. She tried to get Angie's daughters to 'sparkle' by which she meant put on make up, short skirts and be in pageants. I was pleased to see that Angie's eldest daughter was not easily swayed but it was horribly unfortunate that her middle child fell for it hook line and sinker. AND that by the end Angie and her husband even seemed to approve of it. Remember, she is ABC's version of a feminist. Here are a few things that Alicia's mother told Angie's daughters:
-That being a feminist meant "being ugly and ruling the world."
-That feminism is squashing the 6-year-old's dream
-That feminism is turning them into boys
-And "its not a crime to be pretty"

The most unfortunate thing about this show is that for folks who are not well acquainted with feminism (and being in Green Bay I can say with some confidence, that is most people) this is going to be their introduction. That is frightening. However, I didn't expect much better from ABC.


Feminist Gal said...

oh man, this show always bothers me in general, mostly because they chose totally extreme people and it's not representative of the population. I will look for this episode though, i hate how media depicts feminists and this depiction is a lot of the time the reason women don't identify with the label. It's a bummer though because studies show women who don't identify with feminism but still hold feminist beliefs are less likely to engage in collective action... and really, that's what it's all about - activism for peace and equality! right?! :)
Found you from Feministe, great blog :)

Cortney said...

The name calling on this show was just horrifying. While the 'ultra feminist' came off as being quite extreme, based on the message boards on, I'd say that the horrible husband actually came off looking much, much worse. Not sure if it is because he called her a 'feminist pig' or if it was because of his treatment of his daughter.

The Red Queen said...

Ugh. Just ugh.

I wonder how they would react to my 12 year old being a proud feminist and a BOY! Add never being eligible to be on a show like Wife Swap to one of the many many reasons why I'm not married.

Cortney said...

Your 12-year-old sounds fantastic! The eldest daughter on this show was also quite amazing. She knew she was smart and that make-up wasn't for her. I don't remember her exact age but she couldn't have been much more than 12. Of course, she was portrayed as being damaged by her parents because they wouldn't 'let' her wear mini skirts.

The Red Queen said...

Some of my happiest moments with the Kid are when he says "Excuse me for saying this Mom, but that guy is a chauvinist dick". He's awesome.

And thanks for posting about the update email. How seriously fucked up is it that the only "feminist" things she could do were waitress and cook?

Anonymous said...

I feel bad for feminists though, because this show in particular shows to me how limited women are becoming. Soon women won't be free to choose to be feminine, but rather suppressed by other women to be a feminist. How sad.

Anonymous said...

Sad to see that the feminist family thought that life is to be found in books and homeschooling. This way denying their daughters a learning experience on a social level.

The 12-year old doens;t sound fantastic to me. She's indoctrinated by her parents just as well as the pageant girl. It may be better in that she can think, but she thinks only the way her parents think.

But this was another episode that truly amazed me. Strange that the pageant family can do this. Here in The Netherlands this would never be possible. Thank goodness.

Devon said...

This show just made me want to put a bullet between my eyes. It didn't help that my mom was sitting there - very overtly NOT a feminist - and thinking this to be a true portrayal of feminism. No, sorry mom. If it were, they'd let their little 6-year old play with make-up if they wanted to. They wouldn't reprimand her for wanting to be a princess. That is a grotesque parody of feminism. I threw up in my mouth.