Sexist or feminist? UK reality TV show ‘Love Island’ hated and hailed

A screengrab from Twitter of the popular British reality television dating show ‘Love Island’.
A screengrab from Twitter of the popular British reality television dating show ‘Love Island’.

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LONDON, July 31 — Popular British reality television dating show, Love Island, comes to an end today with the jury out on whether the sex-crazed show is sexist or feminist.

The show, which has sparked massive debate on social media, follows a group of scantily-clad young men and women living together in a villa on the Spanish island of Mallorca with the intention of coupling up to win a £50,000 prize (RM266,574).

Some have criticised the eight-week long show for reinforcing gender stereotypes with female contestants shamed for revealing how many men they have had sex with while a male contestant was praised for sleeping with 200 women.

But others have commended the fact the show — that kicks out contestants along the way — has raised awareness of and reflected the sexism that exists in daily life, allowing women to be as open about their sex lives as the men.

Rachel Hosie, co-host of Millennial Love, an audio podcast on modern dating, said the show has led to a discussion about why women are judged more harshly, or “slut-shamed”, for having sex or expressing an enjoyment of sex.

“For the men who have done more than kissing in the villa — be it sex or anything else — it’s a fun club to be in. Women are slut-shamed, they are more harshly judged,” said Hosie.

“It is what’s been instilled and engrained in us by society — that if a woman sleeps with a man, or woman, it’s a bad thing, and they’re dirty and they should be shamed. There’s just a double standard,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

National debate 

Love Island, currently in its fourth series in Britain with a copy show in Australia, has attracted more than three million viewers some nights with most fans aged between 16 and 34.

Research by a group of economists, Frontier Economics, revealed that appearing as a contestant on the hit ITV2 show was likely to earn contestants more over the course of their life than three years studying at Oxford or Cambridge universities.

Contestants who stayed in the villa for the whole series could be expected to earn about £2.3 million over the next five years from sponsorships and appearance fees compared to an average return from the top UK universities of £815,000.

BBC’s Radio 4 Woman’s Hour debated the pro and cons of the reality show that has dominated UK lifestyle news and social media for months.

While Amnesty International said online abuse of the women contestants during the series highlighted the fact that one in five British women suffer from online abuse and harassment.

“Social media can be a space where sexist or misogynistic abuse of women thrives — where their genders, ethnicities and sexual orientations can come under serious and harmful attack,” said Chiara Capraro from Amnesty International UK.

Others argued the show was doing more good than harm.

The Times newspaper’s columnist Caitlin Moran said the “peerlessly trashy Love Island is doing more for feminism than Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex and Beyoncé smashing a car window with a baseball bat in the video to Hold Up combined”.

She said all the devious tactics of men to win the female contestants were highlighting men’s poor treatment of women.

“We live in an era when every one of the classic tactics used by these men — gaslighting, denial, coercion, guilt — is met with a fabulous deconstruction on social media,” she wrote.

Hosie welcome the fact the show has sparked wider discussion on gender stereotypes.

“We’re talking about it a lot more. As long as young women are discussing these issues in an informed way, and thinking, ‘That’s not right’, then that could be a good thing,” she said. — Thomson Reuters Foundation

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