On Feminism, Reality TV Wives, and Why I Can’t Stop Watching

The sad fact is that reality TV really is real life.

I’m a feminist. A good one most of the time. Equality, you know? 

I should hate Basketball Wives. Or all the shows that depict wives as only wives. I should, I know.

I too am a wife, and I should value that word for my own personal reasons (I guess), but these shows, the ones I binge watch so hard, have the wrong name.

Most of these women aren’t even wives, yet society (and television) labels them as so, for ratings, and an archaic idea of life. Because you know, a wife is a better person than a non-wife, duh.

Off the top of my head, I can summarize many of these shows about wives and brides and marriage, because I am fascinated, and have watched them all. In case you have ever wondered if you should spend any of your time watching any of these shows, I hope this helps, and I hope you forgive me:

Image via Couples Therapy/Facebook

Couples Therapy—Celebrites fighting about fighting with their celebrity spouses.

Married at First Sight—Strangers partake in arranged marriages dictated by science, God, and emotional problems.

Married at First Sight: The First Year—The first year of emotional problems, and taking dumps in front of your new spouse, on television.

My 90-Day Fiancé—A probably fake version of mail-order bride-ry.

My Fair Wedding—Over-the-top, mostly tacky, over-themed weddings with lots of “bling” and glitter and fog machines.


Image via Four Weddings/Facebook

Four Weddings—Four tacky women attend each other’s super traditional weddings and berate each other to determine who had the best wedding. Score cards are marked based on sexist tradition. Winner gets a short (usually Caribbean) honeymoon.

Say Yes to the Dress—Rich and sometimes tragic women bring entourages to New York’s most bougey wedding dress shop to feel like a princess and pay an insane amount for taffeta. Sometimes dresses are see through.

I Found the Gown—You guessed it, somebody found a gown, complete with daddy issues and economical hardship.

Bridalplasty—Brides who insist on looking their best on their big day, new face and all.

Bridezillas—Basically Cops for brides. Hair pulling.

Platinum Weddings—Where rich people and anti-feminists collide for the sake of money-loving tradition.

Celebrity Wife Swap—C-list celebs swap out their wives with other D-list celebs (and sometimes regular folk).


Image via Sister Wives/Facebook

Sister Wives—A tragic look into polygamy and basically the root of everything wrong with everything.

Basketball Wives—Ex wives (mostly) and current lady friends of NBA stars. Women telling each other they are boss ladies, but fighting constantly about seriously every single feeling and topic.

The Bachelor—I can’t.

Mob Wives—Wives of ex and current Mafia figures battle out life in Mafia-like places on the East Coast. Lots of plastic surgery, accents, and fur. Also, jail phone calls.

Image via Ladies of London/Facebook

Ladies of London—Called ladies, but basically wives of rich British men. They talk about all the cool projects they work on, making them one step closer to not just being a wife?

Real Housewives—Most of them aren’t even wives anymore, and most are boss ladies, but still have to be called wives because it’s TV and it’s America.

Khloe and Lamar—TBD.

I don’t need to explain the backwards feminism going on here, that these women call themselves bossbitches but can only be on TV if they are associated with a man, or as a wife. Ultimately these ladies are probably amazing people. However, by a show’s title, and much of what the participants talk about on said shows, they are simply someone’s wife, girlfriend or ex.

Sure, it’s not a fair system, but it’s there, and God help me, I can’t stop watching it all unfold on live television and my DVR. I can’t stop peering into the lives of women who are so bogged down by shitty titles and a sad reflection of what we still think of people and marriage today.

Crissy Van Meter is the managing editor at Nouvella Books and the founding editor of Five Quarterly. Her writing has appeared in VICE, Catapult, Guernica, Bustle, ESPN, The Hairpin, Golly, VIDA, and more. Her debut novel is forthcoming from Algonquin Books.
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