The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise has long been a guilty pleasure of mine. I have been a loyal viewer since day one, cheering when the couples last and being naively surprised when they don't. I used to frequent viewing parties on Monday nights when the show came on, indulging in a glass of wine and treats, and engaging in some mandatory girl talk during commercials. These days I typically watch at home, occasionally forcing my husband to "enjoy" with me while our little girl sleeps soundly in a room nearby.
This season I watched Canadian Bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe became one of the most controversial Bachelorettes in the franchise's history. Prior to having my daughter, I may have been tempted to judge Kaitlyn and some of the decisions that she made throughout the season; however, since having my daughter I can't help but look through a different lense. That is a lense of non-judgement.
The decisions Kaitlyn made this season have been judged harshly by viewers, and social media has been abuzz with judgement, criticism, and even death threats for this woman looking for love. A word to the haters: this post goes against all of your ugly thoughts. Instead of joining in the hate, I have decided to look at what lessons can be learned from this season; specifically, what lessons can I potentially teach my daughter based on this controversial season of The Bachelorette.
Lesson #1: Your body is your own. You alone have the power to choose what a healthy decision is for your body. This is true when it comes to physical health, sexual health, spiritual health, mental health, and emotional health. This season, Kaitlyn made a somewhat controversial decision regarding one of these areas of health, and she was judged harshly for it. As a woman, and now as a mother, I have some strong opinions about what a healthy or unhealthy decision may be for my daughter. As much as I want to make these decisions for her, mother does not always know what is best (nor does social media) so the best I can do is to educate her and lead by example. If questions or disagreements arise regarding what is healthy/not healthy, then a professional's opinion is surely better than social media's. So let's educate our children, and leave the rest to the professionals.
Lesson #2: Personal choices regarding sex and sexuality are your own business. One of the best parts of being an adult is having autonomy over our choices. A few weeks ago, we all watched as Kaitlyn made the choice to talk about her decision to sleep with Nick, a contestant on the Bachelorette. As an avid viewer of the show, I know that she is not the first Bachelor/Bachelorette to make this choice; however, the majority of others have chosen to 'sweep it under the rug'. Kaitlyn chose to be honest. This does not mean that her decision regarding her adult sex life is now all of Bachelor Nation's business; it means she wanted to be upfront about the emotional and potentially relational consequences of her choice. As a mom, I hope my daughter is able to recognize when things are her business, when to trust people enough to share things that are her business, and when sharing other people's business is contributing to gossip and hate. Social media has a long way to go in learning this lesson.
Lesson #3: Slut-shaming is never ok. Countless viewers took to social media to cast judgement and criticism about Kaitlyn's decision to sleep with a contestant. Their words were full of hate, and many comments were reminiscent of a school yard bully while other comments were far worse. I believe that as long as the sexual decisions that adults make are consensual, that shaming someone because of their sexual decisions is never ok. If there are issues regarding consent, shaming is still not the answer. Social media users have been given the gift of having an outlet for their voices to be heard, so why not teach our children to use this medium as a place to lift people up instead of constantly tearing them down? And why not start by leading this movement ourselves?
Lesson #4: Men who show emotion, caring, and concern for one another are not automatically gay. Tabloids and social media outlets had a field day when the friendship of two male contestants this season earned them the label of the "Brokeback Bachelors". It amazes me that this assumption and massive judgement is still made in 2015. We are constantly preaching to our kids about how it is OK to express emotion, to be sensitive, to show caring, and to be brave. We teach our kids that they can be anything they want to be despite what gender stereotypes might say. Yet, when two men appear to show emotion and caring towards each other, some adults find this to be unacceptable male behaviour and automatically judge the men's sexuality. Granted, there may be editing involved in this, and that doesn't make it any better.
Lesson #5: Be unapologetically true to yourself. One thing I have not heard Kaitlyn say this season is "I regret". She allowed herself to be vulnerable, she made her own decisions, and she stood by those decisions despite the relentless backlash. She admitted to making some mistakes throughout her Bachelorette journey, but also talked about learning from the mistakes she made. I can only hope to raise a daughter who has the confidence and courage to put herself out there, flaws and all, and make no apologies for the person that she is. Kaitlyn didn't start out on her Bachelorette journey asking to be a role model, but as a mom I would have no qualms about my daughter looking up to her.
Whether or not the relationship that Kaitlyn chooses to pursue lasts, I believe that if we look through the right lense, there are many positive takeaways from this season. I believe that the main lesson this season is for all of us to put aside our judgement of each other and to teach our children the power of love and acceptance; starting with our own actions both in person and on social media.