One reality TV franchise people often point to when talking about misogyny in the media is The Real Housewives. However, I believe that many aspects of The Real Housewives make it a feminist franchise. Now, it doesn’t represent all women, and you could argue that the program is very classist, which is valid. But you’d be surprised with how progressive their gender politics are. To demonstrate this, here are seven reasons that The Real Housewives represents feminism:
1. The Show Is Centered Entirely Around Women
The Real Housewives is an all-female cast that focuses on telling the stories of women from their own perspectives . . . how many shows can you say do that? Making women the entire focus of any TV program is something that deserves recognition.
2. The Women Are Shown As Multi-Faceted
As anyone who has actually watched an episode can attest, the women aren’t just featured shopping all day or talking behind each others backs — they’re shown spending quality time with their kids, going to doctor’s appointments, running businesses, and dealing with loss. They’re clearly humanized and shown as real people who deal with real issues, not just plastic Barbie dolls who don’t care about anything other than shoes.
3. Most of The Women Aren’t Actually Housewives
Despite the show's title, most of its cast members are not actually housewives. Many are the breadwinners of their families and have extremely successful careers as entrepreneurs, actresses, and models. There's nothing wrong with being a housewife, but the point isn’t only to depict women who are raising their families — it's to showcase a diversity of women at various points in both their personal and professional lives. In fact, many of the women aren’t even married!
4. They Care About Things That Matter
A lot of important social justice issues have been raised on the show: from domestic violence prevention to LGBT rights to breast cancer awareness, The Real Housewives have covered it. Seeing them use their platform for good out in this world is a powerful thing.
5. Much Of The Criticism Comes From Sexism
Ironically, many of those, including feminists, who have come down on The Real Housewives for its depiction of women base their arguments in sexism — most of the arguments against it point to the clique-ness and vapid banter that goes on. Yes, some of the Housewives are known to take the gloves off when there’s a feud, but most of this discomfort stems from society’s disapproval of women’s aggression and the lack of validity given to relational aggression. Since women are taught to use their anger indirectly, it’s not fair to fault them for using this technique to address their issues. Also, feuds and intense disagreements happen, and it’s time society gets comfortable with seeing women get angry. After all, would you ever say that about a show involving men? Didn’t think so . . .
6. It Celebrates The Feminine
Have you ever noticed how anything associated with women goes into the ‘icky’ category in our culture? That’s why people roll their eyes when you talk about shoe shopping, but readily listen up when a man talks about his favorite sports team. Things associated with femininity are devalued in our society, so there’s a general disapproval around anything that is associated with it. Thus, people look at the show as vapid and a waste of time because it is focused on women and stereotypically feminine gender roles. Even the hate of the franchise itself is largely a fem-hate phenomenon, since reality TV is most often starred in and consumed by women.
7. It’s All About Appreciating Women For Who They Are
At the end of the day, The Real Housewives is all about being able to laugh, cry, and celebrate the lives of real women. While the show does have a lot of intricate and important politics that are behind it, the central message is that women’s stories are important and deserved to be heard by a wide audience. What’s not to love?