Why Our Obsession With Little Women Makes Me Uncomfortable

Photo: Robin L Marshall/Getty.
When the Little Women franchise first started in 2014 with its L.A. installment, I didn’t think that it would stand the test of time. Three years later, I’ve been proven sorely wrong by the reality show that follows the lives of women with dwarfism. It’s still going strong, with season 6 currently underway. Installments in Atlanta, New York, and most recently, Dallas, have cropped up. Terra Jolé, who led the L.A. cast, enjoyed multiple seasons of her own spin-off called Terra’s Little Family. She was a also a contestant on season 23 of Dancing with the Stars. The franchise has proven to be a hit for Lifetime.
I’ve watched scattered episodes of each iteration of the series here and there. My best friend actually forced me to watch the entire second season of Little Women: Atlanta. Part of the reason I was apprehensive about the show’s success is because I don’t trust an industry that consistently prioritizes a narrow margin of beauty to do right by women who fall outside that margin in any capacity. Surprisingly, the show doesn’t focus exclusively on the women’s heights — at least not explicitly. Like any other reality show, Little Women gets the meat of its content from the friendships and relationship drama amongst the cast. We get to see them as mothers, daughters, sisters, and lovers.
But there is still something to be said for the fact that these little women simply being normal is a spectacle in itself. After all, that’s the premise of the show. I don’t get the sense that I’m being forced to watch the entertainment equivalent of medical exams that I may have experienced if the show was on TLC a different network. But the way the cameras on Little Women manage to catch the quizzical stares of bystanders when the women congregate in public spaces, or how they linger a little too long on one of them struggling to get onto a floatation device or motorcycle during a day of relaxation feels like a small push into some weird exhibitionist territory.
And then in webosphere there are memes like this one that layers hoe-shaming on top of ridiculing Amanda and Andrea Salinas, who are known on the urban circuit as twerk performers. It’s these moments that make me feel like a bystander in an exploitative situation. And that's not really my thing.
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