The Bachelor’s 2020 “Women Tell All” special had all of the usual suspects: an apologetic Bachelor, loud cast in-fighting, and a kid gloves “hot seat” interview for one of the season’s most infuriating contestants. However, fans were likely surprised to see 2017 Bachelorette lead Rachel Lindsay appear on stage in the second-to-last segment of the night. First, there is the initial shock of seeing someone on the reunion show who is so outside the Bachelor season 24 bubble. Then there is the greater surprise of seeing Rachel — the franchise’s first Black Bachelorette and a woman who has levied convincing arguments of racism against it — participating in one of The Bachelor(ette)’s most important evenings.
In 2018, while describing the difference between her finale and the finale of 2018 Bachelorette Becca Kufrin, Rachel wrote in a Bachelorette recap, “She was protected and I was placed on display for three hours and labelled an angry Black female.” Why would Rachel ever allow The Bachelor to pull her back into its toxicity?
The answer to that Rachel mystery is to nip the franchise’s racism problem in the bud. Or at least take the first steps to protecting future generations of women from experiencing the same vitriol she has received.
Host Chris Harrison starts Rachel’s unexpected “Women Tell All” appearance by explaining “a line has been crossed” in the Bachelor(ette) fandom for the past few seasons — and now viewers are gleefully spewing social media hate and harassment at cast members. Chris says that Rachel is the best person to “represent” that struggle and vehemently thanks Rachel for returning. It is impossible not to wonder if this segment is the series’ small way of making amends with Rachel, one of its most beloved leads and vocal critics.
“When I was asked to be the Bachelorette, I knew it would be hard. I knew that I would get even more hate and criticism,” Rachel says. "But I wanted to pave a way for women who look like me, who hadn’t been represented in this role on this show.”
However, Rachel admits that she was met with immense bigoted pushback for her history-making turn in reality TV. The Texas lawyer was the victim of countless racist social media attacks before her season of The Bachelorette even premiered, as Refinery29 pointed out in April 2017. Some disturbing tweets even called her an “ugly monkey.” Then, when The Bachelorette was in full-swing, Rachel was the victim of hateful comments from her fellow Bachelor Nation members. Leah Block, who competed on Ben Higgins’ 2016 Bachelor season, “joked” on Twitter that an episode during Rachel’s tenure looked more like “Love & Hip Hop” than The Bachelorette.
In the present, Rachel reminds viewers these headline-garnering racist moments are just the tip of the iceberg of harassment she and other contestants suffer through. “I feel like you guys hear us talk about the hate we receive,” Rachel explains to the audience. “But you have no idea what it is.” To fix that problem, Rachel announces she is going to share the unvarnished messages Bachelor season 24 women have received.
The ensuing direct messages are chilling. They are filled with demands for suicide from contestants, direct threats of violence, and racism. By the time Rachel gets to a message about someone playing ‘the Black card,” she is openly crying while reading into the camera. One message — which was seemingly sent to the multiracial Sydney Hightower, an Alabama resident with an African-American and Dominican father — is so horrific it causes Rachel to pause before narrating it. The ignorant DM, which has a word bleeped out, appears to have a slur in it and also calls the recipient a “half-Mexican bitch.”
The camera cuts to Sydney, who bows her head while quietly sobbing. Women of colour like Maurissa Gunn and Alexa Caves are shown crying. “I’m shaking while I’m reading this because it’s shocking … I know it’s uncomfortable for you to see,” Rachel begins. “Just imagine how uncomfortable it is to get this in your comments, in your DMs, every day.”
It would be easy for The Bachelor to cut off the deeply sad segment here and toss to the sunnier pastures of a pre-finale tease. However, the cast stays in this pain for a while to get the point across to viewers. Maurissa and Sydney both explain how their childhoods in predominantly white neighbourhoods make these experiences particularly painful. Alex shares the attacks she got for wearing her natural curls on The Bachelor. Shiann Lewis reveals contestants have to manually type out words they wish to block in messages and DMs. The unspoken part of Shiann’s statement is that contestants likely have to consciously type slurs and other hateful terms into their account preferences just to avoid them. Season villain Tammy Ly reminds viewers she deserves their sympathy when she details the paragraph-long work emails she received urging her to end her own life.
“None of us are perfect, but none of us deserve this,” Sydney says, breaking into tears again.
It’s a powerful segment for a special that usually traffics in woman-against-woman discord. However, it would have been even stronger if The Bachelor had the guts to ask finalist Victoria Fuller about her past modelling for a clothing brand that used a “White Lives Matter” slogan and the Confederate flag — which are themselves both symbols of racist hate. Victoria can be seen in promotional images wearing a “WLM” hat, which the 26-year-old suggests she believed only referenced “We Love Marlins” (the subject of the campaign) and not “White Lives Matter.” Victoria offered a flimsy social media apology for her participation in the fashion shoot weeks after it first bubbled up on the internet. “
Women Tell All avoids the controversy entirely. It instead paints Victoria as merely a broken-hearted young woman who was marred by false allegations of “home-wrecking” (and nothing else).
Rachel Lindsay is a Bachelor Nation hero — one day it will fully deserve her.