Last night’s premiere of The Bachelorette is only the second full episode of the franchise I have ever seen. I’ve never been into mushy, heteronormative romance tropes, but I will follow Black women to strange places. Still, I knew to expect — in addition to massive amounts of staged cheesiness — a little bit of peacocking from the contestants. On a show where the premise is 31 men vying for the affection of one woman, I knew that my eyes would roll at least a couple of times. What I didn’t expect was such a broad range of hypermasculinity and misogyny in the first episode alone.
If I never hear the word “wife material” again after the first two hours of The Bachelorette, I’ll be grateful. I get it: Rachel Lindsay is beautiful, smart, funny, and successful. She is an attractive woman, but the language of wife material is weird for a few reasons. First of all, it assumes that the criteria for a wife is the same for everyone, which means that there must be women who aren’t wife material. It’s also super impersonal. It sounds like these men have found the perfect suit for the prom instead of a person whom they want to get to know enough to potentially marry.
Maybe I missed this part of Bachelor Nation orientation, but it feels presumptuous to assume that chemistry and compatibility with Lindsay will exist just because she looks good “on paper.” Still, so many of the contestants insisted that Lindsay was already theirs. “That’s my woman,” one of them would say. Another would pout, “I didn’t like seeing him talk to my future wife.” Delivered with enough passion to make the preview sizzle-reel Josiah said, “I see what I want and I go for it,” which would sound admirable under different circumstances, but not this time. Possessiveness is never flattering, and it’s literally the first night in the house. Chill.
There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to when the men decide to act out chivalry, either. Everyone, including myself, was super annoyed by the Whaboom guy. The general consensus seemed to be Lindsay deserved better. Blake E. even went so far as to call him out on it. Yet, when Mohit was so drunk that he could barely stand, contestants like Josiah still encouraged him to go talk to Lindsay. I don’t think that she was in any potential danger with a house full of dudes, producers, and camera crews. However, if Lindsay deserves more than an obnoxious guy with a catchphrase, shouldn’t a sloppy drunk be out of bounds, too?
I had assumed that the very setup of The Bachelorette would override my irritation with displays of male privilege like these. After all, I knew what I was getting myself into. I was mistaken, but I’m still ready to see this season through. I’ll let Lindsay define her own fine lines between confident, cocky, and problematic when it comes to the men she deems worthy.