The latest episode of Bachelor in Paradise, which aired on August 28, brought up a topic which needs to be discussed: bullying. I must preface this article by stating that I fully understand that a reality TV show like Bachelor in Paradise is 1) edited to be the most interesting for television, and 2) not entirely reality. However, the way last night’s episode has been edited shows a glaring problem with society which needs to be addressed.
Women and men bully others in different ways: while men have a tendency toward overt, physical bullying, women have a tendency toward indirect, emotionally bullying. This tendency toward indirect, emotional bullying was on full display in this latest Bachelor in Paradise episode where the majority of the women bullied one woman by insulting her behind her back, and laughing at her to her face without telling her why, even when she expressly asked what the women were laughing at.
When Alexis told the “scallop fingers” story about Christen while Christen was on a date with Matt, it was clearly more than just a goodhearted joke between friends. Christen was not present to be in on the joke or to defend herself, which makes this less of a joke and more of an attack on Christen. This attack on Christen is even more pronounced when Amanda states that she doesn’t trust anyone who takes scallops to go, and when Jasmine keeps referring to Christen being a dirty snake.
Now, I fully understand Alexis being disgusted by being touched by someone’s dirty fingers – I don’t like being touched by someone’s clean fingers – but the way the story was told and edited for the show position it as a clear attack on Christen and how she’s a dirty person who doesn’t deserve love. This is bullying. Insulting a woman behind her back, especially in retaliation for an action that a man instigated (Matt told Christen he was available and wanted to go on a date with her), is bullying.
This “scallop fingers” story permeated to later encounters between Christen and other women in the house. Later in the episode, Amanda and Sarah are sitting at the bar when Christen comes up to them eating a shrimp, and Amanda and Sarah laugh at Christen right in front of her while she is speaking. Christen clearly understands that Amanda and Sarah are laughing at her and asks why, yet the two women give no explanation and continue to laugh. This is also bullying. Laughing at someone to their face and refusing to tell them why they are being laughed at when they ask is bullying.
I was bullied extensively throughout elementary school and into middle school and high school, and one of the most common, in my experience, forms of women bullying each other is the type of bullying expressed on Bachelor in Paradise: where women insult you behind your back so that not only them but others are insulting you as well; and where women laugh at you to your face, and either don’t tell you why when you ask or, worse, make you think you’re being crazy for thinking they are laughing at you (i.e. gaslighting). I cannot express how harmful this form of bullying is. Especially when done to a child, this form of bullying has harmful effects that can last well into adulthood.
Bullying has been a topic of national and international consciousness for a number of years, with so much conversation revolving around the mental health implications and lasting effects bullying can have on others, yet adult women are still bullying one another on a reality TV show. It is not only the fact that the Bachelor in Paradise women did this that is terrible, but the fact that the show edited the bullying to be perceived as a joke. The Bachelor in Paradise producers spent so much time this season discussing the alleged sexual abuse scandal yet learned nothing about editing bullying to be seen as lighthearted. Bullying is not a joke. Bullying is real, it is harmful, and it is never acceptable – even on a show as dumb as Bachelor in Paradise.