Pop Culture Women's Issues

Love Island: It’s Less Unfeminist Than You Think

We take a look at how women are portrayed in Love Island

Eleanor Jackman

Naked Politics Blogger

Love Island: even if you wanted to, you can’t really get away from it. There’s no doubt that the reality romance show is growing in popularity, with over 3 million people tuning in to watch the start of this new series. If you’ve watched it, you’ll know it’s trashy tv at it’s best. But behind the superficial drama, there’s a more interesting question: does the show portray its female contestants in a way that promotes gender equality?

One of the shows main elements are the dreaded ‘recoupling’ events which see the contestants decide who they wish to pair up with. This happens multiple times throughout the series and the power of choosing shifts between the men and women in an equal fashion. This appears to show identical treatment in terms of the choice the contestants have in who they pair up with which would seem to portray the equal rights each gender has in a relationship.

The first week of the show saw the contestants take part in a themed game, where the female contestants battled it out to be declared the best superhero. I’m not going to lie,  the female contestants having to attempt to smash a watermelon through squatting is kind of stepping away from the idea of feminism and equality, but weirdly the next challenge immediately contradicted this as the girls had to attempt to protect one of the boys from a dodgeball onslaught. This contrast kind of sums up Love Island’s relationship with the way women are portrayed.

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Love Island has faced some criticism over the fact it’s female contestants are introduced and spend a majority of the show dressed in bikinis. To be fair the fact the show is set in Mallorca and the contestants are pretty much on holiday and it’s not just the girls dressing like this- the boys are also introduced and spend the majority of air time in swimwear. While the show may not be trying too hard to promote personality over looks, it’d be hard to argue that it’s objectifying the female contestants due to the way they dress, when the male contestants are being treated the same.

A lot of people have complained about the lack in variety of female body types being featured. Fans of the show objected to the absence of diversity, worried that the show was advocating that only one type of body is seen as attractive. With the shows increased viewership and popularity it has the ability to advocate and highlight all body types which would undoubtedly be an extremely beneficial step in helping people rid themselves of insecurities and erase the stigma around not having a perfect ‘summer body’.

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One definite positive so far in the series, the girls all have each other’s back and are looking out for each other. Showing women supporting other women is undoubtedly one the most positive steps the show can take in positively portraying female friendships and even feminism to some extent, in highlighting the benefits of such a bond and not showing all the girls to be desperate to get into a couple at each other’s expense. Women supporting and empowering other women definitely feels pretty progressive.

So, while it’s pretty difficult to definitively call Love Island a fully feminist show, it does encourage at least some form of gender equality, even if it may not be immediately clear. It is certainly entertaining, and the feminism you can find may just be enough to deal with any of the more unconvincing actions that take place!

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