Feminists happy that The Bachelor is so very nearly over should not breathe easy yet. With the launch of Bravo in August we can look forward to the show The Real Housewives of Auckland. I had the horror of watching the trailer last night, cue sequin dresses (MediaWorks, stop trying to make sequin dresses happen), lace knickers (scandal) and jewellery (Chanel! Oh my! So rich!).
I love the idea of a show about real women targeted for a female audience and I want to support the sisterhood, but it is hard for me to watch a show that sets these women up for ‘controversy’ or, shall we say, almost guaranteed populist hate.
First of all, why is it called The Real Housewives of Auckland when many of the women have successful careers of their own making? A face as recognisable as Louise Wallace’s has not simply spent life dropping kids off to swimming lessons. Imagine if we flipped the script. The House-Husbands of Auckland? A show in which men were not defined by their jobs but by their marital status.
As much as I would love to watch a series about house-husbands which constructs them as primarily consumers parading brogues, cufflinks and drinking the finest whiskies over lunch while ‘shallowly’ discussing sport, this show would probably bomb because no-one hates rich men as much as they love to hate an ‘undeserving’ rich woman (as I write this the two most recent comments on the Stuff article covering the show refer to the women as gold-diggers).
Look at the Kardashians, who are blamed for almost everything including modern consumption and societal apathy itself while the men on their show are hardly adverse to frivolous indulgence. Lamar Odom and Scott Disick both had substance abuse problems on the show but these were treated with sympathy, meanwhile Kim is still constantly berated for being the victim of a revenge porn scandal.
While The Real Housewives of Auckland may focus on the emotions and struggles of these women, the trailer focuses on their appearances, clothes, jewellery and their consumption habits. Surprise, surprise. Such shows, even while they focus on women, are not particularly known for providing diversity or a even look into the most common struggles of Auckland women. There is no Māori or Polynesian ‘housewife’, no Westie or South Auckland housewife, no housewives struggling to feed and clothe their children.
A more apt name for the show would be The Women of Auckland’s Privileged One Per Cent.