I had a great time yesterday on National Public Radio, part of a panel of women on Tell Me More during their Beauty Shop segment, which is a sisterly alternative to their all-male weekly Barber Shop in which guys talk about pop culture as if they were sitting around the shop. Author Amy Alexander, blogger Pamela Merritt, Tell Me More host Michel Martin, and I talked about a serious subject, which was Shirley Sherrod and the NAACP--here’s my blog about it when the story broke and Amy’s blog about her experiences with the NAACP--but we also had a less-than-serious discussion about the debut this week of the trashy show The Real Housewives of D.C.
I like Hank Stuever’s review of the show in the Washington Post: “Every word of the title is wrong, except ‘the’ and ‘of,’” he writes. He’s absolutely right. They’re not real--we all know the whole thing is staged--and they’re not actually from D.C. but mostly from the suburbs outside of town. (I say “mostly” because one is not even from the local suburbs but from London, England.)
As for “housewives” I guess that depends on what you mean by that word. I don’t want to get into a whole “mommy wars” discussion of what being a housewife means these days, but I do consider myself one. (I stay home with my kids and work part-time from my home office.) If you look at the cast members’ biographies on the Bravo website, I think you’d agree that running around with exotically-named boyfriends, organizing polo matches, riding in limos to crash state dinners, and owning “one of the top” modeling agencies in D.C. is not what most housewives here are doing all day. (BTW, there’s a modeling agency in Washington? Who are these women modeling for? C-SPAN? Bad furniture ads on the local news? Fashion shows for government workers?) We’re also not screaming, calling each other names, or throwing drinks on each other.
Michel Martin asked me if I was going to watch the show. God no! I find all of the Real Housewives franchises from around the country to be demeaning to women. Watching these shows makes me feel like an enabler of cat fighting and social climbing. They play into ugly stereotypes, glorify bad manners and appalling behavior, and give real housewives in Washington--most of who are hard-working women who live busy lives while raising their kids and seeking to make their communities a better place--a really bad name. The sooner we’re rid of shows like this the better.
How much coarser does our society have to get before people finally say “enough”?
Corrected on : Corrected on 8/5/10: An earlier version of this blog post incorrectly spelled the name of Michel Martin.