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ABC swaps stereotypes (and, er, wives…)

varreolas Icon Posted by Veronica Arreola

January 3rd, 2008

The season premiere of “Wife Swap,” that high brow reality TV show on ABC, returned tonight with a vengeance.

Who are the lucky stereotypes? Feminism and beauty pageant contestants. But no, Mrs. South Carolina and Ms. Women’s Studies are not set for a show-down of mass proportions. Rather a strong feminist mom is taking over the household that appears to be ruled by a teen-aged beauty pageant queen;

To take the stereotype to new heights (ABC must have let loose a load when they read her application) – the feminist mom is also a home schooler. Yes! Jackpot! Not only does the woman scoff at gendered society roles, but she has also lost all faith in public education that she has “opt-ed out” and stays home to teach the kids about evolution and sex ed.;

I’ve never watched an entire episode of this disgusting show. Pitting two extremes against each other is
just sickening. It perpetuates the culture war AND the Mommy War that most of us are trying to escape. But let’s look at the stereotypes that “Wife Swap” will be entertaining America with in the premiere episode:

  • Feminism: This woman is large and in charge. The description on the video leaves no doubt that the woman has an opinion and is there to force it down her new family’s throat.
  • Homeschooling: I assume that the pageant mom has to figure out how to home school the feminist mom’s kid. Considering that pageant mom is doing beauty queen’s homework, this shouldn’t be too hard. That is unless pageant family is a Creationist family and the lesson at hand is a paper mache Galapogos Island display. As Buffy famously said, “Homeschooling… It’s not just for scary religious folks anymore!” It’s not Buffy, it’s also for scary feminists!
  • Beauty Pageant Family: I lost one hour of my life to VH1’s “Kiddie Pageant” show about a year ago. I think I also lost part of my soul and a few brain cells. I can’t ever think of spray on tans with the same chuckle I had after the Ross “Friends” episode. Nor can I imagine pre-teens praying for boobs the same way. *shudder*
  • Dumb Blondes: Yup, beauty queen is a blond. Who doesn’t do her homework. Can it get any worse for our fair-haired friends?
  • Emasculated husbands: The one theme that does seem to go into each and every episode, from what I can tell from the sidelines the premise of the show, is that the husbands involved have no say in child-rearing, household chores, or anything other than being an Al Bundy. Of course, Mr. Women’s Studies will try to help with the children, smile while he folds the socks, and somehow show the country that being in an egalitarian marriage = no penis.

And folks, this is what I get from a 60 second preview where all we get to see is Feminist Mom rip up a Photoshopped head shot of Beauty Queen. I cannot imagine what is in store for the actual episode.

And I’ll never know… at least not from me watching it on TV. I’m not even sure I’ll watch it off the ABC site either. I admit that any additional knowledge will come from other, braver, bloggers who will sit and watch. One of whom, I’m sure will be my Brooklyn buddy, Jennifer Pozner, Executive Director of Women In Media & News, who is the expert on reality TV. But that’s her job. The question is did you watch? And if so, what did you think? Share your comments below.

Veronica I. Arreola would much rather curl up on the couch with a good book while her daughter watches “The Empire Strikes Back” with her daddy - which is exactly what they did tonight. This was cross-posted from Chicago Moms Blog. Veronica is a board member of Women In Media & News, which hosts WIMN’s Voices, and she also blogs at Viva La Feminista and Chicago Parent.com.

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