OP-ED: Do Reality Shows Normalize Abusive Behavior?



In a climate where we’re trying to empower women and teach the upcoming generation what is and isn’t acceptable, I can’t help but feel allowing men to gain fame and fortune from being habitually abusive to women on national TV may be further normalizing this behavior. The body-shaming, verbal-abusiveness, gaslighting and alleged physical abuse displayed by Jax and cast-mates is something many women are all-too-familiar with.


The sheer outpour of women tweeting about being in Britany’s shoes in past or current relationships was disheartening. Seems it’s “just part of life” and coming of age in the dating world but is that acceptable? I’ve read way too many tweets encouraging Brittany’s decision to stay in the relationship and “don’t listen to the haters” or “stay with him and cash those checks honey!” Many of us are all too familiar with where this cycle of abuse leads.

Brittany is a beautiful young woman with TONS of opportunities and support from viewers, family and friends. If she can’t break out of this toxic cycle then what hope does the viewer with normal job, lack of opportunities and support system find the courage to leave her abusive partner?

I’m certainly guilty of supporting these shows regularly but I can’t help but feel a bit hypocritical. We like to think these shows are made for adults but it’s naive to think many teens don’t watch and subconsciously learn too. Should teens be taking social cues from reality shows? Of course not. But if Jax can become ‘famous’ for lying, cheating, infecting, belittling, manipulating and abusing women in the national spotlight then that behavior must be acceptable no? What about James spitting at Kristen? Tom’s creepy verbal-abuse towards Kristen and now Ariana?

Again, I don’t claim to have the answers to these questions but how can we honestly be confused as to why men continue to think it’s okay to act this way when they see people gaining stardom and riches for the exact behavior we’re trying to end. Maybe I’m over-reacting but I’m left feeling a bit icky after watching this script unfold and realizing there’s a whole chain of people profiting off airing and further normalizing the exact stuff we’ve been fighting so hard against. End rant.



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