Misogyny on the longtime CBS reality competition “Big Brother” isn’t really anything new. For starters, the show doesn’t exactly attract the most reputable contestants. Second, if you stick 16 people in a house and cut them off from the outside world as they scheme and vote each other out one by one so the last person standing wins $500,000, gendered cliques are naturally going to form — and the all-bro alliance is a time-honored tradition.
That said, this season has taken sexism to new heights (or more precisely, depths), thanks to: 1. Some clueless players; 2. Men who take revenge on women who reject advances or offer a differing opinion; and 3. One kind of scary stalking situation.
This season, there’s a new twist in the game, which started with eight female players and eight males. Each week, instead of one “head of household” in charge of nominating two players for eviction, there are two heads of household, with four players going up on the chopping block. The houseguests then vote at the end of the week to decide who will go home.
Most of the players nominated for eviction this season have been women. As of Thursday night, a fourth woman, Amber, was eliminated from the game (out of five people kicked out of the house so far).
It all started almost immediately this season, when six men formed an alliance, and two of them — Caleb and Frankie — won a competition and became the first people in charge of the game.
Soon, it was a bad sign of things to come for the ladies when Joey, a woman who’s a punk-ish makeup artist from Seattle, sensed that the guys were forming a bond and eagerly approached the other women to float the idea of all-girl alliance. She made some excellent points: The men were clearly already working together. There’s power in numbers. It would be the easiest way to avoid elimination.
The result? She was met with awkward silence and confused looks. Partly because two women were secretly working with the guys, and also because an all-girl power alliance has simply not existed in the game before. Joey didn’t know that, and therefore got burned.
“I don’t know how women are supposed to get anywhere in this game unless we stick together,” Joey said sadly during an on-camera interview after the women refused to band together. “It was just an epic fail.”
Well, Joey was correct, and it’s all been downhill for the women from there. As for Joey, once the guys caught wind of her maneuver, they weren’t pleased — and mansplained to her that thanks to her attempted game move, she was going to be their target for the week. Never mind the hypocrisy that they formed an alliance with six men: There’s no tolerating an all-women alliance, little lady.
“Listen, Joey, if you try to start an all-girl alliance in my house, you will be here no more, darlin’,” Caleb, a heavily tattooed hunter, said gleefully.
Unfortunately, the idea of an all-girl alliance is probably looking pretty good to the women now: Joey was obviously booted that week, followed by Paola, the deejay who annoyed everyone and was considered the weakest player. The next week, the guys turned on one of their own and helped evict Devin, who was too unpredictable to be trusted (and who steamrolled over every woman who tried to offer an opinion). Since then, the evictees have been Brittany — a single mom who was relentlessly targeted, likely for her refusal to flirt with any of the guys running the house — and now, Amber.
Brittany and Amber’s downfall illustrates another unsettling problem of this season: If a woman doesn’t return a guy’s affections, she’s out. That’s been scarily evident with Amber, who was welcomed into the guys’ alliance when Caleb had a huge crush on her. Through the weeks, however, it became obvious that Amber was creeped out and did not feel the same way. Caleb did everything he could to woo her, from following her around the house to harassing her to go on a “date” with him if he ate a pickle (his least favorite food).
After he ate the pickle and she was peer-pressured into the date (a.k.a., an awkward conversation in the back yard of the house), she avoided Caleb like the plague. Instead of the guys trying to reel in Caleb and explain that he was being a creep, they decided that Amber was the problem — not only because she was a strong player, but also she was a too much of a “distraction” for their boy.
It all culminated this week in a secret plan to kick Amber out of the house, even though she is technically part of their alliance. There were lines such as, “Oh, Amber, don’t worry your pretty little head” about who is going home this week (because unbeknownst to her, she was the target). And Caleb, still furious that she refused to date him after all his efforts — he once sacrificed his own safety to save her from elimination — decided that it was time for her to go.
“I think it’s time to give the ole girl a scare and get her back in line,” he announced on Wednesday’s episode.
As if that condescension wasn’t bad enough, the episode ended as Zach, an increasingly erratic player, stood up after Amber was put on the block for eviction. Just for fun, he gave a charming speech that explained she would be going home this week since she rejected Caleb and his attempts to help her in the game.
“He risked $500,000 for you,” Zach sneered. “More than all your boyfriends have spent on you combined.”
While Amber just watched him with an amused expression on her face, Zach detailed all the other ways she sealed her fate: Essentially, by not hooking up with Caleb.
“Do you have anything to say for yourself? No,” he said. “That’s funny, because that’s exactly what you’ve been saying to him this entire summer.”
That’s right — Amber’s refusal to date a guy she despised (and who had pretty much been stalking her) spelled doom. “That’s what happens when you bite the hand that feeds you,” Caleb mumbled on the live broadcast Thursday night when Amber was eliminated.
After she left the house, Amber told host “Big Brother” host Julie Chen that Caleb essentially ruined her game by fixating on her throughout the season. “Sorry, I was not interested in him,” Amber said. “And I’m not going to pretend to be to win some money.” The studio audience applauded wildly.
Eventually, it’s going to be a numbers game, and the guys will turn on each other. In the meantime, even though it’s “Big Brother” — the least classy of all network reality shows — such blatant sexism is still appalling.
(This post was updated to reflect the results of Thursday night’s eviction episode.)