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Love Island – A bit of fun or a feminism failure?

love island credits

By Lauren Edwards

This year I decided to jump on the Love Island bandwagon. I have always previously turned my nose up at it. Thinking it couldn’t be something I would enjoy or could identify with as the premise is a bunch of scantily clad 20-somethings vying for their 15 minutes of fame in exchange for a possible heartbreak and a side order of on-screen humiliation.

However, this year I was persuaded to give it a go by my fellow armchair critic, my 14-year-old daughter. We cringed through the first episode as each girl sashayed into the house in teeny tiny swimwear and four-inch heels, whooping as they met each other. Followed closely behind by six muscle pumped men glistening from a vat of pre-applied baby oil. The public having phoned ahead and chosen who should be coupled together, they quickly assembled into their pairings. Couplings who will later share a bed, despite probably not fully knowing each other’s names yet.

Every evening, the British public is treated to an hour’s footage of what is effectively Big Brother in bikinis. The girls spend hours looking perfect to sit poolside and then each evening they get glammed up to sit poolside again but this time in full make-up, lashes, body-con dresses, and skyscraper heels. The girls are never without make-up or coiffured hair and the boys are constantly flexing their muscles in the outdoor gym or putting on their best shirt and appear to have spray painted their jeans on for the evening meet-up in the kitchen.

The main objective of the contestants is to ‘find love’ and to ‘make connections’ and there is an unhealthy obsession over this. There is a huge amount of double standards as the boys openly move their way around the girls but accuse the girls of being players if they so much as smile at another boy. They are obviously bored with nothing to do, no music, no books, no TV and a daily 2 glasses of prosecco limit. They openly listen to each other’s conversations and the whole atmosphere is constantly judgy. The highlight of every day is when they hear someone shout ‘I got a text!’ from one of their allocated and monitored mobile phones, delivering their next instruction.

Halfway through their eight weeks stay at the villa, after numerous recoupling’s, bed hopping and insincere declarations of love, the girls are whisked away to ‘Casa Amore’ where they are thrown together with 6 new boys whilst 6 new girls take their place at the main villa. A planned exercise in seeing how committed each couple are. As the boys seem to embody a modern-day version of The Lord of the Flies running around the garden with joy and whooping at the thought of fresh meat, the girls are excitable but coyer as they feast their eyes on their possible new beaus.

Three of the boys have locked lips with three of the new girls before the first night is over, justifying their actions as the only way to really know if they really like their recently departed ‘love interest’ is to stick their tongue down the throat of a complete stranger! After a week apart, they are reunited and must decide whether to stick with their old partner or choose someone new.

It is a strangely addictive show but there is so much wrong with Love Island. The cringey derogative games comprise of them being tasked to lap dance one another or play truth or dare on demand. The ‘reward’ of being chosen for the Hideaway by your fellow contestants, is a room with a bed adorned in silk sheets complete with props which looks so seedy it would be over the top in a back street Soho peep show. Or the challenges where they briefly get to escape the villa involve them always running towards a platform area in a Pamela Anderson slo-mo to carry out a task such as stripping or doing a sexy dance for no real prize.

However, by far the most shocking thing about this programme is the casually accepted misogyny and the shaming of the girls by some of the other boys. Ofcom has received over 3,000 complaints about the triggering scenes where one girl felt bullied and victimised as a group of boys openly laughed at her and accused her of lying about her feelings for one of the boys. The ITV show has been accused of emotional abuse by the charity Women’s Aid after it appeared that a contestant was asked to volunteer his departure following his volatile behaviour towards his partner and another boy who was interested in her.

I started off watching Love Island as a bit of guilty pleasure for me and my daughter to enjoy. Instead, it has become a daily opportunity for me to point out how not to be treated by a boy. It worries me that every girl in the villa is so beautiful with a perfect body and that the muscle-bound boys don’t really represent normal women or men. That both the boys and girls have such high standards of their partner and that every conversation revolves around asking each other what their best features are.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if one evening the girls just put on their joggers, scraped their hair back and took their make-up off and said to the boys, ‘I can’t be bothered to get dressed up tonight, might just take my bra off and have some cheese on toast.’

Or perhaps ITV could do an over 40s version, where they do a bit of gardening and talk about good places to go on holiday. Obviously, you would have to increase the daily alcohol allowance and buy some nice wine and you could replace the lap dancing with some excellent shoeless Dad dancing to power ballads in the kitchen.

Love Island terminology translated:

1,000 percent – like 100 percent but when they really like something, and Maths isn’t important.

Grafting – basically you’re having a conversation with a member of the opposite sex, but you feel like you’re making all the effort

Getting pied – being dumped or rejected by someone, so you feel like you’ve had a custard pie shoved in your face. Which also happened in the show in the imaginatively named game ‘snog, marry or pie.’

Opening the salon – when things get heated between the sheets. Other terminology is ‘getting a manicure’ or ‘giving a blow dry.’ I’ll let you use your imagination….

Good chat – also known as ‘banter.’ Basically, it means you can hold someone’s attention for at least 5 minutes.

Ticked a lot of boxes – each contestant has an extensive list of things they look for in the opposite sex. It also appears to be a list that you could use to buy a horse – has good teeth, good eye contact, strong muscles, glossy mane.

I’m not gonna lie – A sentence a lot of them use just before they lie about something.

The upside-down bikini top – it took me and my daughter about 4 episodes before we realised, they wear their bikinis upside down. Still not sure why?!

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