Real Housewives: Pro-Patriarchy?
Mill argues that natural differences explain social and political hierarchies, but that these natural inequalities should not justify the subordination of women in society. The Real Housewives shows portray wealthy women as often inferior to their husbands and unable to support themselves. Although some of the women on the show have personal careers, the majority of the women rely on their husbands to provide the money and status to support their extravagant lifestyles.
200 years ago when Mill wrote The Subjection of Women, he encouraged society to shift gender relationships from a patriarchal structure to emancipation for women. Although women have gained the right to vote and other freedoms since Mill wrote this, women still struggle in the private and public spheres of society to gain full equality. The Real Housewives give a glimpse of these inequalities that are present even in luxurious environments.
For the most part, I believe the US workforce functions as a meritocracy- women and men of different backgrounds, ages and races are given equal opportunity to attain any career based on their abilities. However, the women of the Real Housewives show seem to prefer to not work and have their husbands provide their luxurious lifestyle. These women portray an image of extravagance in which their husbands are the sole breadwinners and they reap the benefits of being married to a successful man. There seems to be no incentive for women to provide for themselves or pursue their own interests if they have husbands who financially support them. Personally, I believe this is a damaging idea to portray to millions of women across the country. Although women have gained the right to pursue practically any interest, the women on Real Housewives make it seem more enjoyable to live in a patriarchal society.
Last season, one of the cast members, Tamara, was struggling with her marriage and controlling husband. Although it was evident from the show that the marriage was not going to last, Tamara explicitly admitted that she did not want to get a divorce because she did not know if she could support herself and her children and she enjoyed the lifestyle her husband provided. Although Tamara possessed the legal “right to exit” her marriage, the show portrays her marriage as a “lordship.” Mill, whose own marriage was based on equality, encouraged the idea that marriages be thought of as a partnership rather than the husband dominating. Although these Real Housewives are living in modern surroundings, it is evident that gender inequalities that have existed for centuries are still prevalent in marriages.
Is this show going against everything Mill strived for and the efforts of women over the past two centuries? Yes. Although the show entices audiences with dramatic scenarios and comedic value, it undermines the progress society has made in terms of gender relationships. The Real Housewives display that some women choose to not take advantage of the freedom they legally possess. As society has shifted from a patriarchy to equality, these women are drifting the gender roles of American society back to a place where men dominate and women are dependent. I think it’s safe to say Mill would not support the principle of this show.