• Rebekah Holroyd

This year’s men are 100% not my type on paper

This week’s topic of discussion is Love Island – I know, I know, stay with me – and, more specifically, the men and their behaviour in the villa.

The men looking for love this year are problematic. If I could end it there, I would. But it still appears that #NotAllMen are getting it. From misogyny and gaslighting to plain ignorance and a preference for a ‘petite blond’, these men have really made me question whether anything that’s been said, especially over the past year, is registering.

They don’t want a woman to have an opinion.

They don’t want a woman who is career-driven.

They don’t even want a woman to have arm hair.

I just can’t.

I know it’s an entertainment show, it’s not that deep and it’s there to provide a rest bite from the world. But, when a popular T.V. programme, devoured and discussed by millions, showcases behaviour like this, where comments are off-the-cuff and thrown into everyday conversation, it highlights just how normalised and endemic this antiquated thinking is.

It would be easy to claim that this generation is the most liberal and the most progressive when it comes to gender equality. #MeToo weeded out some of the bad guys and there are more women in the workplace, but the problem is far from fixed. With the viewers at home being a fly on the villa wall for all their conversations, it shows that men are only truly honest about women when there are no women around. Of course, when challenged, they wheel out the good ol’ gaslighting phrases of ‘but it’s not all men’ and ‘I’m one of the nice guys’ to justify their behaviour. Oh dear, your fragile masculinity is showing, guys. P.s. this is your daily reminder that if a man says ‘i'm a nice guy’ he’s probably not.

This isn’t the first time that Love Island has broadcast toxic masculinity and been called out for it. And judging by this series, it would seem nothing much has been learnt to prevent it from being the last. The 2018 run of Love Island led to a national debate about gaslighting and emotional manipulation due to one (male) Islander’s behaviour towards a female contestant. It even prompted the charity, Women’s Aid, to step in with a caution against emotional abuse and the ‘clear warning signs’ this particular man showed. And who could forget the iconic 2019 series where the term ‘childish’ was bandied about at any woman in the show who dared to disagree with one of the boys.

With last year’s show postponed due to the dreaded C word and all heavy petting illegal, Love Island had well over a year to get ready for its much-anticipated return and the casting is one of the least inspiring yet. When the men aren’t spouting misogynistic nonsense, they’re too busy talking about themselves to notice the girl they are trying ‘to graft’ has zoned out and wondering what they should have for lunch. It’s not that hard to ask ‘So, what do you do?’ Yes, that might be the most dreaded question anyone can ever ask you, but at least it’s something. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t tear my eyes away from the screen, but please can we get a do-over and bring in men who reflect modern masculinity and modern Britain? (Hugo, you seem alright so you can stay). The England football team have managed it and I think I would be willing to die for them because they are just so nice so, you know, it’s possible.

With the show painting the picture that the guys are nothing more than pantomime villains, it’s left to the girls to feel like they are over-reacting, questioning what they did wrong and to cry silently when getting cast aside after another blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl walks in. And when one of the women is confident enough to speak up, it’s automatically deemed a ‘red flag’ - ironic considering this Love Island bunch of anti-feminists are fluent in them.

The only silver lining that can possibly emerge from these incidents is that by Love Island showing them on-screen and giving them exposure, women talk, they begin to recognise, and they call it out for what it is. It’s just a shame that time and time again, it’s left to women to navigate this damaging behaviour when we know it’s the men who need to step up and away from this age-old-come-school-playground thinking. God forbid that they lose their ‘nice guy’ image.