WOMEN
05/31/2016 06:11 pm ET

Want To See What Toxic Masculinity Looks Like? Watch 'The Bachelorette.'

Hot garbage, thy name is Chad. 😑
Portrait of a man who loves protein powder, hates "naggy" women.
ABC
Portrait of a man who loves protein powder, hates "naggy" women.

On last night's episode of "The Bachelorette," viewers witnessed the birth of an alpha-male-reality-TV villain in the form of self-described "man" (subtext: real manly man) Chad. 

Chad is buff. He has a suitcase full of protein powder. He eats a lot of meat. He constantly does pull-ups. He hates men who have feelings and thinks women who ask men to share their feelings are "naggy." He knows beautiful women, er, "girls," just want "a man," and he seems to believe he is uniquely qualified to fulfill that role. Essentially, Chad is a caricature right out of the He-Man Woman Hater's Club or an MRA sub-reddit -- toxic masculinity, personified. 

When we talk about toxic masculinity, we're referring to the worst parts of our society's prevailing definition of what makes a man a man. Physical prowess, financial success and acquiring (yes, acquiring, because women are ultimately seen as objects) a conventionally hot girlfriend are rewarded. Emotional intelligence is not. That's how we end up with men like Chad, who enter a social situation and immediately comment on their own "rugged" manliness, while looking down on men who deign to talk about their feelings.

"I'm afraid, I have feelings," Chad says to the camera, mocking his male peers during "The Bachelorette" premiere. "Shut up."

During last night's episode, Chad continued to make it clear how much he dislikes the men around him, who don't live up to his standards of masculinity or who receive things he believes he deserves. Former marine Alex is short, therefore the only reason bachelorette Jojo Fletcher is keeping him around is so that America won't think she hates short guys. The men who get a date when he doesn't are "the B Team." When the other dudes have a cheeky singalong about Jojo to pass the time in the mansion -- reminder: they have literally nothing to do but sit around, eat, drink, and talk -- Chad looks on, disgusted.

"I think Jojo wants a man," he later says. "I cannot see Jojo falling in love with a childish boy, like some of these guys."

Toxic masculinity is also built on the assumption that "honesty" means saying any thought that jumps into your mind, without considering whether that thought could be damaging or disrespectful. We watch Chad consistently spew verbal garbage without regard for the fallout. This plays out both in his interactions with the other men (see above) and in the way he "courts"Jojo. (Spoiler alert: Both involve healthy doses of open disdain.) 

First Chad rails against "nice guys" while claiming that he is, in fact, the real nice guy.

Then, he goes full-on pickup artist during the second group date of the week, employing a technique called "negging," in which a man uses backhanded compliments or outright insults to assert his own confidence and manipulate a woman's affections.  

During a faux proposal -- the sort of cheesy "Bachelorette" activity for which the show is famous -- Chad is obviously unenthused. After he fails to have any fun with the exercise, simply dropping to one knee and muttering "will you marry me?," Jojo pushes him to talk about what he loves about her. 

"You need me to tell you all the things I love about you?," Chad says. "You're startin' off a little 'naggy' here."

Later, he doubles down, arguing that he's just being "honest." And astoundingly, it works! Jojo eventually acquiesces, agreeing that Chad's rudeness is simply an indication of how "real" and "mysterious" he is. (On a side note, the way Jojo talks about Chad's appeal is disturbingly similar to the way Americans talk about Donald Trump's appeal, something that did not go unnoticed by Bachelor Nation.)

"The Bachelorette" is supposed to flip the script on the traditional gender norms that govern "The Bachelor," giving a woman the chance to be in the driver's seat controlling the fate of her romantic relationships while the men around her profess their love. But unlike the women on "The Bachelor," who generally only push back on the premise of the show when the lead is being a colossal asshole (see: Juan Pablo's entire season), the men on "The Bachelorette" often feel righteously entitled to the lead's affections on their terms. They may be there to win the bachelorette's heart; but if they don't, it must be because she failed to understand what she truly needs.

"I am ready to take care of Jojo in the way that she needs to be taken care of," Chad told fellow dude-bro Daniel during last night's episode. And more than once during Kaitlyn Bristowe's season of "The Bachelorette," we saw men blow up when they didn't receive the affirmation they believed they deserved.

Of course, the franchise's messy gender politics mean that viewers get mixed messages about the value of traditional masculinity. When a man goes far in the season, like Josh Murray, who became Andi Dorfman's fiancee, characteristics that might be toxic are played off as hunky and appealing. (Andi has since publicly said Josh was emotionally and verbally abusive throughout their relationship.) When a man is destined to become the villain, like Chad, we see those same tendencies for the burning hot garbage they really are.

Chad's hyper-masculinity does not exist in a vacuum. He is an exaggerated product of the subtle messages boys and men in this country receive on a daily basis. Feelings are bad. Muscles are good. Being too nice is bad. Telling it like it is is good. Affection is bad. Blind rage and physical violence are good. And it looks like we'll be getting both in spades during next week's two-night "Bachelorette" Chad extravaganza

Remember, dudes: the patriarchy is quite literally bad for your health. So maybe it's time for Chad -- and other bros like him -- to redefine what it means to be a man.

For more on Chad and the second episode of "The Bachelorette," listen to HuffPost's "Here To Make Friends" podcast:

Do people love "The Bachelor," "The Bachelorette" and "Bachelor in Paradise," or do they love to hate these shows? It's unclear. But here at "Here To Make Friends," we both love and love to hate them -- and we love to snarkily dissect each episode in vivid detail. Podcast edited by Nick Offenberg.

 

HuffPost

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