Bravo's latest reality series, Pregnant in Heels, follows clothing designer and "Pregnancy Concierge" (which basically means just what you think it means: doing stuff for pregnant people) Rosie Pope as she deals with clients whom she's dubbed "million dollar moms." Only one episode of the show has aired so far, but it's already being billed as showcasing the "bitchiest" women ever while they're at their hormone-fueled worst. Call me a bleeding-heart, reality-television-loving apologist if you must, but after watching the pilot episode I think some of that snark is missing the point.
I'd be lying if I said that when I heard about a reality TV casting call asking "Do you bend gender roles? Do you go against the norm?" I truly believed a show was going to focus on folks who reject prescribed ideas of gender and sexuality. But just in case there was a show that wanted to feature, to make visible, people who go against the grain when it comes to gender and sexuality (dare I say...gender outlaws?), I investigated.
I've watched America's Next Top Model intermittently over the years. I can't really say why. I was never that interested in fashion magazines, which seemed to me to depict another planet altogether, accessible only to the very rich. I have, furthermore, never much understood the fascination with models. Understand that when I say that I am not trying to make any claims about the difficulty of the work they do - I don't "hate models" or anything so broad as that. It's just that they don't seem to hold for me the kind of visceral fascination they do for other people.
I admit I do have one philosophical objection to modeling. I simply do not know how we are going to build a world where everyone is valued if we keep insisting that no, really, some people are more valuable than others. Particularly if we do so on bases over which they have little individual control - such as being socially "attractive," meeting the critical mass of "pretty" that will get you on magazine covers and sigh-ingly acknowledged, by almost everyone, as "gorgeous." I don't see how that strain of the cultural conversation benefits anyone in the slightest.