Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Women Held Captive on Turkish "Reality" Show

I know this is a little late, and you've probably heard about it already, but better late than, never, right? Last Monday, nine Turkish women finally left a villa in Istanbul where they had been “filming” what they thought was a reality show, similar to the U.S. show Big Brother. (For those who do not watch a lot of reality TV, the show is just as Orwellian as the name sounds; participants are isolated with only one another as companions and filmed 24/7).

Essentially, the women were held hostage. “Producers” told them that if they wanted to leave the villa and break their contracts they would be fined 50,000 Turkish Lira (equivalent to $33,000 US dollars).

Pictures of the women exercising and posing in bathing suits were posted online through a website that allowed users to vote on their favorite woman and look at pictures of all the women, for a fee. The “producers” claim the women were not forcibly held. Subsequently, eight out of the nine women formally complained they were held against their will.


I’ve delayed in posting because I struggled with how to form my opinion about this matter. Clearly these women were held against their will, which is unacceptable. But what I grappled with is, why they would sign up to begin with. The mother of one of the women, who declined to be named, is quoted as saying: “ We were not after the money, but we thought our daughter could have the chance of becoming famous if she took part in the contest.” Why does everyone have to be famous? This incident is the perfect example of a larger cultural issue: reality TV and women. A lot has been said about the way women are portrayed in the media (think Hillary’s “cleavage” incident), and the stereotypes we have to wrestle with.

I’ll admit I used to watch the occasional episode of The Hills, but then it really started to bother me. The women/girls were constantly portrayed as back stabbing, selfish, whiny, and promiscuous. Then I began to notice a trend – think about the show Real World- the cast always includes a 'skanky girl,' an 'airhead,' a 'b****,' etc. Like Miranda complains in the Sex In The City movie, “There are only two choices for women- witch or sexy kitten.” Reality shows, at least in my opinion, really seem to perpetuate negative stereotypes of women; it always comes down to either the witch or the kitten. (Ex. Jon & Kate Plus 8, Laguna Beach etc).

In reality, women can be both strong and sexy; the “witch,” the “kitten,” neither, or both. We should be allowed to love our bodies AND flaunt them!

What are your thoughts?

Photocredit: flickr.com/angelravelor

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