Pulling The Weave Over My Eyes: Reality Show Portrayals Of Women

Pulling The Weave Over My Eyes: Reality Show Portrayals Of Women

March 25, 2014 |  by  |  Arts & Culture

OMG, did you see that catfight? Her weave was yanked right out. Which show? Um, actually, pretty much any reality show starring women.

There was a time when I turned my nose up at reality shows. Nowadays, I have trouble looking myself in the eye in my bathroom mirror—partly because I’m ashamed, but more often because my eyes are bleary from watching marathons of junk reality TV on Bravo, the network famous for introducing us to The Real Housewives franchise. Andy Cohen has created a formula for success: Find rich women in a big city who like to be in front of a camera. Throw money at them. Let the petty fighting begin. A few song recordings, book deals, and other product placements later: Success!

Reality shows seem to get high ratings because they are full of drama, and much of it revolves around women fighting. Theresa Giudice of The Real Housewives of New Jersey is now famous for her legal troubles, but before that she was known for her Olympic-level table-tipping skills. More than one woman on The Real Housewives of Atlanta has had her weave pulled during a fight with a fellow castmate. Even the uppity women of the The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills have their rows, though they usually stick to catty comments and icing out another lady by getting the other women to give her the cold shoulder.

However, girl fights are not exclusive to The Real Housewives shows. I’ll hang my head even lower when I admit that I’ve been watching Dance Moms on Lifetime. I was never a dancer—unless you count the class I attended when I was four years old during which my social anxiety had me pinned against the door instead of playing “Farmer in the Dell”—and I’m not a mother, but for some reason I enjoy this show. Mothers of young dancers complain weekly and throw snide remarks at one another about whose daughter receives more attention from Abby Lee Miller, the owner and head instructor at the Abby Lee Dance Company in Pittsburgh. There are often heated encounters. One took place in New Orleans, where two of the moms fought in the middle of the street, pouring drinks on and then pushing and shoving one another.

What causes adult women to engage in such unattractive behavior? It can be any number of reasons: Someone texted another woman’s husband; someone spread rumors of infidelity; someone has been talking smack about your man.  But my hunch is that these women are just trying to seem more interesting and relevant so they can get camera time and a big paycheck. Is this portrayal of women—shouting, name-calling, pouring drinks in faces, and pulling hair—a healthy one? Does it matter if it’s not? After all, it’s just entertainment, right?

As I’ve told my boyfriend during more than one argument, I don’t have a Ph.D. in psychology, but I am intelligent and have common sense and intuition. These shows are not “real”, first of all. And most of us are not watching to be inspired, although that could happen accidentally, as many of the women featured have achieved a high level of success through their achievements in business, entertainment, fashion, or modeling.

Curious about how other people see these reality-show trends, I did an unofficial online survey about the portrayal of women on reality TV and women’s thoughts about other women. The following is what I found:

In response to the question, “When you think of women getting together for a night out, your first thought is…”, nearly 86% chose the answer: “Wine flowing (or some other beverage) and lots of laughs.”  Only 15% selected:  “A whole lot of drama.”

Without cameras rolling and producers making “suggestions,” most real women act in a civil manner and have fun together. And unlike the ladies on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, where sides are taken between “Team Kyle” and “Team Carlton”, real women prefer to be diplomatic.

In response to the question, “When two of my female friends are upset with one another, I…”, about 71% selected the response, “Offer to listen to both of them but do not take sides or tell one what has been said by the other friend.” The remainder was equally split between “Usually can’t help but take a side and try to intervene to get them talking again” and “Suddenly disappear for about two weeks until it blows over.”

Also, a majority of women surveyed agreed that women are not portrayed accurately on reality shows, that most of the dramatic behavior is for the cameras, and that young women are heavily influenced by what they see on TV.

Finally, when asked what reality show they would create in an attempt to counter negative portrayals of women on TV, here are some ideas proposed by the women surveyed:

  • Heroes and Heroines, a show about how real women and men live through life’s everyday, profound moments.
  • Independence, a show about young women and girls of different socioeconomic levels taking the lead at Girl Scout camp.
  • Strong, a show about the survival and success of women in the workforce, family, and military focusing on how hardworking, strong women break through the glass ceiling every day.

With Bravo and other cable networks churning out more reality shows, I don’t see an end in sight, which means more opportunities to witness drinks being thrown and weaves being pulled. We can choose to watch or not and, if we do watch, we can feel okay knowing that as grown women we choose our own behavior and decide who inspires us. If only someone would create a reality show that portrayed truly inspiring, real women.

Follow Jeannine on Twitter @laughinglu and check out: LaughToLive.net, NotPrinceCharming.com, and He’s Not Prince Charming When… on Facebook.


  1. Thanks for the comment Aisha. And thank you for reading. As long as we real women show our strength in how we live, we’re making an impact. Hopefully more of it makes it to the big and little screen soon!!

  2. I love the proposed reality tv show suggestions… Too bad show’s like LaLa’s and the Mowry twins seem to fill that very slim medium. Kudos to them for offering germane reality, and thanks for this article Jeannine.

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