By Anna Murray
Has anyone else found themselves justifying why they watch Love Island? Or even worse, justifying how they can watch a show that pits women (and men) against each other for entertainment?
I’ve always considered myself a feminist. However, over the last few weeks I cannot count the number of times I’ve been greeted with shock-horror after revealing that I do indeed, watch Love Island. This has been by friends and family and basically anyone who doesn’t watch it 'on principal'- many believe the show is more of a 'Shag Island' than Love Island.
I couldn't get my head around why being a feminist meant the decision to watch Love Island had to be constantly justified. I then turned to my good friend Scarlett Curtis (okay we've never actually spoken) and listened to her episode of her podcast, Feminists Don't Wear Pink. This particular episode featured Dani Dyer, last year's winner, and they two girls spoke about all things feminist within the Love Island context, such as girls supporting girls. It struck me that watching a show like Love Island could be a very feminist act indeed…
The fact that the villa is full of strong, feisty- albeit conventionally beautiful- gals, is one reason Love Island appeals to feminist viewership. It also plays host to several caring and chill lads who respect the girls they live with and have emotional and meaningful friendships with each other. However, there are a few more reasons why Love Island is feminist AF if you look a little deeper…
Firstly, the word CHOICE is key. Every person in the villa from Maura with her vibrant personality to Yewande with her reserved demeanour, has autonomy. The people you watch are making choices about their lives in every episode, whether they are men or women.
Many of us cringe at the thought of consenting to being observed by an audience of 3.3 million every night. We are horrified that the producers may select scenes of their choice, condensing 24 hours into one, to paint any Islander in any light they wish (anyone notice how WE don't like Amy but EVERYONE in the villa adores her?) BUT in the same way we strive to accept women who are empowered by showing skin or covering up, we should also respect the choice these women have made to appear on Love Island.
Critique is also key. Doesn’t the ending of each episode herald the buzzing of conversation, after a Love Island gathering or in a WhatsApp group entirely dedicated to the show? We judge the hell out of the behaviour of every contestant. We debated whether Maura was wrong to go in for the gob with Tommy several times when he was clearly resisting. We were split down the middle when Lucie stated she wasn't a girls girl. We discussed Joe’s inability to accept that Lucie preferred Tommy as a friend to the girls in the villa. Was he controlling? A bit. Did the people have their say about him? Yes.
We can also broadly criticise the lack of diversity and body positivity in Love Island. Sparking debate is the only way to improve diversity on a broad level, and feminists who speak up may even encourage the powers that be to up the game on diversity in Love Island, over time.
Feminism is ALL about allowing women (and people in general) to be themselves. It's about calling out hurtful behaviour that stops others from being themselves. Love Island has unknowingly sparked some VERY feminist conversations, even within the most unlikely groups of people, and that is the beauty of it: It is what it is.