Let’s take it back to the beginning of Gabby and Rachel’s season. As the weeks went by and the drama unfolded, it was clear that the women were in this alone, trying to navigate new relationships, inevitable comparisons and unforeseen rejections, all while also having to share the spotlight and compete for love from start to finish (something no other male lead has had to do). Rachel’s tear-filled revelation in the season trailer summed it up, “It seems cruel for both of us to be put in this place together,” she says. As the drama continues, Gabby goes on to question how she wound up here in the first place: “Why did they pick me to do this?”
For me, it went a step further: Why is it always the women who are forced to compromise on this show? Why hasn’t a Bachelor ever been asked to co-lead?
The answer came almost as instantly as the question: ego, pride and straight-up sexism. Two men sharing 30 plus women while they bare their souls on national TV? That goes against every gendered notion society has brainwashed us to believe. Not only should men not have to share, but—as the skeptics would say—come on, are they really even capable? That engrained doubt speaks volumes and is a product of the biased expectations women are thrust into the minute they’re born. Good girls share. They’re polite and considerate and don’t ask for more than they’re given. But men? We're supposed to believe they are incapable of sharing, especially when it comes to matters of the heart.
Nineteen years ago, when the producers first flipped the script and introduced The Bachelorette, it was groundbreaking (…for reality TV). But as the franchise continues, it’s clear the double standard is by no means dead.
I'll concede one thing: The franchise did tease us briefly with two men on The Bachelor back in 2004. In a season hardly anyone remembers, Byron Velvick and Jay Overybye spent a single night as "The Bachelors" until the women turned the tables and voted Jay out. The same song and dance came back around in 2015 during season 11 of The Bachelorette with Kaitlyn Bristowe and Britt Nilsson. What differs between then and now besides a Chris Harrison-sized hole? Gabby and Rachel had to endure the will-they-won't-they-like-me anxiety All. Season. Long (complete with calculated players and mid-ceremony rose rejections).