Why Watching Love Island Doesn't Make You A Bad Feminist
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Featured Image Credit: ITV
When Love Island made its explosive return to television last month, many people were more than ready to dive head-first into the drama.
The popular series, which dominates the summer TV schedules annually, sees a group of ridiculously attractive islanders put into 'couples' and face a series of intense trials and tests in their relationship in the form of decoys, aka bombshells.
However, for some women, getting strapped into their Love Island bondage meant having to do one thing – leaving their feminism at the door.
It’s true that Love Island isn’t exactly what Germaine Greer had in mind when she was penning The Female Eunuch. Parts of it are gaudy and gratuitous, with plenty of slow-mo shots of the girls dancing seductively while wearing bikinis and taking part of challenges which are, frankly, a bit demeaning.
But to equate ‘enjoying Love Island’ to ‘being a lousy feminist’ is just reductive and wrong, according to feminist speaker and host of So This Is Adulting podcast Rebecca Adams.
“I think it’s crazy that some people feel the need to ‘park’ their feminism when watching Love Island,” she tells Tyla. “I don’t understand why they’re parking it and why people are shutting their mouths.
“What’s great about the show is that it encourages us to speak out. Feminism is about having the choice to speak out and be heard on topics you care about, and I don’t see why this shouldn’t be applied to Love Island.”
Australian native Rebecca wasn’t always a fan of the series, refusing to tune in until 2019 as she felt the programme set a “terrible” example for young girls.
However, when she was made to watch the show with her housemate in 2019, she realised there was far more to Love Island than what the Islanders looked like.
“Not only were all the Islanders in season five entertaining, they had serious morals too,” Rebecca explains. “The girls in that year in particular had such a good attitude. There were so many powerful women in there, from Amber and Anna to Maura. They weren’t afraid to use their voice and stand up for themselves, and I felt that was really vital for young girls to see.”
With Love Island being aimed at teens and young adults, Rebecca stresses that Love Island is a vital depiction of the dating landscape, albeit a heightened and exaggerated one.
“I actually think Love Island sets a good example of showing what behaviour is acceptable when you’re dating someone,” Rebecca says. “I remember in 2019, we saw Maura ditch her partner after he said he wanted to see if she was ‘all mouth’ when it came to her sexuality.
“Maura was like, ‘Screw that!’ and I was left just thinking, ‘Damn, that’s such a good example for young girls to see that and not feel pressured into sex, and to see it’s okay to take a stand. ‘It could help a girl in a similar situation and allow her to think, why am I being treated like that?”
While the behaviour of the boys in the 2021 season has left a lot to be desired, Rebecca cites Ovie from 2019 as a good example of showing boys appropriate behaviour in dating.
“When he pulled India out of that argument between Jordan and Anna, he showed he was a true man,” she says. “While there are men on the show that need to change their behaviour, there are the men like Ovie who show them up for what they are, and viewers can recognise that.”
Rebecca adds that Love Island showing examples of gaslighting, manipulative behaviour and examples of disrespect become national talking points, with its huge audience seeing situations properly examined and highlighted. For example, Hugo’s use of the word ‘fake’ to describe girls with cosmetic surgery prompted masses of discussion online, while the Toby, Chloe, Hugo and Abigail love triangle has also caused a stir about acceptable behaviour when it comes to dating friends.
“While Love Island throws light on these topics, it’s important to remember these issues have been known about for such a long time,” she says. “Why has it taken these issues to be on Love Island to receive such attention?
"I’m thankful though, that the show has made people talk about these issues that affect women, and I’m glad the producers have kept these moments in the show when they air. It’s good for us to see situations that aren’t acceptable, and for people to speak out about it. That’s what's feminism.”
Love Island is by no means perfect, Rebecca says, as she adds the show needs to have more body diversity and be even more careful when it comes to the mental welfare of their Islanders (although ITV have since spoken out about how stringent their new mental health regime is for anyone who takes part in the show).
However, she urges those who identify as feminists to not shut their beliefs out when watching the show – instead, calling upon people to use what they believe is right to call out perceived bad behaviour.
“The word ‘feminism’ has had such a bad rap,” she says. “Some people are afraid to speak out in case considered this big, mean, po-faced feminist lady.
“But you won’t be seen like that, you’re just speaking up on what you think is right. And I encourage everyone to do that for anything they’re witnesses to, be it Love Island or something more serious.
“If you have an opinion, just say it.”
Love Island continues weekdays and Sundays at 9pm on ITV2.