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The Joys Of Sexism

Reality TV shows the difference between men and women. And it's a good thing we have TV to tell us just how different we really are

Alex Bell, Daniel Lue, ... | 'SURVIVOR' OF THE SEXES The men can't help the women or themselves as they obsess over the girls constantly
Image credit: Survivor: The Amazon: Monty Brinton
'SURVIVOR' OF THE SEXES The men can't help the women or themselves as they obsess over the girls constantly

Ten years ago, people looking to explore how males and females differed had two options: They could consult ''Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus'' or listen to comedians riff on how men hog the remote while women always ask if their butts are too big. Could it get simpler? Actually, yes. Today's reality TV trend of sex segregation -- like ''Survivor: The Amazon'' or ''Real World/Road Rules Battle of the Sexes'' -- has boiled the genders down to stereotypes so base that ''Porky's'' looks nuanced by comparison.

On ''Survivor,'' the high-fiving men's team obsess over how cute the women are, while said cute women sneer at their own less-hot tribemates. (''We're cuter, we have better bodies, and for some reason that's a huge issue with the older people,'' ponders the pneumatic Heidi.) On ''RW/RR,'' the men avoid team conflict by always voting off their lowest scorer and spending the rest of their time preening shirtless. The women gossip endlessly over whom they hate most, and then toss her off. ''We're not playing it like you guys,'' announced ''inner circle'' voter Emily before sacking her mortal enemy, Veronica. ''We're women, we're not men.''

Lesson learned? Women are catty bitches, and guys are competitive lunkheads. More evidence lies in ''Joe Millionaire'''s and ''The Bachelorette'''s single-sex houses. ''Joe'''s girls told each other, Oh my God, I hope you win -- but rolled eyes and hurled barbs behind each other's backs. Meanwhile, at Chez Bachelorette, the guys got drunk, ate dog food, and peed on their own beds. The battle on these shows was between using a brain for evil and using no brain at all.

Such ''girlie'' and ''manly'' behavior is learned young, according to MTV's ''Fraternity Life'' and ''Sorority Life.'' The brothers berate pledges, demanding yes, sirs and push-ups, while the sisters punish their newbies by making them draw pretty Greek letters. Both genders get off on the power, but while the men have a comically grave devotion to the idea of earned brotherhood, the women thrive more on condemning the pledges they think gave them a dirty look. In another 10 years, we're likely to see a reality show where women get points for making each other cry, while men score by throwing empty kegs at each other. Actually, that series is probably already set to debut this summer on Fox.

Originally posted Apr 11, 2003 Published in issue #704 Apr 11, 2003 Order article reprints