For the last few summers, one programme has dominated TV screens and conversations alike: Love Island. For the uninitiated, Love Island is a reality TV show in which a group of extremely attractive singletons are thrown into a villa in Spain in a mission to find love (and the chance of winning £50,000). It’s essentially seven weeks’ worth of bed-hopping, romantic rivalry and saucy exchanges, as well as unparalleled use of the phrases “pied off”, “grafting” and, for this year only, “I used to be in Blazin’ Squad”. Love it or hate it, there’s no escaping the show over the summer, and it’s often the centre of both media and public attention. This of course means everyone has an opinion on the show, the contestants and the content. Past series have seen controversies such as the inclusion of sex on television and the slut-shaming of 2016 contestant Zara Holland, who lost her Miss Great Britain crown after having sex on the show.
This year’s series has been no different, but a new topic has been brought to the centre of Love Island: feminism.
To give you some context, one of this year’s contestants is Camilla Thurlow, who works in explosive ordnance disposal, and has marked a different kind of contestant to the show. Although originally branded ‘dull’ for her quiet nature, Camilla has quickly become a fan favourite due to her classy nature, determination to take it slow with any boy she likes (as opposed to two couples who had sex on the show in the first fortnight) and reserved and kind nature. In fact, we all became so fond of Camilla, that when she seemed to find a spark with Jonny, one of this year’s male contestants, we could hardly wait for them to fall in love and win the entire show. Unfortunately, true love wasn’t to be, thanks to a disagreement on the subject of feminism. In a conversation, Camilla revealed herself to be a feminist who believed women should be equal, while Jonny revealed himself to be oblivious with his assertion that women are already equal.
“For many, feminism is still dismissed as women kicking up a fuss over nothing”.
Of course, this could be a debate all in itself, but after an awkward conversation, the pair quickly accepted their differences and moved on. But the feminism controversy has reared its head elsewhere: not in the statement of Jonny, but in the reaction viewers have had towards Camilla since her feminist declaration.
Realistically, it’s 100% up to Camilla as to whether she could date an anti-feminist or not. I’m sure there are couples out there who sit on complete opposite ends of the gender equality spectrum, but still make it work; equally, I know women who could not commit to anybody that ignored the need for the feminist cause. None of that is really our business at the end of the day. What is our business is the way Camilla has been described since making her own personal choice to break-up with Jonny for their incompatibility. While many have praised her as a feminist icon and a welcome breath of air in the villa, many more have criticised her for overreacting, showing that, for many, feminism is still dismissed as women kicking up a fuss over nothing. And worse than that, many viewers (a lot of them fellow women) have also questioned how Camilla can call herself a feminist while taking part in a TV show which relies on women in bikinis, snogging strangers and playing twerking challenges. On a personal level, people have even questioned how she can be a feminist when her boobs are fake (I have no idea if that’s true, nor do I care). And it’s this that I really have a problem.
The ultimate issue in society is that people still don’t understand what feminism is. Even when we say we’re all for equality, slut-shaming of women still exists, and people are far too quick to call out the “THAT’S NOT FEMINISM” label at anyone who does something they deem incorrect. The truth is that feminism isn’t about being one certain way. Nowhere in the feminist bible does it say “Thou shalt not twerk”. Here’s a list of things you can still do while being a feminist: wear a bikini, go on Love Island, get a boob job, kiss six boys in a line one after the other, pop balloons by twerking on them, give someone a lap dance, have sex on TV, have a one-night stand, sleep with multiple boys in one night. Yep, really. Because there are no rules to feminism, and it’s wrong of anybody to suggest doing any of the above somehow places you in feminist purgatory. Feminism is about being liberated enough to do what you want without feeling restricted by gender ideals: and by saying Camilla (or any of the Love Island girls) can’t snog a stranger because it’s too ‘slutty to be feminist’, you’re actually the one going against the feminism code. It only becomes a problem if you start doing these things for the male gaze, or because man-made society makes you feel like you have to, and, judging by Camilla’s free will and ability to stand up to the boys, I would say she’s very much doing it for herself.
“There’s no set way to be a feminist, except being willing to endorse women in a world of patriarchy and inequality”.
All in all, if feminism is at question with shows like Love Island, there’s an easy solution. We all need to be a bit nicer to each other, rather than judging other girls for their actions, whether that’s having sex on TV or slut-dropping in a club. There’s no set way to be a feminist, except being willing to endorse women in a world of patriarchy and inequality – and, ironically, Camilla’s criticisms have shown this is something people still need to learn. That’s what Camilla did when she called out Jonny, so I’m calling it: she’s my favourite feminist icon. Perhaps, instead of measuring her or anybody else’s feminism, we could all learn something about standing up for womenkind.
(P.s. for anyone who thinks Jonny may be right about equality, some facts for you: yes, the prime minister may be a female, but only one third of parliament are women. And there are more CEOs of major companies called John than there are female CEOs. And if you believe that’s because ‘the best person gets the job’, then you seriously need to have a sit down with yourself).