Do Men Matter?: Real Houswives

Thanks to a great paper written by a former professor and good friend, Dr. Suzanne Leonard called “Do Men Matter: Real Housewives as a Post-Romance”, I’ve reworked the theory around my fan remix for RHofNYC.

Her paper looks not only at the NYC season, but the Housewives franchise across the Bravo network, noting that the series abandon a “pretense of heterosexual coupling in light of post-feminist discourse of consumption and production.” She goes on to explain that the women featured in the show are still empowered consumers, but also gain subjectivity through being producers and pushing their own business. Bethenny, for example, advertises her book, her baked goods, and her line of “Skinny Girl” cocktails. The other women pedal fabric, moisturizers, jewelry and books.

“While the figure of the woman as empowered consumer has long been a cornerstone of a postfeminist identity, rarely has a postfeminist product been so unabashed in its conviction that conspicuous consumption can stand in for, and in turn obviate the desirability of, romantic attachment.”

The series is mistakenly named “Real Housewives”, presumably to ride the coattails of the “Desperate” ones. However,  all the women work outside the home, their husbands rarely appear, and when mentioned, are not shown in a positive light. During the NYC season (on which the remix was based)  Alex, the only “housewife” vocal about her successful marriage,  was shunned and mocked by the other women. The irony lies in the fact that, for all the pretense of heteronormativity, the women do not pretend to endorse the idea that their straight relationships are all that fulfilling. Real Housewives of NYC had the unintentional effect of making compulsory heterosexuality actually appear compulsory, rendering the “Housewives” distinction inaccurate.

Why Queer the show?  I wondered what Real Housewives of NYC would look like if it was edited to target a different demographic. Instead of following white, owning class housewives in a feminism-lite, low-calorie liberation, what if the story line stayed true to it’s lack of male presence and inaccuracy of the “housewife” distinction? I think this is a much more interesting storyline.

*thanks to Dr. Suzanne Leonard for her theory, “Do Men Matter: Real Housewives as a Post-Romance”