Clementine Ford: The More Hate Piled On Abbie Chatfield, The More I've Fallen In Love

Anyone even remotely familiar with me and/or my Twitter account will know that I’m a reality television tragic.

I love it all -- Survivor, Love Island, MAFS (hurry up season seven!) and yes, even The Bachelor.

I say ‘even’, because everything about Bachelor Nation challenges my staunch feminist politics. Marriage as the ultimate goal of love is stupid, and so is pitting women against each other in a glorified competition for the time and attention of a man who is almost certainly not worthy of their time or attention. Yet there you’ll find me week after week, religiously tuning in and yelling at the television. As one charming gent once wrote to me, “No wonder you like reality tv, you’re a fat useless c**t.”

Well, quite.

Like most other viewers, I am easily manipulated by the diabolical producers that carefully craft the storylines behind each of these franchises. As such, I formed fairly strong opinions about 24-year-old Abbie Chatfield (a woman who exemplifies the term “bubbly blonde”, and I say that with no shade) during her recent stint in the Bachelor mansion.

I rallied behind her when she let slip to the Mattchelor that Monique had called him a “dog c*nt” one day while hanging poolside. It seemed obvious to me that this supposed betrayal of The Sisterhood was less about honour amongst thieves and more to do with the baseline rivalry women are conditioned into under a patriarchal system that wants us to believe the most important thing in life is having a man pick us above all others. Abbie might have been playing the game, but at least she was sort of honest about it.

But as the season progressed (and to my great shame!), I came to feel exactly what I guess the producers wanted me to feel -- that Abbie was an ambitious wannabe influencer, whose shrewd ability to manipulate dumb men made me, the viewer, feel uncomfortable and vaguely threatened.

I told myself she wasn’t a “girl’s girl”, and this made it okay to root against her. (Spoiler: I was wrong!!) She’s not there for the right reasons, I kvetched to (one of) my What’sApp groups, forgetting momentarily that there’s no world in which I give a single f**k what the ‘right reasons’ are for anyone appearing on a highly manufactured and stylised dating show, especially given I think marriage is a pointless exercise whose sole purpose is to distract women from tearing down the patriarchal structures that condition us to aspire to mediocrity.

But I digress.

Anyone who’s watched Unreal will know that Abbie was never cast to be The Wifey -- she’s far too in control of her own sexuality for that, and Bachelor Wives are meant to be delicate flowers, sweet and chaste. But I wonder if it was planned for her to go as far as she did.

It’s interesting that one of our first moments with Abbie involves her being set up as a bit stupid (“I’m a Gemini!”) when it becomes increasingly apparent throughout the series that she’s one of the smartest and most canny women to have ever entered the house. It takes real talent to manoeuvre yourself into the most sought after position on the Bachelor rose tally -- that of the runner-up.

Because really, who would possibly want to win the heart of a person who needed to test it out with 20 other dames before they decided you would do for now?

Second place is where it’s at -- you become a household name, but without the burden of having to pretend you still like someone who, once stripped of cameras, lights and a professional third-party planning their dates, turns out to be pretty dull.

The downside with all that new exposure though is the trash the tabloid media will write about you, which brings us to this week. Abbie, a smart, healthy and beautiful 24-year-old woman was papped in a bikini on a beach in Noosa and set up to be torn apart by the 30-50 feral hogs who populate the comment section of the publication.

“Gross!” screamed one person.

“Geez, leave some pies for the rest of us!” screeched another.

“Call it as I see it....she’s fat,” offered someone else.

As illuminating as it is to know that these pasty, ball-scratching turd burgers are seriously DISPLEASED by the sight of a woman, it does lead one to ask the evergreen question of when tabloid publications plan to finally suffocate on the stench of their own fetid bog fumes. I’m sure opening a young woman up to the vicious, fevered body and slut-shaming that regularly features below the comment break was a proud journalistic moment.

Naturally, Abbie has handled the situation with the same kind of grace and aplomb that has seen her call out slut-shaming and stand up for abortion rights. “STOP commenting on women’s bodies and debating whether or not we are ~allowed~ to wear bikinis,” she wrote as part of an Instagram post. “It isn’t your place. I’m a 24 year old who is healthy, happy and comfortable. Why does that irritate people?”

Well, women are supposed to hate themselves after all. And if they don’t hate themselves, we’ll make sure we hate them enough to make up for that.

Because of that, I fear there’s more shaming coming Abbie’s way. But the tabloids chose the wrong girl to pick on, because she is not 👏 here 👏 for 👏 their 👏 s**t.

And the more hate they pile on her, the more the rest of us are going to fall in love.