Project Runway is a show that offers a lens into manic time schedules, difficult fabrics, and colorful designers. The show wheels between utter brilliance (the Ultimate Hard and Soft episode of Season 11) to downright silliness. We've seen 'heroes' and 'villains' on the show; we've seen triumph and heartbreak. We've seen artificial moments created entirely for sympathy or laughs, and we've seen some surprising glimpses into humanity.
With that understanding in mind, S14 of the show has brought us some classically wonderful Project Runway elements already: an unconventional challenge (greeting cards!), and some kickass women designers (Ashley! Candice! Laurie! Amanda!) It's also brought us the necessary evil of groan-or-giggle-worthy product placement, and the unnecessary evil of sexism on the part of the male designers.
Take a gander over at this season's America's Next Top Model, and you see the same thing on both accounts.
So what's up with this sudden strong trend?
Over on ANTM, we have a grungy greaseball of a beach bum pretending to help a woman he's super interested in banging, and then talking about her behind her back. We have a Fedora Guy suffering from a possibly terminal case of I'm a Nice Guy syndrome, making catty comments about a female contestant's fake boobs and how you can't trust women with fake boobs. Both of these wonderful examples of masculinity also repeatedly remind us that they are horny and not really that picky about which female will hurry up and relieve their condition.
Women should be pretty, but not too pretty. They should be around, but not win the competition. The second they put up any kind of fight, the once 'hot' women are suddenly unattractive, not all that talented, and need to go home. Having an opinion is abrasive, being quiet is vapid and empty headed.
Maybe I expect a bit more of this sexism from the boys over on ANTM, considering many of them are young and aggressively straight, but it's disappointing to see these comments and views carried over to Project Runway. Edited to add: I'm mainly speaking of Joseph's decision that his opinion is the only one that matters and that his female team-mate needs to do as he says, and nothing else, dampen her personality, and basically not speak when someone asks what they're doing, and Jake's temper tantrum about his female team-mate having ideas about their outfit.
Many of the Project Runway viewers are not upper class buyers. They are working class people who spend 8-10 hours a day working in a store or office, who watch the show with a glass of wine, and who vote in the polls, talk about the designers on social media, and turn up to events when the designers finally get a small show or clothing line. They are the people who hand over their hard earned money or credit card to buy a piece from their favorite PR designer. As such, many of them are choosy with their hard-earned money. And many of them are women. These women don't want to spend their money on a designer who clearly looks at women as lesser beings in this modern year of 2015.
Sometimes I hear gay men say something along the lines of, "But I'm gay! I'm not being sexist, I just don't like women!" This is absolutely not, in any way, a good excuse for acting as if your male parts give you better tools for solving problems or creating art, for controlling the 'wild females' in your midst, for cracking jokes about their menstrual cycles, for calling them false endearments with a snarled lip, for laughing at them for 'just being girls'. This does not save you from one very important fact: You are still a sexist.