Is bachelorette any less gender damaging than spinster?

I was slightly appalled by The Bachelor on our television this year (2015). A young man gets to choose which of eighteen girls get the benefit of his company from week to week; slowly reducing the number of eligible girls each week until the last girl remaining gets to marry him.

My wife and daughter were avid fans, constantly refuting the values of the program and yet insisting it was the preferred program for the evening. I watched as charming, young women were rejected with elaborately expounded reasons by missing out on a meaningfully delivered red rose. The bachelor instead chose girls with vacuous personalities (under instructions from the producer as we know). I don’t understand why my wife and daughter are not completely horrified.

As we watched, the somehow highly-desirable, young bachelor was uncritically assessed by a harem of fawning women. And, as an antidote, Channel 10 runs promotions for The Bachelorette, the female version of The Bachelor.

Even although The Bachelorette, would seem to be balancing the equation (18 men pursuing one young woman) it is as equally counter-feminist with its language. While we try hard to remove gender-specific words from our language, this reality television franchise is putting them back in.

The female equivalent of a bachelor, of course, was a spinster. In Britain pre-20th-century women would occupy themselves at home by spinning wool into yarn until they left home when they married. So single women were known as spinsters, which soon became synonymous with being an unmarried woman. In our time, spinster has developed a negative connotation of being old and unable to marry (except perhaps at Bachelor and Spinster Balls).

So we have looked around for a less negative equivalent word. We have not adopted bacheloress because this would follow other unacceptable gender-differentiating formations such as actress (now actor for both male and female) mayoress (mayor for both), stewardess or steward (instead flight attendant), or heir and heiress (heir for both).

But, instead, we have adopted bachelorette, which, based on French suffixes, translates as little bachelor. This formation follows usherette for a female usher, which is no more palatable than actress or mayoress. Nevertheless reality TV has given us this new gender-specific term that has been lapped up by the slightly intoxicated feminists perhaps beguiled by the young man’s abdominals and pectorals.

We should just stick to describing people as unmarried.