The XX Factor

If You Watch “Real Housewives,’ Do You Hate Women?

Washington Post TV critic Hank Stuever , who has a high tolerance for low culture, has had it with the Real Housewives . In his interesting essay this Sunday previewing the Real Housewives of D.C ., Stuever puts his finger on exactly how the series has gone south. Once, he argues, Bravo was on a “a mission to develop morality plays that covertly teach people (women and men, young and old) how not to behave.” The network was conspiring with us to recreate a universal code of conduct, by showing us what was outside the bounds of normal. We all understood that the ladies of Orange County are the anti-models of American parenting. We were in the pews and they were the point of the sermon.

Now we seem to be missing the point. The Housewives have become deeply ingrained in our culture, so we accept them. We buy their clothes and perfume; we read their books. Their behavior does not even seem so outlandish anymore, so we join along with them.

“The overall effect, he writes, “is one of mutual contempt – the Housewives hate one another, and the women who watch decide which woman they hate the most and which woman they hate the least. Men who like to watch women fight tune in, too, and the circle is thus complete: “The Real Housewives” imparts a sinking feeling that it’s made by and for people who can’t stand women.”

Photograph of Real Housewives of DC cast by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.