‘Love Island’ risks undermining the #MeToo movement by sending a “dangerous message” to teenagers, according to a headteacher.
Jane Lunnon, head of the London-based private school Wimbledon High School, told the room at a national headteachers conference: “Love Island’s message, it seems to me, is conform and look beautiful otherwise you are not worthy of being loved. Which is unbelievably dangerous. And that is what our teens are picking up, of course, when they watch that, but also every time they go online. It is a real vicious circle, I think, in that regard.
“We might have to decide which camp we are in. I think we might have to ask our girls and our boys, actually, which camp are we in? If we want to be taken seriously – the Me Too debate, hear us, we have agency, we have a voice – can we also be saying this trivial nonsense matters?”
So, can you be a feminist supporting the #MeToo movement and still a fan of the show?
Dr Pragya Agarwal, 41, from Liverpool, says you can’t support both #MeToo and the show. “I watched a little bit of it and it perpetuates stereotypical gender roles, thrives on power play and it is appalling. I guess mine is a very unpopular opinion,” she tells HuffPost UK.
Adam Bradford, a 26-year-old London-based youth campaigner, agrees: ”‘Love Island’ is problematic because it makes people think love and luxury are what you should strive for and that love and relationships are a survival of the fittest,” he says.
“This over-sexualisation on television is dangerous for young people, who are already obsessed with their smartphones and becoming the envy of their friends. Reality television is sadly not ‘reality’ and the abuse of women on the show further plays into the degradation of the premise of the #MeToo movement.”
But Martha Nahar, a 24-year-old communications officer from London, “really enjoyed” the last series of ‘Love Island’ and thinks the positive impact of #MeToo has revolutionised the show.
“The last series of Love Island was interesting because women on the show embraced their sexuality and were bolder than ever, which is always frowned up but actually shows progress!” she says. “As well as this, they were comfortable enough to call people out on upsetting behaviour – I’m thinking about what we saw of Rosie and Adam’s relationship dynamics for example and even those of Georgia and Josh.
“Surely, the cultural climate that has been created because of #MeToo – where women feel more empowered and confident – has helped in supporting women to be more confident and say how they feel without fear of judgement? I think that is what we can see reflected on TV shows like ‘Love Island’ now.”
One of the most divisive characters of this year’s series, former escort Megan Barton Hanson, has become a mouthpiece for feminism since leaving the show, speaking openly about embracing female sexuality and calling for an end to slut-shaming. Last last month she penned an article for iNews, where she detailed how she’s been slut-shamed from the age of 16.
“A boy a few years above me in school had asked me to send him a video of me masturbating. I declined, he went on to ask me if I had even done it before. I hadn’t, but of course wanted to impress him and so I told him I had. The next day the whole school was talking about it,” she explained.
“I hate the idea that any girl is going through exactly this right now. It’s incredible that in 2018 this sort of thing is still going on and it’s not just men slut-shaming women, it’s women too.”
The show has been praised this year for the way it addresses sexual consent. Former contestant Simon Searles told The Sun that producers are clued up on keeping everyone in the house safe and contestants are given a booklet about consent they must read before entering the house.
Laura Hannah, spokesperson for sexual health charity Brook, previously told HuffPost UK the show can provide a welcome opportunity for parents to approach the topics of consent and safe sex with their children. She cited 2017′s series as an example, when Gabby was open with Marcel about wanting to wait until after the show to have sex.
“This is a good opportunity to talk to young people about consent and the importance of not feeling pressured into doing things they don’t want to do,” Hannah said. In contrast, 2017′s Kem and Amber were open about the fact that they were having sex on TV. “In this scenario a parent could say to a young person: ‘I notice that the couple haven’t had any open conversations about whether or not they are using contraception, how do you think they could approach this conversation and why do you think it’s important they do?’”