'The Bachelor' body-shaming incident puts the show's bigger problem on display

The Bachelor star Matt James is defending contestant Victoria Larson after one of his friends was caught on video body-shaming her while making jokes on the golf course. While James says he doesn’t condone that type of behavior, the incident is shining a light on a larger issue within the franchise: a lack of size inclusivity.

The video capturing the comment made by James’ friend was shared on the Bachelornation.Scoop Instagram account where it caught the attention of fans of the show, and Larson herself. “Now, how was Victoria’s body? You know, cause when I look at her, it doesn’t look nice…and you’ve been making out with this woman,” the man is heard saying.

Matt James defends "Bachelor" contestant Victoria Larson after his friend is heard body-shaming her. (Photo: Getty Images)
Matt James defends "Bachelor" contestant Victoria Larson after his friend is heard body-shaming her. (Photo: Getty Images)

“Cute.... I love my body,” the 28-year-old Florida native commented. She also took to her own page to share a photo of herself in a bikini.

On Thursday, James appeared on The Real to condemn what was said about Larson in his company.

“That’s never something I condone or stand for and it’s just a constant reminder that you gotta be smart about the people that you surround yourself with,” he said of the remarks. “I said something to him off-camera about it, something along the lines of, ‘Victoria wouldn’t have given him a second look.’ It’s always the pot calling the kettle black. Who is he to comment on someone’s body and it’s such a ‘low blow’ for any man to try to take a dig at something like that.”

James went on to say, “That’s not my character and that’s not what I’m about, and it’s a shame that that’s even associated with what was going on. I apologize on his behalf. I don’t know if you’ll get it from him, but that’s not something I’m gonna support or stand for.”

While ABC declined to comment to Yahoo Life, Kate Stayman-London, the author of One to Watch – a novel that explores what it might be like for a fat woman to star on a show like The Bachelorette – suggests that James had already condoned such behavior by signing up for a show riddled with issues surrounding body image.

A look at the women competing for James' heart. (Photo: Getty Images)
A look at the women competing for James' heart. (Photo: Getty Images)

“It's nice that Matt James said that body-shaming is never acceptable, but actions speak louder than words,” she tells Yahoo Life. “The truth is, he participated in a franchise that still proudly stands as a bastion of harmful, outdated beauty standards. The Bachelor sends a clear message to women that the only way to be considered desirable is to be thin — just one aspect of the show's ongoing and disturbing struggles with lack of diversity.”

While both the women and men appearing on the show continue to uphold a specific standard of beauty and body type, Stayman-London explains that she often gets daily messages from women looking for more representation from the franchise. Many people have even shared these thoughts on social media.

Stayman-London says there’s “no excuse” that changes haven’t already been made when it comes to casting.

“I hope that former cast members and audience members alike speak out about this. There’s absolutely no excuse for the show not to cast a more inclusive range of body types,” she says. “Until they do, they're participating in implicit body-shaming that's every bit as harmful as what Matt's friend said on that video.”

This isn’t the first time that the ABC franchise has been called out for a lack of representation, after the show’s first Black lead, Rachel Lindsay, spoke out about the need for racial diversity on the show.

“I knew that I wanted to be a trailblazer in this franchise to diversify the lead role, to diversify the contestants trying out and casted for the show, and to diversify the audience watching this show,” Lindsay wrote in a June 2020 blog post. “Well, I am sad to say that after almost four years in this franchise, we still don’t have the diversity that this show needs, and that our audience deserves.”

Lindsay’s sentiments were echoed by the Bachelor Diversity campaign, which was created in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. On June 12, ABC announced that James was cast as the first Black Bachelor in the show’s history.

While some may consider the lack of racial diversity and size inclusivity to be different issues, Kelly Augustine, a Black plus-size content creator and celebrity stylist, says that they are both rooted in misogyny — the show’s largest problem.

“The bigger picture here is that this franchise doesn’t do a good job with diversity,” Augustine, a regular Bachelor viewer who shares commentary about the show with her followers, tells Yahoo Life. “And this proves that. Boys will be boys chats, women all looking the same. The show is cast for the male gaze even though the vast majority of their viewers are women that look nothing like these contestants.”

Larson didn’t immediately respond to Yahoo Life’s request for comment. However, she shared another bikini photo on Instagram on Wednesday writing, “the only validation I need is for parking.”

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