There are story ideas that are suggested to me, and sometimes I think "great story", sometimes I think "sad story", and sometimes I think "c'mon, really? No, c'mon, really?!?". This story falls into the last category. It involves reality TV, oil, women, and something that in my view can only end badly - for all of us.
I'd been hearing rumours about a TV reality show coming to Fort Mac for some time. The rumours seemed to ebb and flow, and for some time I assumed they were just that, rumours. Then someone sent me this link, and the rumours gained some veracity. And with that veracity came my concerns. Dozens of them. I debated long and hard about writing about this post because I don't want to give this more publicity than it deserves - but in the end I thought it was worth my effort.
Okay, I know they aren't looking specifically for Fort McMurray women, but it's directed at "women whose lives have been transformed by the oil industry". And that's just the beginning of my problems with this. There are hundreds - thousands - of women who work IN the oil industry, from engineers to truck drivers to welders - but is this show looking for them and their stories of success in what has traditionally been a male-dominated industry? Nope, it's looking for women with "husbands or boyfriends who work for the oil industry". I don't know about you but that puts me in a bad mood almost instantly. I'm a woman, and while I don't work in the oil industry I know many women who do. They are making their own money doing it, and not "living off a man". So, that is just where I start to get growly. And it gets worse, too.
I love how they mention "big personality" and spell "big lifestyle" with a $ sign. Coincidental? I think not. I'm surprised they didn't mention "big hair" and "big trucks", too, because what they are looking for is to promote and showcase a stereotype of women. Of us. And that stereotype they want isn't about women with kids and volunteer activities and parent council meetings - it's about women with "$". Living large. You know, living large off their men.
And then take a gander at some of the questions on the application. There are questions about your social circle, and women you don't get along with. And about affluence and "keeping up with the Joneses". Think this is directed in any specific way? If you're a single mom who drives a heavy hauler and has trouble keeping up with laundry and the kid's school work do you think they're looking for you? Because I don't think so. I think they want to see women who are insipid and money hungry and envious and nasty. Because the intent isn't to make "Oil Wives" look good - or even to make them look real. It's to cast them into the stereotype that others may have of us - and frankly I resent the hell out of that.
I fit their demographics, incidentally. I am the wife of an oil industry worker, I am in their age range, and I could easily fill out this application and submit it. But there isn't a snowball's chance in hell I would even consider it, for several reasons. For starters I'm just not that desperate to be on TV. I have a bit more self-respect than to pander myself to some TV production company that has no intent to showcase my real life but simply wants to use me to promote some asinine stereotype they have in their head. And I find it reprehensible that in 2012 they think they can ignore all those women who drive heavy haulers and wield wrenches and have engineering degrees and who are making it in this industry just fine without an "oil industry husband or boyfriend".
So, Proper TV, as far as I'm concerned you can take your Oil Wives "reality" show and shove it. Or better yet, shelve it - permanently. You call yourself the creator of "factual television", "TV done right", and "proper television" - but there is nothing factual, right, or proper about this production idea. It's insulting, it's degrading, and it's far from "factual". Want the facts about women in the oil industry? Then come out to Fort McMurray and meet some of the women who work in it, who are making careers in a field that was once the domain of men. Talk about what it takes to be a woman working in this industry, and about how women are achieving their dreams doing it. Now THAT is reality television. I challenge you to do it, in fact - because I think it's far more interesting, and "proper", than what you have in mind.