As a television watching feminist, I was shocked when I found out Steve Ward was asked back to do another season of his dating show, Tough Love.
After all, the first season was full of all kinds of problematic messages about women and dating. One of the first challenges in each show is for the women to choose and outfit and pose sexily. After the photo shoot ends, Ward provides the photos to a panel of men to judge.
Here's how it went in season one:
And season two:
However, it was Ward's infamous "That's how women get raped" comment about season one cast member Arian's behavior that caused a rift between Steve and the rest of the women in the house:
At first, the women in the clip agree with Steve 100%. But as the season goes on, Ward's mother Joanne is often called into to mediate between the women and Steve, as his dating advice becomes challenged more and more.
By the second season, this dynamic has evaporated and the women on the show generally do not challenge Steve on his edicts. Season two also brought a new pet challenge in for Steve - reforming a sex worker.
The intro for Angel sets the tone for her role the rest of the series - Angel is a stripper. The end. Now, the rest of the women participating also have their quick roles to fall into (i.e. the gold-digger, and the former fat girl, and no I am not making this up) but Angel's entire on-screen identity revolves around Steve forcing her to pay penance for being participating in sex work. Just about every challenge for Angel focuses around her "taking responsibility" for her career choice and moving on.
First, he asks her to confess to her date, Adam about her son and her stripper past:
Adam, interestingly enough, is completely cool with Angel dancing for a living. But Steve isn't done, asking her to then confess to her parents:
Interestingly enough, her parents already knew she was dancing to earn a living, and were supportive about it. The rest of the show is about pushing Angel into bartending, so Steve can say mission accomplished.
Here's another example of Steve's advice, dispensed in a live chat for the Washington Post:
Royal Oak, Mich.: I recently have been completely closed off to all men, I'll play the cat and mouse game but every time they seem to get getting serious, I shut down and become rude and ignore them. Mainly because I work full time and are going back to medical school so I barely have time for myself; their constant bothering of "when can i see you next" just makes me angry and upset. Plus I am having difficulty getting over a petty "crush" on a married man with children, I flirt back constantly but I just cannot seem to stop and see the reality of it. Help!
Steven Ward: You are attracted to men you can't have and don't actually want you for the right reasons. This probably has something to do with your parents possibly rejecting you somehow as a child.
This is taking armchair therapy to whole new heights.
Occassionally, Ward does provide decent advice. A twitter follwer asked him for advice after being slapped by her boyfriend, and Ward fires back "Leave him &/or file a police report."
The new season of Tough Love is currently in production and the theme is couples. I know I'll be watching - I need to see how he treats the men.