It's a new year and a new season of Oxygen's Bad Girls Club. Currently on its second episode, this season is gearing up to be one of the most violent ones yet. Nikki, a curly-haired football player, instigates violent situations and then hops on the phone to brief her father about which girls she can "take." The other girls, including her former partner-in-crime Jessica, call her a sociopath when she accidentally cuts another girl (mysteriously with an evening bag) and shows no remorse.
[caption id="attachment_36119" align="aligncenter" width="567" caption="(Nikki, on season 6, tells it like it is)"][/caption]
Without cupcake-tattooed Sydney hitting on everyone in sight, the show would be in danger of becoming a prison yard brawl. As a woman who believes that women need to support each other more and undercut (or uppercut) each other less, I sometimes have trouble aligning my ethics with my love of reality tv girl fights. But most of the time, I don't.
Reality TV is not about boys being chummy, it's about girls being catty. From Real Housewives to Bachlorettes, women attack each other nightly on TV. Most women opt for the standard emotional/psychological bullying they perfected in high school but that's child's play.
I'm more interested in the part where they kick the crap out of each other.
And no show does a girl fight better than Bad Girls Club. Produced by the same team that's responsible for The Real World, Bad Girls Club has no premise other than crazy bitches trapped in a house together and filmed 24/7. Check out the video above for 10 quality girl fights taken from seasons 1 through 4.
[caption id="attachment_36067" align="aligncenter" width="567" caption="(Season 4's infamous Natalie Nunn and Kendra duke it out after being BFFs for, well, not forever)"][/caption]
Just like the girls from Jersey Shore, the Bad Girls spend all day getting dolled up only to fight dirty in the drunken wee hours of the morning. That's the part I'm fascinated with: the feminine narcissists who are also masculine street-fighters.
In his book See Jane Hit, James Gabarino says that, "in the past, culture told them, 'girls don't hit', today the message is, 'girls kick ass'." Garbarino's book is both alarmist and factually dubious, but I do agree with the premise that culturally girls are more encouraged to express the physically aggressive part of their personalities. In the season 5 reunion show for Bad Girls Club, the targeted Kristen repeatedly said that the other girls were "acting like animals" and that she preferred to act like a lady. By being unresponsive to the other cast member's taunts and threats, Kristen did come off looking classier...and yet I didn't mind seeing Kayleigh get her claws out.
[caption id="attachment_36068" align="aligncenter" width="567" caption="(The reunion show for last year's season 5 was a total boxing ring)"][/caption]
In the first episode of Bad Girls Club season 1, a powerpoint-esque opening informs us that "bad" is an adjective which means disobedient, naughty or misbehaving. By not conforming to the somewhat archaic idea that "girls don't hit," these girls are my heroes for slugging all the bitches I wish I could have the courage to slug. However, I keep my two-finger rings purely ornamental for another reason: hitting is bad.
You're ripping someone's weave off their head and then next thing you know the violence has gone too far. Hyperbolic? Let me bring it back to '97 and remind you about the murder of Reena Virk. She was killed by 6 angry girls in British Columbia who burned her with cigarettes and beat her. That's not the only story like that, by any means, but for some reason the most poignant maybe because of how old I was in 1997 . No one has died on Bad Girls Club because it's a closely monitored television show where bouncers and producers step in as soon as they see a potential lawsuit. Life be not like this, amigas.
[caption id="attachment_36069" align="aligncenter" width="567" caption="(But, season 4's reunion show wasn't much different)"][/caption]
There must be away to employ the "girls kick ass" message without too much violence. Girls have always been masters of manipulation because they were not suppose to hit, so maybe it's healthier if they do? What does Gabarino suggest?
Teaching girls to deal with their aggressive impulses in socially acceptable ways begins in early childhood. For example, fathers who wrestle with their sons have played a vital role in teaching those boys how to deal with physical aggression in socially appropriate ways. This kind of play between parents and children teaches them how to avoid hurting people, how to stay within playful limits, and what to do when you make a mistake and cross the line. In the past, parents didn't need to teach these lessons to their daughters, because the culture was so unanimous in teaching that "girls don't hit." Now with the culture changing, there is a need for parents to wrestle with their daughters, to teach them the same positive lessons they have long been teaching their sons.
Parents, wrestle your daughters? Again, I don't quite agree with Gabarino, but the idea of simulated violence to create boundaries is interesting. Even in Bad Girls Club there are boundaries-- if your actions escalate beyond shoving and trash-talking, you're off the show. Maybe girl fights on reality TV are the modern equivalency to play-fighting. Something cathartic that stops us from blowing a fuse and body-slamming our asshole boss. Or maybe, like the boys, I'm just hoping that someone slips and grabs a boob and the whole thing turns into sex. Not such a crazy plot twist for my beloved, Bad Girls Club.-Jess Bloom