What Camilla’s Love Island outburst tells us about feminism

Another year, another set of hot young things are in a villa, in Spain, shouting, shagging and swearing on national television. Yes, it’s Love Island – the ITV2 show that’s like Big Brother, but with more sex and fewer morals.The aim of the game is for contestants to couple up and find love on the island (geddit?). And with eight girls and six boys currently in the villa, things are getting heated.

The usual fights have broken out, over people getting ‘mugged off’ or being ‘snakey’. But last night something a little different happened. One of the contestants, Camilla Thurlow, a posh bomb specialist rumoured to have dated Prince Harry, had a row about feminism with Essex business director Jonny Mitchell. Having been ‘coupled up’ for a few days, the pair were discussing who should pay for a dinner date. Jonny told Camilla he’d feel ‘emasculated’ if a woman paid, laughed when Camilla grimaced, and asked her if she was a feminist. ‘Shouldn’t we all be feminists?’, Camilla replied. Jonny then suggested that women had it better than men. ‘Real feminists believe in a slope towards them, rather than the man’, he said.

The pair launched into an awkward conversation about equality, which Jonny said he was all for, but that he thought feminists were pushing things too far the other way. It was hardly a hanging offence, but Camilla wasn’t happy. She said she ‘couldn’t bear to look’ at Jonny, cried repeatedly, told the rest of the group that he also didn’t ‘clean up’ in the kitchen, and eventually broke off their flirtation. ‘I can’t believe I kissed him not knowing his political views’, she said.

Twitter went wild with praise for Camilla. She had already garnered support for seeming to be the ‘moral’ contestant in the perpetually bikini-clad group, but her declaration of her feminist credentials sent the Twittersphere into overdrive. ‘Anyone else feel like Camilla was carved by angels then fell from heaven into the wrong house?’, the fashion brand BooHoo tweeted. ‘I swear down if he’s f***ed Camilla off I’ll get a taxi to the f***ing island and swing him into 2018 the hairy f***ing goblin’, tweeted one animated viewer.

Now, reality TV isn’t the best subject for political analysis, but Camilla’s outburst, and the reaction to it, says a lot about the state of contemporary feminism. When faced with a (really not that bad) oppositional viewpoint, the feminist refused to engage in conversation, painted her opponent as a monster she couldn’t even bear to look at, and then played the victim by crying. Camilla’s argument was that feminism was about equality, but her inability to engage with what was a perfectly polite political conversation would suggest that it isn’t. Not because feminists like Camilla discriminate against men, but because they think women are either incapable of having an argument with men or shouldn’t have to.

This is all very depressing, as most of us were rooting for the Camilla-Jonny coupling. And, while Camilla repeatedly cried, most of the other women in the house shrugged their shoulders at why she was so upset. It goes to show how detached from normal life many middle-class feminists are. In reality, when a man says something they don’t like, most women will either engage in an argument or roll their eyes. Kady McDermott, one of last year’s contestants, put it perfectly when she tweeted: ‘Oh Camilla, I adore you, but he didn’t exactly say he was a Nazi.’

Ella Whelan is assistant editor at spiked. Follow her on Twitter: @Ella_M_Whelan

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