Image via the official Love Island Instagram

Love Island 2022: we’re watching misogyny play out in real-time

Ekin-Su has been at the heart of this season’s drama, and we’re here for her go-getting behaviour. But as is the case year after year, the actress has been the target of judgement and double standards.

Like clockwork, Love Island returned for its eighth run with a mighty bang. But if you’ve called it quits and decided you have better things to do at 9pm, you might want to reconsider. While some viewers will say that recent seasons have been dull and slow-burning, this year’s edition has been anything but, and it’s down to contestant Ekin-Su Cülcüloğlu and her generous stream of entertainment.

Since her entrance in the third episode, the Turkish actress (dubbed Icon-Su”) has been this season’s driving force, and her relationship with fan favourite Davide Sanclimenti is the lead storyline. After Ekin-Su went behind his back and made out with Jay Younger, Davide eventually found out the pair had shared two secret snogs, and an explosive argument followed. Since last Thursday’s episode, the two have worked things out. But until their reconciliation, Ekin-Su was the subject of misogynistic jabs from Davide and her fellow islanders.

Davide described her as a butterfly” that goes from flower to flower”, and expired food” when asked if he’d consider getting back together with her. The notion that women have an expiration date isn’t a new one, whether they’re left on the shelf because of their age or have become damaged goods” after promiscuity. Davide also commented that Ekin-Su couldn’t expect him to marry her on the fourth day, despite the fact that she never actually discussed getting hitched.

In almost every season, one female contestant is the designated slut” or homewrecker” of the series – that is, a woman who doesn’t pair up and stay with their partner until the end of the show. Ekin-Su is following in the footsteps of previous contestants like Megan Barton-Hanson, Maura Higgins and Zara Holland (who lost her Miss Great Britain crown for having sex while on the show). They were all ripped apart for getting to know” various men, which is the point of the show, isn’t it?

The men, though, are left unscathed. Viewers watch as the male contestants ditch their original partners in Casa Amor – the series twist that sees new contestants enter two villas to test the fedility of the partnered-up OGs. Last season’s Toby Aromolaran got with three women before settling with Chloe Burrows. Mostly, Twitter found his constant back and forths hilarious, and memes positioned him as a child asking his mum what’s for tea”. Some of the show’s most notorious players like Adam Collard or Josh Denzel were celebrated for switching from girl to girl. And yet women, like Ekin-Su, aren’t given a chance to exist in the same way.

Like most reality shows, what makes watching Love Island so irresistible is its mirroring of society. Whether it’s class conflict, race relations or dynamics in the dating world, it is a brutal reflection of the realities we face in daily life, played out on the small screen six nights a week. That’s part of the reason we can’t look away: we laugh, cringe, cry, and let off steam by ranting about that one annoying guy. But sometimes we see society reflected a little too well and, sometimes, it can be painful.

Ekin-Su is loved by most Love Island superfans. TikTok is full of fan cams of the contestant, with viewers thankful that she saved the season. But there is still a good percentage of the audience that have been critical of her, with Davide’s supporters being at the top of that list. His account handlers even took to Instagram to refer to Ekin-Su in a post captioned, if you want to be treated like a lady, act like one first”. But what even is a lady”? It’s a made-up criteria for women to follow, that sees them as obedient, quiet and virginal.

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Sure, Davide, his account handlers and his fellow male contestants might not intend to be misogynistic. It’s clear his comments came from a place of hurt and anger – embarrassment, too. But they should know better. It’s 2022 and women are still getting shamed for being interested in multiple guys on a dating show.

We don’t want to be thinking about patriarchal norms when sat on the sofa zoning out to our (admittedly) favourite show. But seeing women receive backlash for the same things that men do freely, year after year, is getting boring.

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