In the dating show franchise’s 20-year history, there have only been two self-identified plus-sized contestants—and both went home on night one. This campaign is hoping to change that.
In an era where fans are increasingly calling for more diverse representation in pop culture, a group of organizers are pushing for a kind of representation that isn’t often talked about—in one of the places you’d be least likely to find it.
Launched by a small group of organizers this summer, the Roses for Every Body (R4EB) campaign aims to increase body diversity on the ABC network’s influential reality dating show franchise, The Bachelor. Through a petition and social media campaign, the organizers behind R4EB are also pushing for a broader goal of fat acceptance.
“We see The Bachelor as a reflection of the greater society—it is a reflection of our culture, for better or worse,” one of the campaign’s organizers, Rachel Everley, told Ms. “But we also think that if you can change The Bachelor, you can then change the culture a bit, right?”
The effort was initially spearheaded by Jenna Vesper, a queer comedian and creator of Date Card podcast, a Bachelor episode recap show. Vesper put out a call on Instagram and was eventually joined by fellow fans Epiphany Espinosa, Rachel Everley, Olivia Green, Jenny Wagner and Rach Patenaude. Their campaign officially launched on July 11—timed to coincide with the premier of The Bachelorette season 19. In just a few months, the petition has amassed over 8,000 signatures, and has garnered support from several former contestants and leads—including Rachel Lindsay, Ethan Kang, Ivan Hall, Katie Thurston and more.
We see ‘The Bachelor’ as a reflection of the greater society—it is a reflection of our culture, for better or worse. But we also think that if you can change ‘The Bachelor,’ you can then change the culture a bit, right?Rachel Everley
Organizer Epiphany Espinosa responded to Vesper’s call on Instagram. She said the support was “really wonderful to see”—particularly since the show hasn’t historically tackled issues of size inclusivity.
The show has faced previous diversity reckonings: In the wake of 2020’s widespread protests for racial justice sparked by the killing of George Floyd, fans of the franchise launched a petition and campaign calling for increased racial diversity on the show.
The Bachelor Diversity Campaign saw widespread support and success. Its top listed demand—that the network cast a Black bachelor as the lead for season 25—was attained (though the show continues to face criticisms for giving contestants of color less airtime and being less diverse than some of its competitors). Up until 2021’s season 25, there had only been one Black lead—season 13’s Rachel Lindsay—in the franchise’s 40 seasons.
Similar to the Bachelor Diversity Campaign, Roses for Every Body lists several demands alongside their Change.org petition, include the casting of “a minimum of 5 diverse, fat people each season of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette,” “equitable, non-fat identity-focused screen time to the fat contestants,” and season leads who “specify that they will date diverse fat people.” The group also calls for behind-the-scenes structural support, including mental health support for fat contestants and size-inclusive wardrobes, as well as the hiring of fat staff and production crew, and the incorporation of “fat inclusion training from fat liberationists.”
The latter demand builds on another, broader goal of the campaign: education around fat liberation. Through Instagram infographics, podcast appearances and videos, the campaign’s organizers explain structural fatphobia’s influence on not just The Bachelor, but every part of society. In one pinned post, the group elaborates on their campaign’s intentional use of the word “fat,” drawing connections to the longstanding Fat Acceptance Movement whose activists have been working to reclaim the term for decades.
“If we can’t even talk about a group in a way that is morally neutral, then we can’t begin to address any oppression, or any solution,” Everley told Ms. “We’re trying to point out that it is a descriptor, and that’s it—it doesn’t have a moral leaning one way or the other.”
“In our society, words like skinny and thin don’t have the same negativity associated with it—it’s just a descriptor,” Espinosa added. “And that is the goal with using fat as well.”
While the campaign has received an overwhelming show of support, some have wondered: Why seek inclusion in a show that is, in many ways, grounded in oppressive structures—from patriarchy to racism, fatphobia, homophobia and more?
“Sometimes you get the question of, ‘Why don’t you just quit watching the show?’” Everley said. “But we like this show—it’s fun, and we’re fans, that’s what brought us together. So rather than throw it out and start over, let’s see if we can make some change happen.”
In the wake of plummeting ratings and decreasing viewers, Everley and Espinosa said increased representation across all categories could be a boon for the show, drawing in new viewers previously put off by the show’s lack of inclusion. Espinosa said she herself didn’t start watching the show till Rachel Lindsay became the franchise’s first Black bachelorette in 2017. “There’s such an opportunity for the franchise to keep on representing different groups of people, different minority groups, and gain a larger audience.”
“The show is really just reflecting what’s going on within society,” she added. “And we as a society cannot make any progress unless we try to better the things that already exist.”
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