Love Island's Sharon's race comment isn't the wokeism we need
The irony of Love Island stars Sharon Gaffka and Faye Winter ripping into Hugo Hammond about having physical insecurities when he was born with a disability was incredibly infuriating to watch.
My frustration only heightened when Sharon then casually, without a moment’s hesitation, compared being judged for cosmetic surgery to being judged by the colour of your skin.
It all kicked off when, in a painful attempt at being woke feminist heroes, Sharon and Faye joined forces to challenge Hugo on his preference for not liking ‘fake’ women.
At several points during a game, the PE teacher emphasised that he isn’t attracted to ‘fakeness’, upsetting Sharon and Faye who felt his comments were offensive to the women in the villa who have had cosmetic procedures.
Faye was later seen having a heart-to-heart with him, explaining how she grew up with body confidence issues but possibly unaware that Hugo himself had physical challenges in his childhood. The 24-year-old had clubfoot, which is where a baby is born with a foot or feet that turn in and under. Before going into the villa, Hugo revealed that he endured several operations as a kid.
During her own confrontation with Hugo, Sharon said that it’s ‘fine’ if he’s ‘not into fake stuff or girls that look really fake’ but he doesn’t ‘know the reasons why we’ve had stuff done’.
‘I think that’s really unfair. I would never turn round to a guy and be like I wouldn’t date you because of your height, or I wouldn’t date you because of your race,’ she said.
After watching the overblown drama, it was with this misguided statement that I thought: ‘Is this what we’ve come to?’
Over the past six years, Love Island has exposed a multitude of very real issues which millennials and Gen-Z experience in dating such as gaslighting, ghosting and wandering eyes.
And yes, Love Island – much like the real world sometimes – does have a problem when it comes to race and the unequal opportunities of Black women trying to find love on the show. Exploring these issues through the contestants is important in growing the Love Island conversation outside of its superficial glamour.
However, I completely draw the line at comparing attitudes towards cosmetic surgery to race issues.
In that moment, Sharon failed to understand that cosmetic surgery is something one chooses to do and, while it’s never right to judge whether a stranger decides to enhance their body, it’s not the same as being judged for your skin colour which nobody can control.
It felt like a careless statement that undermined the severity of racial discrimination; even her drawing a parallel between heightism and racism is outrageous in itself.
It reminded me of how people lump all ethnic groups into one category and label us ‘BAME’ (Black, Asian and minority ethnic), mistakenly assuming all experiences within the various groups are the same. Sharon’s comment essentially lumped the superficial judgement of height with racism, which is not the message we should be sending to young impressionable viewers.
I don’t disagree that Sharon and Faye had a valid point in that people shouldn’t judge others for having cosmetic surgery. If the scenario were calmer, they probably could have had the truly woke moment they were obviously aiming for with a valuable discussion about body confidence that other young women could relate to.
However, I do think their reaction to Hugo’s comments was wildly exaggerated when ultimately, it’s his preference to date a woman who doesn’t have cosmetic enhancements if he wants.
If they feel insecure about it, that’s a bigger personal issue they need to address themselves.
This is the first Love Island series in the UK since the pandemic began and a lot has obviously changed in the world since then.
Social issues are being spoken about increasingly in the mainstream, particularly when it comes to race, popularising even more the use of the term ‘woke’. Not to mention the fact that the renewed uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement stemmed from the brutal murder of George Floyd by a police officer.
Serious and groundbreaking discussions about race are being had like never before.
Therefore I can’t help but find it disappointing that racial discrimination could be mentioned so flippantly on national TV, seemingly to jump on the woke bandwagon.
Love Island is great entertainment for many reasons but fake wokeism isn’t one of them.
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