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‘Women choose solidarity over competition’

Bachelor Nation fans watched with bated breath as Joey Graziadei’s journey to find love came to a close on March 25. In the final moments of the Season 28 finale, Graziadei bends down on one knee and asks Kelsey Anderson, 25, a junior project manager from New Orleans, for her hand in marriage — which she happily gives. Graziadei finally tells Anderson he loves her. Anderson tearfully says it back. They kiss and they hug and it all feels like a pretty run-of-the-mill Bachelor finale. Except that it wasn’t.

We have runner-up Daisy Kent to thank for that.

Breaking ‘Bachelor’ protocol

Kent, 25, made her mark on Graziadei’s season, from her entrance — she arrived in a truck filled with Christmas trees, a nod to having grown up on a Christmas tree farm — all the way through the competition as one of the final two contestants vying for the Bachelor’s final rose. In the finale, she wants to be “the last person” at the end with Graziadei but has doubts that the Bachelor will pick her, a fear that is only heightened by her last date, which she said felt “off.”

In a franchise first, Kent goes to Anderson’s hotel room just before the proposal, and the women have a heartfelt conversation about their final dates with Graziadei. While Anderson says she felt reassured, Kent says she felt as if Graziadei was very careful with his words.

“This is so hard, hearing Kelsey say that she got validation. It just hurts because I put 100%, everything I could, into this,” Kent says to the camera.

Viewers then see separate shots of Kent and Anderson in the limo on their way to the proposal location, only to learn that they’re actually in the same limo together and are holding hands.

Kent is the first to exit the limo to meet Graziadei, who acknowledges that she was his first real connection. But before he has a chance to let her down, Kent says her piece.

“I do love you, but the thing is, you’re not going to choose me,” she tells Graziadei. When he offers to walk her out, she replies, “I think it’s something I should do on my own.”

Kent makes her way back to the limo, where Anderson is waiting outside the car, another franchise first. The women embrace, and Kent tells Anderson that she knows her mother, who died in 2018, is proudly looking down on her.

Typically on Bachelor franchise shows, the finale marks the only time during the season when the final two contestants are isolated from one another. They stay in separate hotel rooms, go on individual dates and arrive at the proposal ceremony at different times. But Kent and Anderson connecting ahead of the proposal, riding together to the final location and then embracing after Kent’s self-elimination was, for many, a welcome departure from the norm.

“It shows that these two women didn’t see it as a competition but truly as ‘finding the perfect match,’ which is what the show is supposed to be about,” Kay Brown, co-host of the Betchelor podcast, told Yahoo Entertainment. “We see so many examples of people just wanting to win and not seeing it as ‘Is this the right person?’ And the fact that Daisy didn’t tell Joey she did all this shows how much she knew that’s what it was really about.”

Yahoo Entertainment reached out to ABC for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

‘Conflict and ratings’

Danielle Lindemann, an associate professor of sociology at Lehigh University and author of True Story: What Reality TV Says About Us, told Yahoo Entertainment that Kent and Anderson’s treatment of one another in the finale is “in some ways” a departure from what Bachelor Nation is accustomed to.

“The very premise of the show plays into the cultural stereotype that women are in competition with each other for a scarce commodity — attractive, successful males — on the heterosexual marriage market,” she said. “A key ingredient of much [of] reality TV is conflict, and historically this show has relied on tension between the women as a central driver of conflict and ratings.”

Maria Pramaggiore, department chair of interdisciplinary studies at Appalachian State University, who specializes in sexuality and gender in reality television, explained that the women on The Bachelor are historically faced with a double standard.

“Traditional gender norms dictate that women are not feminine if they compete, so they face a double standard to begin with. They are supposed to ‘win’ the hand [or] proposal of the Bachelor while not appearing to be ambitiously aiming for that and competing with the other women,” she told Yahoo Entertainment. “If the show were not about competition, they would give the Bachelor the possibility of dating 32 women in serial fashion, one at a time. He would stop when he ‘found his person,’ as they say. This structure is explicitly comparative and therefore competitive.”

Kent and Anderson’s decision to forgo protocol, Pramaggiore added, is a testament to their sisterhood and a rejection of the show’s competitive nature.

“The fact that Daisy and Kelsey chose to avert the culmination of this scenario in a ‘winner’ and a ‘loser’ is significant, but the show frames it as a personal choice — in other words, it is not characterized as a moment that undermines the program’s premises,” she said. “This is a potentially significant moment but may well be attributed to individual personalities and, perhaps, the year of Barbie  when women choose solidarity over competition because it’s what’s circulating in the popular zeitgeist.”

On Kent’s terms

Kent’s decision to put herself first has been commended by fans on social media. Considering that she was in a “fairly unhealthy” and “competitive situation,” Pramaggiore said, Kent seems to have made a healthy choice for herself.

“It seemed important to her confidence to feel there was a possibility of being chosen by a man for romantic love,” Pramaggiore said. “At the same time, that confidence seemed to give her the courage to choose herself at the conclusion — to declare openly that the fit between her and Joey was not what it should be and therefore she was no longer attempting to win the final rose in a scenario that would deem her the ‘loser.’”

What Kent and Anderson have shown viewers, though, is that self-love and love for your friends are equally as important, if not more so, as getting the guy.

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