Wait, Did The Bold Type Just Romanticize Toxic Relationships?

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Finally, The Bold Type is back on our screens, (can we just for a minute appreciate how damn long it’s been since Sutton, Jane and Kat have graced us with their brave, courageous and most importantly, empowering personalities?)

I can honestly say I have probably watched this show nothing short of ten times since season two ended last summer. These women, for me, represent everything I aspire to be and achieve in my life. Their friendship is something we should all strive to have; one which is not afraid to call each other out on their bullshit and one which always shows up no matter how difficult a situation is, and no matter if technically, you are still fighting. These women have helped me pick up my broken ego when I have been rejected from journalism applications, internships, and work experience placements.

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They have healed my broken heart and they have encouraged me to get up and carry on.

I watch this show to feel empowered when I’m doubting myself and it always, always works. Which is why I was left feeling slightly confused and a little disappointed in this week’s episode, “Plus it Up”, when Jane’s control over her own body was seemingly taken from her, first from her new boss (who has only convinced me of his douchbaggery-ness—it’s a word—even more) and secondly, from her new official boyfriend, Ryan, aka Pinstripe. Writer, Jane, has a gene mutation called BRCA, which indicates she’s at a higher risk of breast or ovarian cancer (which her mother passed away from). This means, at just 23, Jane has to decide whether or not she plans on having kids. She decides to freeze her eggs and breaks up with the swoon-worthy Doctor Ben to get back with sex columnist and self-proclaimed fuck-boy, Ryan, as things got way too heavy with the medical professional.

This episode sees Jane begin her fertility treatment with a strict “no Ryan” policy as she understandably wants to keep the beginning of their new relationship sexy, light, and relatively mess-free. And being a writer, Jane, naturally, chooses to write a story on this process. That is until Patrick (aka douchebag boss) decides she needs a new, fresh angle to write about the experience. To add to how out of order this is, Patrick assigns her to co-write the piece with her boyfriend, who, despite Jane’s very vocal objections, agrees.

Any decent and understanding boyfriend would have politely bowed out, not in the least because he doesn’t actually work for Patrick, but also because Jane is uncomfortable with his involvement. But instead, Ryan chooses to force his way into her mental and physical space despite her many objections to it, including her telling him she was choosing to push him out of it and that her relationship with Ben fell apart because of this. Again, instead of respecting Jane’s very clear boundaries, Ryan chooses to guilt-trip her for this decision.

What upset me the most, however, was that Jane was left being the one to apologize for “pushing him away” when in fact, all she was doing, was setting clear boundaries which we are all allowed to do in any sort of relationship, especially intimate ones. She did nothing wrong in choosing to keep him separate from it. After all, who really wants their new boyfriend injecting them with hormones every night? That’s some long-term, marriage situation stuff and even if a man’s wife chooses for him to not be involved, that is her right. Her body, her choice.

And so, after all that, after Jane telling Kat and Sutton it wasn’t okay for Patrick and Ryan to literally stand in front of her and discuss HER body and her reproductive system and the way she chooses to handle it, as if she wasn’t there and then ignore her objections, the episode ends with Ryan turning up at Jane’s door to “help her”. Because of course, Jane couldn’t possibly go home, inject herself and enjoy a nice evening NOT being talked over, ignored and disrespected. No, instead what we get is Ryan showing up, uninvited and unannounced, to take part in something Jane had explicitly told him, she didn’t want him to be a part of. We get romantic music, apologies from Jane for “pushing him away”, longing cuddles and smiles as Jane is guilted into doing something she never wanted to do in the first place but is now left believing she needs Ryan for.

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Perhaps it would not have been as bad if he simply sat with her and offered support whilst she injected herself rather than do it himself, perhaps it wouldn’t have been so much like gaslighting if Ryan had been the one to apologize because after all, it is him who is in the wrong. We are left seeing them co-write this article together, laughing, kissing and enjoying the moment, when what we should have seen, was a discussion about boundaries in this new, fragile relationship and how ignoring boundaries is a very rocky and dangerous place to start something.

Because the thing about toxic relationships and emotional abuse, is that it can come off as sweet or heroic at first; we can believe them when they tell us or show us, that we need them in order to survive. Guilt-tripping, gaslighting and not respecting boundaries are all forms of abuse and I hope, for Jane’s sake and for the sake of the show, that this is not the norm for Ryan and I also hope that if it is, it’s addressed and he, like so many others in this show who display forms of sexism, are given a good Jane, Kat or Sutton speech and we are left cheering, our feminist hearts soaring.

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