'RHONY': What's With All the Sexuality Shaming This Season?

We all know that RHONY newcomer Barbara Kavovit isn’t exactly the ladies’ favorite.

In just a few episodes, she’s already been accused of being a pot-stirrer, having no style, and thirsting for an apple. All of those criticisms are typically par for the course in Real Housewives-land. However, there’s an undertone this season that is especially mean-spirited and is riddled with homophobia.

Barbara’s sexuality has been called into question several times the season. She is purportedly bisexual but has refrained from speaking publicly about it. However, that doesn’t prevent Sonja from telling the camera that she’s heard that Barbara “goes both ways,” and she’s not just saying that “because she looks kind of butch.” Barbara has been described as “rough around the edges” and at one point Dorinda even told her to take her hammer and go back to Home Depot.

rhony barbara lesbian
Photo: Bravo

At first, maybe this could have been written off as harmless teasing. But vague insinuations of Barbara’s lesbianism or bisexuality have only escalated and they’re completely unacceptable.

Perhaps the cruelest example of this occurred in the latest episode. The gals were playing a game of truth or dare at Bethenny’s dinner party (as your typical menopausal women do), and Bethenny was dared to kiss Barbara.

So let’s take the reality television aspect out of this for a second: a woman is new to a group of friends. She has done nothing but try to fit in and make a good impression. She has not even remotely discussed her sexuality. Yet, these people who she barely knows constantly make digs about it and relish any opportunity to put her on the spot in ways that make her feel uncomfortable. Whether it’s for the sake of drama or not, it’s not the way you treat another human.

rhony barbara sexuality
Photo: Bravo

The kissing scene was made even worse by a cut to Sonja afterward telling the camera directly, “I mean, on one hand, I’m jealous. On another hand, I just want to puke.”

Sonja goes on to say, “When I want to kiss Bethenny, it’s a different thing. I’m coming from a place of love and admiration. I’m not trying to get in her pants.”

The subtext here is, when I kiss a woman it’s just for fun; it’s a silly, deviant act. When you do it it’s disgusting because that’s your serious preference.

Barbara has so many things going for her that are a wonderful breath of fresh air on reality television. She is CEO of a construction company; she is a badass boss all day for a company made of mostly men. And in case that wasn’t enough, she is also a published author.

When you sign on for a reality show, it’s implied that drama is part of the agenda. But derogatory comments about sexuality and treating it like something scandalous should be off-limits. These women are attacking Barbara for who she is and who she might love, and that isn’t the lighthearted reality TV fare that I look for from Bravo.


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Michelle Vincent
Michelle Vincent is a project manager and freelance writer. She enjoys traveling, is worried she won't love her future children as much as she loves her dogs, and is actively recruiting podcast recommendations.