At its core, Survivor has all the time been capable of maintain a mirror to its viewers, forcing them to intently look at their very own values, and at occasions, the blemishes and biases that drive notion in every day life. This isn’t a completely new, groundbreaking speculation. However in the newest Survivor saga of David vs. Goliath, an inherent human flaw, bubbled to the floor – implicit gender bias.
All through the season, there was a robust undercurrent of feminist commentary, introduced up time and time once more, in each confessionals and the press. The subject hovered over: the skewed idol statistics that weigh closely in favor of the lads, the continued flaws within the notion of a lady’s social capital, and particularly within the decision-making dynamics within the majority alliance of Goliaths on the prime of the merge. Even within the Survivor pre-season, there have been whispers of the return of the Black Widow Brigade from Alison in First One Out, however sadly, the confluence of the feminine gamers simply wasn’t within the stars.
Swirling on the middle of this dialogue was Angelina, a polarizing power-player who discovered herself sitting at ultimate tribal council, flanked by two male counterparts. Angelina sat, squished within the middle of this Poor Boy sandwich, in the midst of a dialogue surrounding gender dynamics in Survivor. That begs the query, if Angelina was sitting subsequent to ladies as an alternative of males, would her possibilities improve? Would her strategic gameplay be extra evenly assessed, dismissing the occasions at which her recreation lacked self-awareness? If the ladies have been capable of strategically slice out the lads earlier than ultimate tribal, would implicit biases fade to the background? Whereas the feminist undertones of this season didn’t essentially instantly influence the result of this specific season (learn: congratulations, Nick Wilson), they’re solely value noting when analyzing Survivor as an entire.
A number of the most powerfully perceived ladies within the franchise’s historical past have gone to the ultimate tribal with solely lady, or have been the leaders of an notorious “all-girls alliance.” Enter Parvati Shallow, Cirie Fields, Kim Spradlin, and Natalie Anderson – to call a number of. The notion of energy is far greater when a feminine participant is surrounded by her feminine friends, slightly than a male opposition. A feminine participant, encircling herself with different ladies, evens the enjoying subject by neutralizing the implicit biases which will exist.
In response to the numbers crunched by bloggers Amanda Rabinowitz and Sean Falconer, ladies have confronted males in last tribal council in 27 out of 37 seasons. In an ideal world, with all issues being equal, it’s anticipated that ladies would have gained 12 of these seasons. Contrarily, ladies have been solely capable of convert these ultimate tribal council appearances to only 9 wins, performing solely 75% in addition to anticipated. This might suggest that there’s something larger at play, and maybe a lady who goes to the top with a person, is extra more likely to have her recreation unfairly assessed by her friends, permitting gender biases and sexism to creep into the jury’s narrative.
Hannah Shapiro. Chrissy Hofbeck. Angelina Keeley.
All three of those ladies have been the final ladies standing of their given season, forcing every of them to take a seat at last tribal subsequent to their male contestants. Whereas enjoying vastly totally different strategic, social and bodily video games, every of those three robbed goddesses had the chops to win, however their reward, credit score, and successes have been stripped of them earlier than the sport’s finish. These finalists had robust instances to plead to their respective juries, instances that may ultimately be silenced by the underlying whispers of sexism behind jury questioning and analyses. Typically, their character was maligned because of the jury’s have to worth a lady’s social capital over her strategic prowess, one thing that’s inverted for his or her male counterparts.
Hannah Shapiro, the final lady standing in Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X, sitting at FTC subsequent to Ken McNickle and winner, Adam Klein. Hannah had arguably probably the greatest FTC performances in recent times, defending her strikes clearly and concisely. She remained even-tempered because the jury poked pointless holes in her recreation, and branded her as a flippant flipper gone rogue. Hannah herself is likely one of the most self-aware Survivors ever to play the sport, and even together with her consciousness of implicit gender biases going into the season, it wasn’t till she was sitting at FTC that it actually revealed itself.
The Season 33 FTC was a head-to-head battle the place Adam claimed duty for almost all of Hannah’s strikes, dismissing Hannah’s position as a strategic mastermind. Hannah, on reflection, was the true puppetmaster, touchdown every jury member of their respective spots on the bench, in that order. She is among the few individuals, since Kim Spradlin, capable of name her photographs one after the other, touchdown every castaway on the jury as she demanded. Let it’s said that Hannah was on the best aspect of the vote at each single tribal council she attended, apart from the Michaela vote. Spectacular AF.
Probably the most troubling little bit of FTC was that Hannah was reprimanded for her seemingly sporadic determination making, one thing she did an professional job nullifying with counter arguments in her opening assertion. Her reasoning, sadly, fell on deaf ears as Adam’s gameplay was valued at a better regard, regardless of him being on the flawed aspect of the numbers on a number of events, and people events being orchestrated by Hannah herself. Sadly, the identical jury members that critiqued her recreation for being too emotional have been mockingly appearing on their very own feelings for his or her remaining vote. When Hannah turned on individuals sitting on the jury, they felt extra deeply betrayed by her, due to the social relationships she developed. Whereas, when Adam did the identical factor, it was perceived as a robust strategic play. Alas, the double commonplace – a development of castaways feeling overly harm by feminine energy gamers, as an alternative of impressed by their strategic prowess – a pink thread that runs by way of the complete historical past of the present.
There weren’t a ton of girls who made it far on this specific season, so it’s arduous to ascertain a path to the top for Hannah alongside different feminine castaways. However sadly, it was this uncontrollable issue of a dude-heavy post-merge recreation, mixed with the miscalculated implicit notion that marked her downfall.
Chrissy Hofbeck is the official robbed goddess and runner-up of Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers. Chrissy marched into last tribal council after 4 particular person immunity wins, alongside long-time ally Ryan Ulrich, and Public Enemy Quantity One, Ben Driebergen. This season is especially irritating as not solely did Ben’s hidden immunity idol spree permit him to coast to the ultimate 4; he was additionally given a second probability in a fireplace making twist, an “benefit” the castaways weren’t conscious of going into the season. Chrissy ought to’ve taken a cue from Dr. Mike and tossed that “benefit” proper within the hearth.
However earlier than diving into #BENBOMS vs. problem wins, it’s essential to notice the unimaginable recreation Chrissy performed main as much as FTC. Chrissy had a powerful begin, battling her method via the primary tribal council, with the Tremendous Idol comfortably tucked in her pocket. She whipped the votes towards Roark in an enormous pre-merge transfer. She created a diversion to assist Ryan sneak away with the hidden immunity idol post-merge, and was capable of place herself inside the majority alliance. Sadly, the facility dynamics quickly shifted, with Ben because the double-agent. Chrissy then needed to play the remainder of the sport together with her again up towards the wall. It’s fascinating that Ben’s finish recreation is seen as Mike Holloway-esque, when in actuality, Chrissy was extra of a Holloway finalist together with her spectacular run in challenges when her recreation was on the road.
“This lady is a genius.” – Ashley Nolan, on Chrissy’s social recreation at Survivor HvHvH FTC.
At FTC, Ashley Nolan was a champion of Chrissy’s recreation, speaking the really spectacular social, strategic and bodily recreation that she performed – a holistic triple menace. Regardless of Chrissy’s 1-on-1 social capital and private connections, she was nonetheless maligned for her social recreation, her outspoken confidence rubbing individuals the mistaken method. Her power, technique, and confidence was not anticipated from the “mother” character sort and was thus perceived in a adverse mild. Oh, so Ben can drop #BENBOMBS and fumble his whole social recreation, however Chrissy isn’t allowed to take credit score for her gameplay in a rational and articulate approach? Hmmm.
Within the new FTC open discussion board format, Chrissy needed to battle for time to talk, at one level fairly actually asking for permission to reply a query. Her FTC efficiency was stellar, rigorously strolling the jury via her multifaceted technique. She additionally introduced up that eight out of the 9 particular person immunity challenges have been gained by ladies, 4 of these by Chrissy herself. If these powerhouse ladies have been capable of mobilize, Survivor HvHvH would have ended very in a different way, however that’s a Survivor fan fiction for an additional day. *Sigh* Hypothetically, if Ben’s idols and Chrissy’s immunity wins are off the desk, negating one another, and the sport is analyzed by means of the lens of social and strategic gameplay, Chrissy wins in a landslide.
Oh, Angelina Keeley. As a preface, it goes with out saying that Angelina’s recreation, whereas aggressive and dynamic, was inherently flawed (learn: jury pandering and Rice-Gate). Whereas the gender bias described within the coming paragraphs didn’t essentially make or break her recreation, they’re value noting as we monitor the evolution of implicit biases in future seasons. We’ve got Angelina to thank for actually placing the thought of sexism in Survivor on the map, forcing even Jeff Probst himself to acknowledge and respect her commentary on gender inequality within the recreation and in life. Her power and willingness to talk out a few lady’s notion on the island was courageous, and fairly frankly, lengthy overdue. Sure, queen.
As beforehand talked about, Survivor: David vs. Goliath was riddled with feminist undertones, however sadly, the rumblings of an all-girl alliance by no means got here to fruition. Angelina, like Hannah and Chrissy, was the final lady standing in her season, forcing her to take a seat subsequent to 2 males at FTC. The post-merge recreation was full of feminine energy gamers, however the women had various agendas, and couldn’t stay on the identical aspect of the numbers. The perfect shot for Angelina to win the sport would have been together with her feminine counterparts, as her social ineptitude might have been perceived as much less of an issue, permitting the jury to focus extra on what she delivered to the desk strategically.
Angelina’s expertise in negotiation not solely helped her get rice for the tribe however actually labored to her benefit in FTC. This appears to be a standard theme with our robbed goddesses, their FTC performances outshine that of their male rivals, nevertheless it isn’t rewarded in the long run. She pointedly described her technique, and her capacity to rebuild relationships after the Elizabeth snafu, and highlighting that just one in 5 idols are discovered by ladies, a statistic she hoped to assist change. She was within the pivotal position of deciding who was touchdown on the jury because the swing, whereas Nick was blindsided and overlooked of crucial votes.
“I need to deliver consideration to the truth that ladies are handled in another way on this recreation. In case you are assertive you’re seen as bossy, when you’re emotional you’re seen as hysterical. And so I do know you’re up towards not solely the problem of the sport however points that face us outdoors of the sport.” – Gabby Pascuzzi to Angelina in FTC.
Following this assertion from Gabby, Angelina owned-up to, at occasions, over-compensating for the truth that she is a lady, preventing to be heard. Angelina is a primary instance of a lady so viscerally conscious of the unfairness of gender bias that she inevitably dug her personal grave whereas trying to uncover a deep-rooted societal difficulty for the viewers.
Hopefully, Angelina will grace the fanbase with an look in a future season. If she will efficiently develop from Survivor: David vs. Goliath, enhance her self-awareness and modify her social technique ever-so-slightly, ought to might actually have a shot at taking this entire factor.
Parvati Shallow. Kim Spradlin. Natalie Anderson.
Parvati Shallow is one in every of 4 contestants to play Survivor a minimum of 3 times, solely being voted out as soon as. She appeared on Survivor: Prepare dinner Islands, Survivor: Micronesia, and Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains. As a self-proclaimed flirt and perceived strategic villainess, in her first returning season, Survivor: Micronesia – Followers vs. Favorites, she was capable of attain the ultimate tribal council and finally win the title of Sole Survivor. Value noting that Followers vs. Favorites was the primary season the place the ultimate 4 was completely made-up of the identical gender. This was no accident, as Parvati was the founder and chief of the O.G. Black Widow Brigade.
“It’s just like the Black Widow Brigade. Like, all the women are coming collectively, and we’re spinning the blokes round as a lot as we will. Simply spinning them and spinning them till they don’t know which means is up. After which we’re devouring them one by one.” – Parvati Shallow, Survivor: Micronesia – Followers vs. Favorites.
She led a set of feminine energy gamers, slicing the remaining males within the recreation one after the other. Regardless of finally profitable the million greenback examine in a really shut 5-Three vote towards Amanda Kimmel, this didn’t cease the jury from maligning her for her character on the present. Despite the fact that each Parvati and Amanda have been strategic, social, and bodily savants, as an alternative of being rewarded for his or her Survivor prowess, they have been dragged by fellow castmates in last tribal council, with questions and speeches coated in sexism.
Natalie Bolton began her speech by saying “You’ve got my respect tonight, lady to ladies,” however this couldn’t have been farther from the reality. She went on to query Parvati’s intercourse life, each inside and out of doors the sport, and attacked Amanda for being the “zombied, fairly woman, not likely figuring out what’s happening, pageant queen cliche.”
Probably the most fascinating jury speech of the night time got here from Ozzy Lusth, who felt deeply harm by Parvati’s cutthroat means to play the sport strategically. “I’m really to the underside of my coronary heart harm by what you probably did to me…I by no means thought in one million years you may do this to me, you set a worth on our friendship, you threw us away…It actually does harm. How are you going to say that you simply’re a task mannequin whenever you’re prepared to discard a useful friendship like that?”
Equally to the expertise Hannah Shapiro had, this can be a prime instance of different gamers feeling genuinely harm or betrayed by feminine castaways, as an alternative of respecting the strategic strikes wanted to get to the top. Ozzy completely represents an enormous double normal current within the recreation, the place very not often can we hear phrases like harm, betrayed, and broken-hearted thrown round in the direction of male gamers, they’re merely seen as strategic kingpins.
It’s undoubtedly believable that the one approach Parvati had even the slightest shot on the million greenback prize was resulting from her instinctual strategic transfer to play the sport with different ladies. With out the safety of her feminine counterparts in FTC, it’s truthful to imagine that these jury accusations might have overshadowed the unimaginable recreation she performed.
Natalie Anderson, winner of Survivor: San Juan del Sur – Blood vs. Water, orchestrated one other profitable girls-only FTC. Natalie’s spectacular run left her tied with Michele Fitzgerald for many mixed tribal and particular person problem wins for a feminine participant, with 13 complete wins. She can also be the primary Asian-American lady ever to win Survivor. Regardless of dropping her liked one, sister Nadiya Anderson, after the primary vote, Natalie was pressured to make use of this to her benefit, strategically putting herself inside the bulk alliance, and laying low till she was capable of aggressively assert herself on the proper time and dominate all the finish recreation of the season.
Together with her sister out of the image, Natalie turned the one lady left within the recreation who didn’t have a beloved one on the formation of the jury. Each Missy and Baylor had one another because the mother-daughter duo, and Jaclyn had help in her boyfriend, Jon. A standard trait that’s tacked onto ladies who make it to the ultimate is that they have been seen as driving the coattails of one other participant. For instance, Tasha Fox in Survivor: Cambodia, was labeled as a goat (the ba-aaaah-d sort of goat) for driving Jeremy’s coattails. Regardless of a robust pre-merge recreation and a dominant social technique, she finally acquired zero votes at FTC. Natalie was capable of keep away from Tasha’s destiny, by carving her personal path to the top, with out the perceived assist of her beloved one. This was paramount in FTC, as each Missy and Jaclyn have been confronted with backlash over this very matter.
By sitting with each Missy and Jaclyn on the finish, Natalie was capable of permit her two former allies to soak up the blows, whereas she left remaining tribal comparatively unscathed. The one exception being Keith, who articulated how “harm” he was by her mendacity. Ozzy’s sentiment in the direction of Parvati repeats itself on this occasion, one other man feeling deeply betrayed by a lady who is just enjoying the sport, and enjoying it nicely. Missy was ripped to shreds by Reed, attacking her for her “depraved stepmother” position, a continuing plight of the 40+ ladies, and an awesome instance of the intersectionality of ageism and gender bias. Jaclyn acquired some warmth from Josh when he requested her “do you assume that the rationale why you’re right here tonight is from, like, the power of your personal benefit, or do you assume the alternatives made by stronger gamers on this recreation is the rationale why you’re sitting right here?” Yet one more instance of a lady being punished for her alliances and being seen as a strategic freeloader.
The meat defend is consistently mentioned on Survivor, maybe one other technique that must be thought-about is the thought of a sexism defend, one thing made extremely obvious at Natalie’s FTC. If a participant can go to the top with different castaways which might be totally different from them strategically however have a mutual sameness in perceived flaws, they’re destined for victory. On this specific instance, Natalie’s gameplay was capable of be pretty assessed, whereas the opposite two ladies took the unlucky stereotypical blows that ladies face in FTC. This holds-up for every type of bias, Denise Stapley proving she will defy ageist biases by sitting on the finish with two different contestants over 40, finally coming away with the title of Sole Survivor. Is the sexism defend the brand new energy couple? In all probability not. Onward!
Kim Spradlin, winner of Survivor: One World, was initially pressured to play with different ladies because of the season’s format – tribes divided by gender, dwelling collectively on the identical seashore. Kim herself admitted that she wasn’t essentially thrilled on the prospect of the “woman energy” dynamic, however was prepared to drift to safe an alliance and achieve belief together with her friends. She finally leaned into her all-female alliance, expertly crafting a military of girls and main the cost towards the lads. She had one of the spectacular first-time appearances, and victories within the present’s historical past.
Kim bridged the hole between two various majority alliances, however in the long run selected a Black Widow Brigade-esque run, concocting the plans to blindside Jonas and Mike. She was a grasp of the social and strategic recreation, main vote after vote in her favor, whereas nonetheless fostering relationships that may get her to the top. This season was the primary season during which the ultimate 5 was comprised of castaways of the identical gender, the primary season to take action because the all-women last 4 in Followers vs. Favorites.
As soon as once more in FTC, we’ve jury members deeply harm by Kim’s dominant technique, claiming their particular person harm over their respective blindsides is paramount to Kim’s near-flawless recreation. Mike claims that Kim took the “blame” for each blindside, inflicting all the blood to be on her palms, and putting her within the scorching seat. However foolish Michael, Kim taking credit score for skilled maneuverings and calculated strategic performs isn’t taking the blame, it’s to spice up her resume.
The warmth continued from Troyzan, Leaf, and Kat, all claiming that they have been “destroyed” by Kim and the women sitting subsequent to her. Kim wasn’t the one finalist dodging gender bias-based accusations. The opening assertion by Jonas targeted on the attractiveness of Chelsea, and the likeability of Sabrina over their gameplay. At one level, jury member Cristina calls-out Chelsea asking, “Why do you hate individuals?” Sabrina was destroyed for her efficiency in challenges and participation in camp life, whereas her feat of discovering a hidden immunity idol on Day 2 was left totally out the image.
Regardless of the critiques of Kim’s near-perfect recreation, with bias and bitterness on the core of these arguments, she was nonetheless capable of safe the W with a 7-2-Zero vote at FTC. Whereas the second coming of a Black Widow Brigade wasn’t what Kim meant, she finally profited from the season’s format, being positioned alongside friends that might assist soften the blows of implicit bias. Combining this underlying girl-power “benefit” with Kim’s experience within the recreation was a profitable mixture that has but been matched.
The attract of Survivor is the commentary on cultural dynamics and the social experiment at its core. Gender is all the time an element within the recreation of Survivor, as is race, sexual orientation, class, ethnicity, faith, and numerous different defining traits. For instance, we will’t ignore that the expertise of a contestant who’s a lady of colour, is completely totally different than that of an older motherly determine, or a younger Asian lady. As in life, gender is only one piece of the bigger implicit bias puzzle, making an attempt to tribute any season’s consequence to at least one sole speculation is doing the present, and its rigorously crafted edit, a disservice.
Finally, the great thing about this recreation is that implicit biases current in society are uncovered, mentioned, and ultimately chipped away at, season by season. The truth that gender bias was even talked about on Survivor: David vs. Goliath signifies a small shift in tradition, and cognitive consciousness of gender roles each inside and out of doors the sport. The acknowledgment, and rise of the facility of girls within the recreation of Survivor is encouraging, and hopefully is reflecting what’s altering inside us as a society.
The excellent news: implicit bias is perpetually amending itself, and the human mind is ceaselessly impressionable. We now have the power to vary and evolve with a bit extra consciousness and self-assessment. In future seasons, hopefully, we start to see stereotypical biases dissolve, leaving extra room for unbiased perceptions and choice making at FTC.
Ought to future feminine gamers scoff on the prospect of making an alliance with a person? Completely not. However ought to she think about the implicit biases that come into play, ought to her endgame embrace male gamers? Completely sure.
*Particular because of the contributions of Amanda Rabinowitz, Sean Falconer, Angie Caunce. Learn their quantitative deep-dive into this matter right here.