Thursday, October 19, 2006

Sexism is alive and well on Bravo

For those of you who missed it, Top Chef, the cooking-reality show, premiered a new season last night. DS's Wednesday nights are free now that Project Runway is over -- don't judge him unless you have seen it.

DS's point requires some set up, so please bear with him. Top Chef is basically Project Runway set in a kitchen. Each week the chefs are given two challenges--immunity and elimination. In the immunity challenge (this week's was to create a flambe dish in 30 minutes) the winner receives, you guessed it, immunity from the upcoming elimination challenge. The elimination challenges are a bit more substantial -- this week's was to create a meal using each of the five mystery ingredients (doesn't sound that hard except that they included peanut butter, frog legs, chicken livers, eggplant and other stuff DS can't remember). Then, a panel of judges votes for the winners and losers. Chefs are voted off one by one until there are two left. They are then pitted against each other in a cooking battle royale.

Now that you have the setup, DS can get to his point. The show's judges, or the show's producers, are sexist. Not that they know they are. It might be ingrained, or subconscious, or something. But they are sexist. To prove this point, DS will cite four specific examples from the show.

First, and the least persuasive is last season's result. Harold, a male, pitted against Tiffany, a female, won. This really is no surprise because most people agree he was the best and Tiffany was a horrible, horrible B. Second, was last night's immunity challenge results. Sam, Emily, and Betty were the three top flambe chefs. Despite that two were women, the man won. To boot, he was picked by Harold, last season's winner. Third and fourth are last night's elimination challenge results. The four top chefs this week were Llan (male), Elia, Mia, and Betty. Three women, one man. Wouldn't you know it, Llan, the man, won. And, the four worst chefs this week were Marcel, Cliff, Carlos, and Suyai (only woman). You can predict the result; the woman was voted off. This despite the chief judge saying he had trouble swallowing Carlos's dish. Let's recap. Three awards have been handed out in the last two shows. Three men and six women were up for them. Men won. Every time. One chef has been voted off. One woman verse three men. But the woman goes.

Now, by saying these judges, or the producers, or the show itself, is sexist, DS is not implying they hate women. He thinks its more likely that the inherent sexism of food culture is too ingrained in them for them to even realize what they're doing. That doesn't change the result. Women are at a huge disadvantage on this show, and perhaps in kitchens all over the US. Just thinks about, that's all.

11 Comments:

Blogger Tom Fletcher said...

DS, I've seen it. I'm judging you. I hereby judge you guilty of the cable television equivalent of rubber necking. That is, you are guilty of stopping to leer at an obscene display of violence and ugliness our of some macabre fascination. I'd add some penal remedy, but we're all equally guilty of getting sucked into hating on the idiot with a tattoo on his neck.

10/20/2006 1:06 AM  
Blogger McWho said...

I would just like to say that Iron Chef kicks the everliving crap out of this show.

Although if Iron Chef had cute female Chefs (instead or in addition to the moron female judge, good God), it would be even better.

10/20/2006 2:04 AM  
Blogger Armen said...

Can we all agree that the Japanese competitive spirit makes for a better Iron Chef than the American crap they have?

10/20/2006 2:17 AM  
Anonymous SS said...

I think DS wouldn't recognize a good argument for sexist attitudes if it bitch-slapped him upside the head.

Here's a test: if I flip a coin three times in a row and get three heads...would you conclude that it's an unfair coin. Admittedly, if this happened 20 times, DS would have an argument. By DS should try understanding some small number probability theory before drawing such generalizations. My guess is that DS is not-so-good at gambling.

And let's just not get into the huge fallacies involved in DS drawing conclusions about sexism in home kitchens based on this TV show.

In the alternative: was DS kidding? If so, I'm just sorry for DS.

10/20/2006 9:52 AM  
Blogger Disco Stu said...

Alright 9:52, here is your statistical argument. Supposing the results were entirely random -- a coin flip as you said, or, more accurately, a roll of a four-sided die -- the probability that a man would be picked in the first three instances, and a woman in the latter is 1/96. For those scoring at home multiply 1/2 by 1/3 by 1/4 by 1/4 for the correct equation. In other words, if names were picked out of a hat, in only one chance out of 96 would Harold, Sam and Ilan (DS correction: he incorreclty identified the winning chef as "Llan" when, in fact, that winner was "Ilan") win and Suyai lose. So there's your "small number probability." You lose.

Also, DS never said that sexism existed in "home" kitchens. His argument was that women are at a disadvantage in the professional food industry. And Top Chef is displaying why.
Here are some facts:
- Of the 60 chefs who have earned three Michelin stars, two are women - http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,640188558,00.html
- Of the 118 UK restaurants with any Michelin stars, only five have women as their head chef - http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=432632006
- There are no (zero, nil, notta) female sushi chefs in Japan (one is required to stufy for eight years to be a sushi chef there) - personal source.
- Of the 2,134 certified exucutive chefs in the US today, only 92 are women (a paltry 4.3%) - http://www.culinary-school-finder.com/Women-Chefs.htm.

DS also accepts some arguments why there are so few female head chefs. For instance, obviously, if 75% of the chefs in training are male (for whatever reason -- hours, family life, disposition), there cannot be an equal 50-50 breakdown when those students graduate and become professional chefs. But 4.3%? Come on.

Top Chef, over its last two episodes, has merely reinforced the gender inequality that exists in the professional food industry.

10/20/2006 12:10 PM  
Anonymous SS said...

"Small number probably theory" isn't expressly concerned with "small probabilities" as you suggest....but "small numbers of trials."

A proper statistical analysis requires consideration of variance...and this general rule becomes incredibly important in small number cases. It is very difficult to reject the hypothesis that a particular outcome could not happen randomly (and therefore not because of bias) even for low probability events. That is why it is so difficult to make good statistical arguments for bias. I'll admit to not having done the variance calculations here and so I could be wrong. But having performed (for hire) such statistical analysis with the attempt to show gender and race-based hiring discrimination...I highly doubt your expectations will bear fruit.

Note, this does not mean there isn't bias. It means that it's really hard to show statistically. And the point of my post was that DS can't recognize a good argument for bias...I stand by that point.

10/20/2006 2:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DS should add a fifth example of sexism: when Lee Anne got kicked off last year and Crybaby Dave stayed.

10/21/2006 11:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think you all are overlooking the glaring sexism of "Flavor of Love." When was the last time a man won that??

10/22/2006 11:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That word, verse. I do not think it means what you think it means.

P.S. My captcha challenge is "wkauw"... how awesome is that? WKAUW!!!

10/22/2006 1:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DS should not talk about this. Even talking about the show helps sexism win. You are causing more people to watch the sexist show and encouraging more -ist reality television.

He might as well talk about the Iraq War and help the terrorists win while he's at it!!!

10/22/2006 8:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm also concerned about any food-related show that has as its central activity an "elimination challenge."

10/23/2006 11:59 AM  

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