Top Chef Biased?

Tara Sophia Mohr says yes.

Fans of Bravo’s Top Chef know: the women keep losing.

Each season starts off with a roughly equal number of male and female contestants. All have been through the same rigorous selection process. Yet as the competition goes on, the women simply don’t perform as well as the men. Or so it seems.

A closer look reveals that Bravo’s Top Chef isn’t meritocratic at all. It’s strongly biased in favor of the men — for three surprising reasons.

She says (1)  bias is unconscious, (2) women are treated as sexual objects too often on the show, and (3) the solo competition dimension of the show works against women.

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  • Robert A

    Maybe it’s just one show. Check out the Apprentice and you’ll see just as (if not more) competitive environment where the women are doing just fine and are tied with the men for the winners of the 10 seasons.

    Other “reality” (don’t buy that for a second) television likely has similar results. For instance Project Runway has an equal number of men and women winners in 8 seasons.

    Yet I still don’t see the women’s groups up in arms (as they should be) about shows like The Bachelor where the plots revolve around women destroying each other to get the attention of a “man.” (That whole show is disgusting for many, many reasons.)

    Top Chef is probably just one show.

  • Daniel

    Since when are “reality” shows based on merit? It’s entertainment not an actual competition. Read the fine print at the end of these shows.

  • K.

    I don’t know why anyone would worry about Top Chef, but I can see how sexualizing the female participants would be a problem.

    Robert A mentioned The Bachelor. Other bad shows are the Real Housewives and Bad Girls Club series. Those women should be ashamed for going along with these shows that encourage them to act so badly.

  • Thank you!! I’ve been saying this to anyone who will listen for years. Yes – Top Chef is sexist… even the women judges are biased. I could give 4-5 concrete examples – about one every 1.5 years – where bias kicks in. Is there a reason why a woman has won once? Yes.

  • Matthew Y.

    One of the things that they’ve talked about on the show in the past though is that it’s harder to find a lot of women to be on the show because a lot of women are leaving the profession to have families and such. A lot of the female contestants that they do have are lesbians who aren’t having children, etc. So if you’re trying to make the numbers equal at the beginning – then you may have to get some women who aren’t on the same level as the men. There are usually some women who do indeed make it toward the end of the competition though.

    I just find it odd that one of the things that we say so often in life is that “the pretty people do really well” but now we’re saying that’s not the case when it comes to Top Chef. Apparently this ONE tv shows is the lone exception. I just don’t buy it – I think there are other reasons.

  • Christiana

    Do you and Kris watch “Top Chef?”

  • Anna

    Mohr’s article is excellent. Thanks for the link.

  • Ryan K.

    This is silly. For many of the seasons of the show a good number of the male contestants have been gay… does this mean the show is pro-homosexual sexists?

    It could just be that so far the male contestants have cooked more the the judges liking than the female one’s.

    I would also point out that contrary to stereotype that the majority of Michelin and top-rated chefs in the world are male, does that make them sexists also? Why does a discrimination card have to be played when merit and results is usually the easier conclusion?

  • America’s Next Top Model is significantly more biased based on gender than Top Chef ever was. Shows do what they need to in order to obtain ratings.