An Observation

[Content Note: Misogyny. Please note there are spoilers for the first three seasons of Best Ink and the first two seasons of King of the Nerds in this post.]

I waited a few weeks after the final episodes of the most recent seasons of Best Ink and King of the Nerds to write this post, so I wouldn't spoil the finales for anyone still catching up. But if you don't want to know who won any seasons of either of these shows, skip this post.

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Something about which we've talked a lot around here is the number of creative competition shows where female contestants get singled out for disproportionately harsh criticism from judges and/or win at a much lower frequency than male contestants.

Often, in responses to criticism, judges and producers of those shows, like Top Chef's Tom Colicchio, will vehemently protest that it's just a coincidence, that there's no misogyny at work.

And I'm sure in some cases, there's no conscious misogyny at work.

But, on many of these shows, from cooking competitions to design competitions as varied as Project Runway and Face Off, something seems to be creating more male winners than female winners.

Which is dismissed as coincidence, or evidence of the veracity of tiresome old misogynist narratives about women not being as vigorous competitors as men.

But here's an interesting thing: Most of the shows on which that happens have a judging component, and most of the shows with judge panels have mostly male judges.

Even if there's one male judge and one female judge with a third rotating guest judge slot, the guest judges tend to be disproportionately male, meaning the judging panel is more frequently male dominated than not.

Two exceptions to this common dynamic are Best Ink, a tattoo competition show, which just finished its third season, and King of the Nerds, a geek-centered competition show, which just finished its second season.

Best Ink has a three-judge panel of three fixed judges, two of whom are women. And the male judge also serves as mentor, who spends lots of one-on-one time with all the contestants.

King of the Nerds has judging panels only to determine the winners of team challenges that determines who goes to elimination, but the contestants themselves choose which two contestants participate in the elimination challenge, and the elimination challenge always has an objective winner. There is no subjective judgment; instead, who goes home is determined by a quantifiable contest. Whoever is faster, smarter, more skilled, more knowledgeable stays.

So are the results on these shows that deviate from the norm different?

Yes. Best Ink has had three seasons, and the last two seasons have been won by women. In a field where there is still heaping fuckloads of rank misogyny.

King of the Nerds, despite its increasingly inappropriate title, has had two seasons, both of which have been won by women. The first season was won by a woman of color.

I'm sure there are exceptions to this observation, because there are a lot of creative competition shows on television right now. I do watch a number of them, but I don't watch them all.

It's just anecdata. But I think there's something more than coincidence going on.

There usually is.

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