International Women’s Day: The Purple Rock Women’s Alliance Takeover

In honor of International Women’s Day and a thread in our comment section, I organized a roundtable with some of our notable women commenters so we can discuss Survivor from a female perspective, instead of just me desperately shouting over the voices of older men. (Okay so the men of Purple Rock are actually rather feminist and progressive. But let me have this, dammit!)


Commenters Barbara Anderson, KemperBoyd, Violina23, and Ms. Woozah joined me for a chat. They will be designated as Barbara, Kemper, Violina, and Chelsey, respectively. They’re all awesome, so feel free to follow them on Twitter.

Sexism in Survivor

Emma: We know sexism is definitely an issue in Survivor. The answer is probably both, but do you feel it’s MORE a problem within the show, or a problem because the show is reflecting society? Either way, what can the show (i.e. producers) do to combat that?

Kemper: I think it is reflective of society 15 years ago and Survivor hasn’t adapted. It comes back to something Kass said: There aren’t women in the production staff; the view that producers and editors come from is male. So is it a surprise the way the show skews is male? They need more women within the staff.

Barbara: I keep going back to this quote from Jeff in 2012. “There just aren’t as many colorful women characters in Survivor history, and we’ve used up the ones we can. For whatever reason we’re loaded with interesting guys”. That right there points to an issue in casting.

Chelsey: I feel like Survivor is five years behind society. Being gay used to be such a big deal on the show, for instance, until a few years ago when it hasn’t been such a big thing. Survivor has gotten a little better in regards to women, but not by much. We get a season where a women dominates toward the end (San Juan del Sur) followed by one of the most misogynistic seasons we’ve ever had. And for some reason, almost every new female contestant feels like they have to say they’re the new Parvati. Because they think that’s the only way for a women to win Survivor, even though we’ve seen time and again that’s not true.

Barbara: I think someone (maybe Corinne) has said that Production often encourages you to say someone that they want you to say. Hence why a lot of recruits will bring up Parvati, Boston Rob, or Russell if they bring up anybody at all.

Chelsey: That’s annoying, Production. Stop that.

Barbara: Although Michele had the best reason for picking her this season that I have ever heard.

Emma: Yeah, I was high on Michele preseason because she seemed to actually understand why Parvati won. Which is another issue with the show: one of the strongest female winners the show has had is frequently reduced to a flirting sex kitten, even though that’s not at all how she won Micronesia.


Kemper: I fully agree. The Black Widow alliance is one of the best alliances in the game and it’s always reduced to a gaggle of women who sexed their way to the top and it’s not really true.

Barbara: It honestly doesn’t help by the fact that Parvati and Amanda were perceived to have/actually having island flings on the show.

Violina: But to add to what Kemper said… It’s like the recent #OscarsSoWhite thing. It’s not that the Oscars are inherently racist, but reflective of a lack of diverse voices. Jeff and his team always come from a place where it’s all about the alpha all-American man, and that’s always what they are going to think is the ideal picturesque winner. And if it isn’t that, it’s a sex kitten.

Barbara: Meryl and J Lo

Kemper: Violina nailed it.

Ms. Woozah: Do we know how many women are part of production?

Barbara: I mean Lynne Spillman is the head of casting, right? That’s one.

Violina: I’ll also add that Natalie Anderson definitely didn’t flirt her way to get victory, and she got no attention until the last few episodes. It was like they couldn’t figure out how to tell her story.

Barbara: Until Jeremy was voted out.

Violina: Yep!

Barbara: Then it became her story of getting revenge on everybody else for voting out Jeremy. Hell, the whole “girl power” element of her story didn’t really come to light until the SJDS finale. That really should have been a bigger deal, especially since the women were outnumbered by men, 8-10.

Violina: She was very calm and cool and in control, which didn’t fit the female narrative.

Barbara: I haven’t watched One World, but how did they handle someone who seems to be in the middle of the Parvati/Natalie A. spectrum in Kim Spradlin?

Chelsey: Kim’s season was different to begin with since it started out divided by gender.

Barbara: Oh yeah, good call.

Chelsey: Just thinking of other female winners – Tina didn’t so much to win as much as Colby “lost”. Same with Natalie and Russell. Everyone hated that Amber won…

Violina: I can’t remember Kim’s edit very well; I have a bad Survivor memory. But I remember she was masterful, and everyone always seemed to fall in line and believe what she said.

Kemper: Yeah seasons divided by gender allow women to be alpha in a way that other seasons don’t allow.

Violina: Natalie seemed to have a similar quality, but she was able to stay under the radar longer.

Chelsey: Sandra I think is an interesting case. Both her seasons were dominated by men’s edits.

Barbara: Sophie won because Coach lost, Denise won because Malcolm lost, Danni won because Rafe lost…the list goes on and on.

Chelsey: I haven’t seen Marquesas so I can’t speak to Vecepia’s win.

Barbara: I believe Vecepia won because Kathy lost.

Violina: Certainly Natalie W. won because Russell lost.

Barbara: Jenna won because Rob lost.

Emma: I’m not sure if Denise is someone who was seen as having won because Malcolm lost, but that might be because AV Clubbers were largely in love with the two of them pretty equally.

Barbara: I mean hers is the widest stretch in that particular conversation, but had Malcolm won that FIC, she would have have been in fourth place.

Kemper: I loved Denise but I imagine the casuals weren’t as keen. Often the story is of a man’s downfall not a woman’s victory. It’s rare that women get to be the hero.

Violina: I think this goes into a woman’s path to victory. How women can’t “Tony V” their way to victory or they look crazy and unhinged. Often the legitimate path to victory is to let the men implode into piles of testosterone on the floor.


Chelsey: It’s either seduce the men or ride the coattails of the men or hope all the men screw up their own games or hope you get cast in a gender-divided season (not that this is what actually happens but how it is portrayed).

Barbara: From what I hear, that is what happened during One World.

Chelsey: Pretty much. Especially in the beginning, and once the remaining guys got it together it was too late.

Violina: Does anyone remember the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where the women manipulate the father into doing what they want, while thinking it was his idea… The wife says, “The man might be the head of the family, but the woman is the neck and she can turn the head any way she wants.”

Chelsey: Yeah which is a funny quote but also – why can’t the women be the head for once?

Violina: Women on Survivor often don’t get the credit, but they are playing the same game with the same rules. I think it’s because they are still playing against men. It’s threatening to be a strong woman. Not that it’d ever happen, but imagine an all female cast: I think we’d see more aggressive play from women.

Kemper: It’s so funny that Kim, who benefited from a gender-divided season, said how she never wanted to work in an all women’s alliance.

Barbara: I think the whole thing is that the casuals and society in general don’t want to see women not act like women should act. That’s why mothers who are more cunning are frequently getting cut down at FTC for not acting like nurturing mothers.

Chelsey: Yeah, I hate that stereotype/expectation of mothers on the show. Like everyone got SO mad at Dawn because she betrayed them and a good mother would never do that.


Barbara: So, I actually decided to Google women stereotypes and some of the prominent ones actually work well in this conversation.

  1. Women are not as strong as men
  2. The best women are stay at home moms
  3. Women are not politicians
  4. Women are quieter than men and not meant to speak out
  5. Women are supposed to be submissive and do as they are told
  6. Women are meant to be the damsel in distress; never the hero
  7. Women are supposed to look pretty and be looked at
  8. Women are flirts
  9. Women are never in charge

Barbara: I hope that the uniqueness of the women this season starts a positive trend in casting. Yes, it is okay to cast “bikini babes” but there has to be some substance there.

Kemper: I agree. This year’s crop of women has been good; only Alecia seems a dud. All the others are interesting.

Barbara: I actually think Alecia has something fairly unique. This is probably the first time that she has struggled with something in her life, but instead of checking out the way Morgan did after the Bryce boot in Cagayan, she has fought to stay in. The only problem is that she doesn’t understand how to fight in Survivor.

Chelsey: I’m liking Alecia more and more! Poor girl has to fight against a tribe that doesn’t even call her by her name. I really hope a woman wins this season. Would be cool it it’s someone from the Beauty tribe even. Help get the awfulness of last time’s Beauty stereotypes out of my head.

Kemper: Yeah, Morgan, Alexis, and Jefra fulfilled all the negative stereotype of Survivor‘s female casting. If they are saying Parvati is the prototypical beauty winner, they can’t then cast a bunch of bikini babes who don’t think.

Chelsey: I just want to add that Barbara’s list is something we as women have to fight against all the time in the real world, and it’s tiresome to have it reflected on one of our favorite TV shows. And I think we as audience members need to fight against our instinct to call a headstrong woman on Survivor a bitch. Or a “witch” even.

Kemper: I found the Three Witches thing really offensive actually. Three dudes are the Three Amigos but three women are the witches.

Cambodia- Ciera and Abi mock Joe

Barbara: I am going to be completely honest here: I actually love the alliance name “Witches Coven”. I know I shouldn’t but there is something empowering about these three women who shouldn’t be friends and allies being friends and allies. It also speaks to how “scary” those three were out in Cambodia. Can I just say that it is a problematic fave of mine?


Kemper: I think we can allow it.

Barbara: Kemper, can you go into more detail about how Alexis and Jefra fulfilled these negative stereotypes of female casting? Also, thank you for allowing me to like the alliance name! 🙂

Kemper: Jefra was a follower.

Barbara: I can see that, especially since she decided to stay with Tony even after the LJ blindside.

Kemper: And they were all 21-22.

Emma: Alexis went to Northwestern and I think she could have been good. Let’s remember she was voted out for being smarter than the others.

Kemper: That is true but it’s hard for a 21-year old woman on the show. Sophie is the rare example of one who was respected by her alliance.

Emma: It does seem that you get the much younger (18-23) women more often than the younger men. And the younger men are rarely just babes. Like, Fabio was, but both Spencers had the superfan role. Frosti was young, but was more of an athletic type.

Kemper: The young guys do tend to be athletic.

Favorite Female Players

Kemper: Character-wise I’m all about Cirie and Courtney Yates, but game-wise it’s Denise. I just respect her so much.


Chelsey: Probably Sandra. I love everything about her. Also love Courtney, Kim, Cirie, Parvati. Denise is also super great.

Barbara: Denise is fantastic.

Kemper: Yeah, I obviously adore Sandra. She should always be the first person out and she wins.

Emma: Favorite character is of course Courtney Yates. I’m also a cliche Parvati fan because black widows forever! Definitely agree on the Sandra and Denise love. I also think Kim is just a total boss.


Barbara: Sandra is also fantastic. I also got to give a hat tip to Tina Wesson, who was the first mom to reach the FTC-and won. She also played an outwardly maternal game but she was just as devious as Hatch. She just wasn’t as open as he was. Also, I have to love somebody who loves Doritos and playing matchmaker for her daughter. I also really enjoy Jerri’s three-season arc from villainess to robbed goddess.

Chelsey: I recently rewatched The Australian Outback and her edit is so funny. Her “villainy” is calling someone out for having food and being in love with Colby.

Kemper: So different from later villains.

Barbara: Those were the days. But, let’s be real, Jerri and Colby would be an extremely attractive couple.


Kemper: Yep. Although my Survivor OTP is rice and beans. Sandra and Courtney forever!

Chelsey: YES.

Barbara: If only Courtney had made it to the merge with Sandra…but that was never going to happen.


Kemper: That and doing Tina a solid and getting Katie and Hayden together.

Barbara: I thought she wanted Vytas with Katie.

Kemper: Because at the time Hayden was taken.

Barbara: Oh, interesting. Katie and Hayden makes a lot more sense than Katie and Vytas to be honest.

Emma: I would be totally on board for Hayden/Katie. Kaden?

Kemper: Haytie?

Barbara: Both sound good to me.

Emma: That’s probably better because Kaden would have fit when he was with Kat too.

The Female Gaze and Survivor Crushes

Barbara: My number one crush is Colby in The Australian Outback.


Chelsey: Ryan O. The eyes. Just basing this purely off looks.

Emma: Oh, Ryno is a good one! When I rewatched Pearl Islands, I was reminded of how cute he was. He didn’t age so well though.

Barbara: I want to add one clarification. We cannot judge each other’s picks. This is a judge-free zone.

Emma: I mean, I think we know mine. But if we’re talking aesthetic appeal only, I think Brett from Samoa is just so cute.

Emma and Cochran at the Survivor Cambodia finale

Barbara: I recently thought about my top ten Survivor crushes and so many of them fall in the Brett camp of “young guys with floppy hair”, yet Brett did not make my list. I guess he is truly Purple Brett.

Chelsey: Jeremy is also ????


Emma: In two seasons of Brains/Brawn/Beauty, I’ve yet to be attracted to one of the male beauties.

Barbara: I think Jeremy is hotter in Cambodia than in SJDS. I don’t know why though. I was attracted to Jeremiah and LJ has pretty eyes. That is about it for Beauties. I will say that Savage is a good looking older male character who aged incredibly well.

Emma: Yul is an underrated hottie. Everyone is too distracted by his “substance” and “exceptional gameplay”.

Barbara: I think I may have discussed this elsewhere, but I am a big fan of guys with abs and glasses. Yul is the best example of this, but Savage and Cambodia Stephen also works in the demographic.


Emma: Cambodia Stephen ????????????. Stephen in his plaid finale suit ????????????.

Violina: I’m not typically big on muscle men, but that oily Jeremy picture… what a fine specimen! I’m definitely attracted to nerdy guys-next-door.

Emma: Same, Violina.

Violina: Like, I don’t have a crush on Cochran, but I totally want to hang out in a dorm room after class.

Emma: I was working on stuff for our March Madness bracket and wound up watching Cochran win (which is not relevant to the bracket). And I am so hopelessly attracted to him in the Caramoan finale. It’s ridiculous.

Violina: Maybe it’s because I’ve been married almost 10 years (god, I’m even older than I thought), but I am more attracted to people in a “I want to hang out with you and have you join my inner circle” way than in a sexual way.

Barbara: In that demographic, Rob C in post-merge Amazon is pretty attractive.

Emma: Oh, and Barbara, Savage totally has the DILF thing going on in Pearl Islands. (Sorry, Kemper).


Barbara: I know, but I find him more physically attractive in Cambodia.

Emma: Regarding that demo, I found Terry more attractive than Savage in Cambodia. Although glasses totally do it for me.

Chelsey: That Nick guy this season? Zero attraction.

Barbara: I thought he was good looking in the first episode, but as he has started losing weight in his face, I was done with him. Which basically means that Caleb is the only truly attractive guy on this season and I cannot have that.

Violina: I was actually going to bring up Nick – he’s conventionally attractive and not super-muscular, which are wins, but the douchey vibe is palpable.

Emma: Yeah, not into Nick at all. Even my mom texted me that she wasn’t attracted to him!

Violina: I can’t stand the condescending smirky smile. If I didn’t read about Caleb’s Big Brother history, I’d probably find him cute, at least the way they are editing it right now. Because he’s coming across really endearing so far.


Barbara: Unfortunately, I watch Big Brother. I cannot separate this Caleb from the Caleb that was obsessed with Amber.

Violina: Yeah, the Beauty tribe has yet to go to tribal, so they can all just be quirkly lovable teddy bears at this point.

Chelsey: I found Peter kind of good looking, but now its a little tainted. Rough going for the female gaze this season.

Kemper: No one into Old Joey Amazing?

Emma: Long hair doesn’t do it for me.

Violina: Yep. I don’t get the man bun thing, sorry. Seems like a nice enough guy, but not NEARLY nerdy enough. 😉

Kemper: No, I meant Joe Del Campo.

Emma: Hahaha oops! Missed that you said “Old Joey Amazing.” I do love how none of us said Joe or Malcolm for our top crushes. We’re so unconventional!

Chelsey: He and Malcolm are definitely good looking men! Wasn’t complaining having them on my screen, just not as much my type.

Kemper: Malcolm’s facial hair is awful.

Emma: Malcolm kind of looks like my cousin, so that’s a no go. Very charming though!

Violina: So I guess we might be a somewhat skewed sample in terms of what “does it for us” in terms of Survivor men…

Barbara: I love Ozzy in Cook Islands, Joe in Worlds Apart, and Malcolm in general. They just cannot top Colby for me. I also love cocky guys like Boston Rob in All-Stars.

Violina: Meh on Ozzy… Maybe it’s the hair again.

Barbara: I think Ozzy’s hair has just gotten worse and worse as he returns. I absolutely hate how he looks in South Pacific.

Emma: He’s hottest to me in Micronesia, but such a douche.

Barbara: That’s why Ozzy is my problematic fave.


Second Chance Part Two: Ladies Edition

Barbara: Who is the one-time non-Sole Survivor female contestant that you want to see come back?

Violina: J’Tia! (Just kidding)

Chelsey: Hmmm. Natalie from Micronesia.


Barbara: I knew someone would bring up Natalie. I am going to be a bit controversial here and say Elisabeth Filarski. She had a decent handle on the game back then, but she was just dealt a bad hand. I wonder how being famous and famously hated has changed her.

Kemper: I’d have Nat Bolton high up and you all know how much I like Katie Collins.

Violina: If she had any fucks left to give, I’d say Jenn Brown.

Kemper: I think Jenn’s meter is set on no fucks to give

Barbara: Jenn is on my list, but I would be worried that she may quit the game. However, Probst has said that he liked working with her and that she was his ideal No Collar. So, she could come back in a few years.

Violina: Jenn was gold to watch, though. You know, when she cared.


Barbara: Maybe in a FvF season?

Violina: The intellectual side of me is curious how Nadiya Anderson might do playing again. Because she arguably got a bad break, and I wonder how her style might have differed from Natalie.

Kemper: It was the perfect result really having one twin go first and the other win.

Barbara: That could be really interesting. I would love to see So Kim come back as well, especially after dating Malcolm. (As far as I know they’re still dating, but you get my drift).

Emma: Erinn Lobdell from Tocantins comes to mind for me.

Kemper: YES! Erinn was sneaky awesome.

Barbara: It would be nice to see a female return from Tocantins.

Emma: Definitely agree with Natalie Bolton and Jenn Brown though.

Barbara: At this point, I don’t see Natalie coming back.

Emma: Allegedly she was on the short list for Second Chance. Oh! Less likely than Elisabeth and probably would end up as a Wiglesworth, but it’s hard to not want Colleen back.


Violina: Yeah, since her movie career never quite took off 😉

Barbara: Colleen is actually a prototypical Jenn Brown as they were both young and snarky. Yes, she was America’s sweetheart, but she was only edited that way. She was even a bit feisty in her FTC question.

Naming the Alliance

Emma: Every crew needs a name, what should ours be?

Chelsey: We can call ourselves the Female Gaze Alliance or something silly.

Barbara: What about the Katie Collins Squad? After all, we have been united by the Purple Rock Podcast and we are all ladies…

Chelsey: That rock was white though!

Kemper: I liked Praying Mantis Crew.

Barbara: Forget my suggestion. I am down for Praying Mantis Crew.

Emma: Praying Mantis Crew for life.

Queen Bey