Do reality competition shows discriminate in hiring based on sex?

Do reality competition shows discriminate in hiring based on sex?

The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) has an

online petition

asking film and television professionals to ask the U.S. Government to look into hiring (or perhaps, non-hiring might be more accurate) practices of studios for female directors (statistics suggest they are underrepresented, which may be indicative of illegal discrimination based on sex).

When the Survivor “Second Chance” cast (picked by the audience) was recently revealed, though, a question was raised for me again about another example of hiring discrimination based on sex.

You see, they hired ten women and ten men (based on the show’s defined categories).

That means that if eleven people of one gender were the best candidates, one of them wouldn’t have made it on this national, highly-rated show, based solely on sex.

How is that not discrimination?

Now, I realize that Hollywood is allowed to hire characters, for example, based on protected class. You can require that Juliet (as in Romeo and…) has to be a female. It can be argued that it is a requirement of the job. That is not an argument Shakespeare would have made played Juliet in the Bard’s time.

I don’t see how you can argue that there is a requirement of the Survivor role that means you need to hire either a man or a woman.

There’s one simple reason for that…either one can win the job and fulfill the requirements of being the “sole survivor”.

The same thing seems true to me for American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. If the winning role can be filled by a man or a woman, than eliminating somebody from the opportunity to get that position because your gender quota is already filled seems…unfair.

I wonder if the argument is that people aren’t being hired for the position…regardless, keeping somebody out based on an inherent characteristic (which is a protected class) appears to be, at the least, unethical.

Why would they possibly pick someone who wasn’t as telegenic just to maintain a balance?

Perhaps they would argue that they want to reflect the potential audience. If that’s so, based on the 2010 census (and the categories they use), we would also expect the contestants to be approximately:

  • 72% white
  • 12.5% black or African American
  • 5% Asian

among others.

I doubt that breakdown matches how contestants would identify themselves….or, for that matter, how casting directors would identify them.

So, I’m curious: how is that sex-based casting on reality competition shows legal?

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


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