What Survivor 41's Shan Smith Thinks Is The Big Double Standard For Female Players

survivor 41
(Image credit: CBS)

Spoilers below for Season 41 of Survivor!

Shan Smith is arguably one of the best Survivor strategists to ever play, because how else can we explain how she hoodwinked JD Robinson? Or the way she duped Naseer Muttalif? But unfortunately, she wasn't meant to be Sole Survivor – in Season 41, that is. Her time was cut short before the finale, but the popular contestant’s strategic mind is still buzzing, specifically about how double standards for female players continue to manifest even this in this “new era” of Survivor.

Jeff Probst is making a sincere effort to change some of the perceived outdated aspects of the long-running game show, but some things apparently endure. According to Shan Smith, what it comes down to is that where female players are expected to cater and be perfect listeners, the same expectation is not put on male players in Survivor. Smith in fact took issue with the seemingly overbearing edit she received in Season 41 in comparison to her male counterparts, saying to Entertainment Weekly,

I think there's always room to grow, for sure, and stuff to learn from how you play Survivor. But I know myself, and I know I wouldn't have gotten as far in the game as I had, had I not been a good listener. I wouldn't have been able to pull off the stuff that I did, had I not been a good listener. So I know that I'm capable of listening. I think it gets tricky when you're working with alpha males, or men who are particularly sensitive, and I honestly will stand my ground on that. I really do feel like that was the case here [with Ricard Foye and Deshawn Radden], because I didn't have that issue with Danny. I didn't really have that issue with Liana. I didn't have that issue with Genie, or Brad, or anybody else.

In other words, Shan Smith is saying that she and her male alliance members (including Ricard Foye and Deshawn Radden) were all trying to push their own agendas, but the way the CBS edit made it seem was as if she were the tyrant. Smith rightfully points out that criticisms about her listening skills came about even after she went along with not just Foye’s plans but also Radden’s. She said,

Ricard [Foye] didn't want to do Heather. He wanted to do Naseer, and we talked about it like we always do. We fought about it like we always do, and I voted with him. You know what I mean? The same thing with Deshawn [Radden]. Deshawn threw a whole tantrum at Tribal. I've never once seen a man kneel before a woman in Tribal and say, ‘What do you want to do? I'll do whatever you want to do,’ And it goes their way. I've never seen that. And I did that in Tribal, knelt before him and asked him what he wanted to do, and that I wouldn't vote outside of him. And I didn't. I voted with him.

It is true that strong female players often are demonized for playing a “man's game” – or to say it a different way, a strategic game. Survivor winner Parvati Shallow knows this all too well. And because of a lack of diversity over the years, people of color have rarely been able to make it far. To that point, amidst Season 41 airing her disagreements with fellow players, Shan Smith commented on her Instagram that if she were a man, she would be labeled a “mastermind,” not simply “aggressive” as she had been. She added that “strategic women of color who are assertive and aren’t afraid to take charge” should be “normalized” on Survivor.

Obviously, Survivor still has a ways to go in terms of improvement. But, to echo Shan Smith’s sentiment, more competitors like her on the show would certainly change the double standard she speaks of. And it would probably be highly entertaining, to boot. To find out how Season 41 fares without the pastor from Washington, D.C., tune in to CBS on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST!

Lauren Vanderveen
Movies and TV News Writer

Freelance writer. Favs: film history, reality TV, astronomy, French fries.