American Idol Has a Woman Problem

This post comes to us from guest blogger Talia bat Pessi bat Feige bat Ita bat Gittel. Talia regularly blogs over at Star of Davida.

American Idol was really part of my childhood. My family started watching during Season 3, and we watched every year obsessively. We still watch it, although we’re getting kinda sick of it, especially since Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul left their judge positions and the contestants who have won recently aren’t our taste. (That’s code for “aren’t very talented, especially compared to the runner-ups and other finalists.”)

Recently, the media has been buzzing that Idol has a woman problem. Well, the stats don’t lie.

Kelly Clarkson (Season 1, 2002)
Justin Guarini
Nikki McKibbin

Reuben Studdard (Season 2, 2003)
Clay Aiken
Kimberley Locke

Fantasia Barrino (Season 3, 2004)
Diana DeGarmo
Jasmine Trias

Carrie Underwood (Season 4, 2005)
Bo Bice
Vonzell Solomon

Taylor Hicks (Season 5, 2006)
Katharine McPhee
Elliott Yamin

Jordin Sparks (Season 6, 2007)
Blake Lewis
Melinda Doolittle

David Cook (Season 7, 2008)
David Archuleta
Syesha Mercado

Kris Allen (Season 8, 2009)
Adam Lambert
Danny Gokey

Lee DeWyze (Season 9, 2010)
Crystal Bowersox
Casey James

Scotty McCreery (Season 10, 2011)
Lauren Alaina
Haley Reinhart

Phillip Phillips (Season 11, 2012)
Jessica Sanchez
Joshua Ledet

Out of the winners, 4/11 are women. Yes, you read that correctly, folks, a mere third (36%) of American Idol winners are female. Including all of the top-three finalists, it evens out to about half and half, with 16 women and 17 men (48% female). However, it’s clear to see that the American voting public has gotten more male-centric as the years have gone on; there hasn’t been a female winner since Jordin Sparks in 2007.

The main reason that more men have won is because the people most likely to vote (and vote obsessively) is the pre-teen/tween girl demographic. Considering girls from this age group have made singers like Justin Bieber wildly successful, it’s not surprising that they vote for relatively cute, younger guys. (Kris Allen was 24 while on the show, Lee DeWyze 24, Scotty McCreery 17, and Phillip Phillips 21.)

While I’m talking about American Idol, I’d like to rant a little about Season 9. That was the year Kris Allen won, and Adam Lambert placed second. I’m a wild Adam Lambert fan (I saw him four times in concert, once at a meet and greet, and am looking forward to his upcoming concert tour), and was deeply upset when he lost, since it was clear to everybody that his voice was just superior to Allen’s. I guess it wasn’t a big surprise. I mean, who was tweenage middle America going to vote for: Kris Allen, the cute, boy-next-door, Christian Southerner, or Adam Lambert, the gay, Jewish, uber-cool Californian with dyed black hair? Well, the tweens might’ve voted for Allen, but they didn’t stick with him after Idol ended. His first album has yet to make it to Gold certification, and I couldn’t find records of sales for his second album, even though it’s been out for over a month. Adam Lambert’s first album, despite a lot of controversy, quickly passed Gold. His recently-released second album, Trespassing, debuted at number one on the Billboard (the first by an openly gay artist to do so).

It’s unfortunate that female contestants are going onto shows like American Idol are at a major disadvantage. The statistics about women winners on Idol are mirrored on other American singing competitions: men won both seasons of The Voice (and only 3/8 finalists, 38%, are female), a woman won the only season of The X Factor (she was the only woman among the top three finalists, though), and two boys co-won The Glee Project (the runners-up were one girl and one boy).

Tweenage girls: next season of Idol, could you please vote for the female contestants, if they’re just as talented (if not more) than their male counterparts?


  1. It is true that there hasn’t been a female idol since ’07 but that is not Am. Idol’s fault. Votes for the cute males do come from our young female population and they are not always good choices; Sanjaya Malakar, need I say more. However, the original 3 judges put Sanjaya in the running, as well as equally untalented others. When given poor options, poor results happen.
    I have watched Idol since episode one and I believe that the last 2 seasons have been the best ever. The quality of singers chosen in the last 2 seasons have *far* surpassed the previous 9. I do feel that I can say all of this with actual authority; I have a degree in music.
    There have been several singers in the first 9 seasons put through to Hollywood Week that had no business being there. Even the judges knew this, they put them through for fun. That is not fair to the contestants and is a waste of time for everyone involved, including the viewers.
    The judges and judging has improved greatly in quality. There are no more petty insults that generally annoy and waste time and there is actual constructive advice being given. Also, this new panel of judges seem to have a mutual respect in each other’s judging, professional lives and personal lives. They are actually a pleasure to watch.
    It has been well over 20 years since I was a tween but I do remember a lack of female star pictures on my walls. Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Madonna. But there were many more male stars. A baby-faced Leo, the Coreys, Robert Downey, Jr., Ralph Macchio, River Phoenix; the list goes on and on. If there would have been a voting show then, those cutie-patutie guys would have won my vote.
    You listed the top three finalists from every season of Idol. Did you realize that the female to male ratio is about as close as it gets? 16 females: 17 males. Until season 11, it was 50/50. Just because the girls don’t win as much doesn’t make it a real problem, let alone a feminist issue.

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