Sunday, October 28, 2007


Over the summer I wrote an entry analyzing the annual Maxim Hot 100 list. Just as "women's magazines" are often centered around cooking, raising kids, housekeeping, etc., this "men's magazine" centers on "male culture" -- which basically means articles focus on objectifying women and other manly activities like football. Headlines at Maxim Online include: "Movies that celebrate the greatness of irresponsibility", "These sexy ladies prove that Philadelphia is hot" and "We picked the dudeliest dudes of 2007". As I said in my July entry, the Maxim man's ideal woman is one that is as young as possible, as stereotypically sexy as possible and whether she is strong, independent and intelligent is of completely secondary importance (and in many cases undesirable altogether). A woman over 40 doesn't stand a chance of being considered sexy.

And as if the magazine hadn't done enough to prove its misogyny, it had to take it a step further with its recent poll on "The Unsexiest Woman of the Year." Men chose the top 5 "unsexy" women of 2007. The "unlucky" winners were as follows:

1) Sarah Jessica Parker (Of "Sex and the City" fame). Maxim says, "How the hell did this Barbaro-faced broad manage to be the least sexy woman in a group of very unsexy women and still star on a show with "sex" in the title?"

2) Amy Winehouse (British musician that rose to fame with recent album "Back to Black"). Says Maxim: "When we first heard this chick boast about her reluctance to go to rehab we thought, Now there´s a girl we can party with! But upon beholding her openly hemorrhaging translucent skin, rat´s nest mane and lashes that look more like surgically attached bats, we were the ones screaming, "Nooo, nooo, nooo!""

3) Sandra Oh (most well-known for her role as Dr. Cristina Yang on the popular "Grey's Anatomy") because, "The only thing worse than a show about doctors is a show about sappy chick doctors we´re forced to watch or else our girlfriends won´t have sex with us. We´re holding Dr. McSkinny, with her cold bedside manner and boyish figure, personally responsible."

) Madonna (do I need to tell you?) because she "traded pioneering sexuality for, like other old Jewish women, self-righteous bellyaching and rapid postnuptial deterioration. Combine a Paris Hilton–like pet accessorizing fetish only for dirt-poor foreign babies with a mug that looks Euro-sealed to her skull, and you´ve got Willem Dafoe with hot flashes."

5) Britney Spears (again, I think you all know...) who "less than five years ago, Britney had a python wrapped around her well-toned torso onstage at the VMAs. Since then, she´s lost the ability to perform, but gained two kids, two useless ex-husbands, and about 23 pounds of Funyun pudge."

As I made my way through reading the "Top 5" I found myself becoming more and more enraged. I'm not sure why, since I've learned to expect things like this. But I suppose it's a good thing that I haven't become desensitized. It is with desensitization that people become apathetic and no longer take a stand against sexist rags like Maxim.

I could go on about how they referred to all the "Sex and the City" women as unsexy, when that show represented a group of four very strong, very independent women. Or how Madonna, a former sex symbol, has apparently lost her appeal now that she is pushing fifty and has become an "old Jewish woman" (really?? I mean, really, Maxim??). Nevermind that she's managed at her age to maintain a killer physique, even after two children and supposed "postnuptial deterioration." Or how about what they say about Sandra Oh and her "cold bedside manner" and "boyish physique" -- could it be that Cristina is the toughest and possibly most intelligent of the Grey's Anatomy doctors? (On an interesting sidenote, the lesbians and bisexual women over at AfterEllen listed Sandra Oh as number 93 on their Hot 100 list).

Once again Maxim promotes the dangerous viewpoint that being sexy is not only about being young and beautiful, it is also about being available and preferably not very strong-minded or independent. And let's not forget, one of those to make their Hot 100 list was a 3-D avatar -- a sexy fake woman is better than a real woman that can think for herself. Granted, some of the women on this list (for example, Britney Spears) are not shining examples of strong, beautiful women by any means. But the point is that the list itself is offensive, as are the descriptors that go with each woman. A woman's value is much more consistently judged against her looks than is a man's. Case in point, how often does one see a woman's magazine come up with lists of "least sexy" men? Or focus itself predominantly on objectifying men? No, the majority of women's magazines focus themselves on aiding women in being as sexy as possible while men's magazine judge them on how well they did. But that is a subject for a completely different entry...

What's scary to me is that Maxim has 2.5 million subscribers and claims to be the leader in its industry -- outselling other "men's magazines" such as GQ and Esquire. Anyone who says that feminism is dead needs to leaf through Maxim and ask herself (or himself) whether women really are valued by the same standards that men are.