Numerous inspiring females are making waves across the globe in their professions, from business, politics, journalism and academia, to acting, music, photography and art. So why does the majority of the media STILL only recognise women for their appearance? FHM UK’s infamous “100 Sexiest Women” list has been released for 2014 with Jennifer Lawrence ranked as number one, joining her in the top 10 are the likes of Lucy Mecklenburg, Michelle Keegan and last year’s winner Mila Kunis.
The popular list which grades famous women on their looks started back in 1995, when model Claudia Schiffer first won the title. Since then the ‘award’ has been won by J Lo, Britney Spears and Cheryl Cole to name but a few. Anna Kournikova is so far the only athlete to win the award and Halle Berry the only African American woman. All the other victors have been actresses, models or singers. But what are the contenders graded on in order to make it into the notorious list? Take Jennifer Lawrence for example; in 2014 alone she was nominated for an Oscar, won a Golden Globe and a Bafta, to name just a few or her achievements, but none of this was mentioned in the “timeline of her year” on FHM. Instead her bio described her performance in American Hustle as “out-cleavaging Amy Adams,” rather than the fact she was nominated for an Oscar in the role. And how she’s “just so loveable” and “a big clumsy Klutz,” rather than noting her stunning feats as an actress which have climaxed in her 2014 award success, after being virtually unknown in the industry before 2011.
Why is her anatomy and her ditzy, loveable personality what she is being recognised for, rather than her successful career? For the last 10 years Forbes magazine has published “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.” However, I am ashamed to say I didn’t know this existed until I decided to search for an alternative to FHM’s derogative categorisation. Describing it as their “annual snapshot of the 100 women with the most impact…top politicians and CEOs, activist billionaires and celebrities who matter.” The list includes influential females such as Oprah Winfrey and Hilary Clinton who were included in its inauguration back in 2004, to newcomers such as the South Korean President Park Geun-hye. So why doesn’t this get the same media hype as FHM’s 100 Sexiest Women? Or even as Time Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People in the World? Hilary Clinton’s inspiring concession speech of 2008 spoke of the attempt to break the glass ceiling which is holding back women in society and how it now contains “18 million cracks…and the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time.” Yet six years later has a lot changed? Is the path any easier? Girls as young as 5 are worrying about their weight (APPG Report 2012) and 87% of teenage girls are unhappy with their body shape (Bliss magazine survey 2004).
Yet FHM’s 100 Sexiest Women and other belittling rankings, such as the Maxim Hot 100, continue to take a central role in the media, demonstrating how women’s place in society is still heavily based in appearance rather than their accomplishment. You could argue that these lists aren’t aimed at female readers so why does it matter? That is precisely why it matters. As male magazine readerships have dwindled over the last few years the popularity of these Top 100 lists don’t seem to correlate. The hysteria when FHM dropped their list last night was evident, with the site crashing a number of times as men were scrambling to get a look at the hottest females in world for 2014. If males in society are continually exposed to information telling them that women are merely for ogling, rather than respecting, how do we ever expect society to progress? But clearly this female objectification doesn’t just affect the male population.
Women who are constantly exposed to images of perfectly toned, tanned and skinny models in the media will in turn self-objectify their own bodies, leading to society as a whole perpetuating the idea that worth is based on merely beauty. When I questioned on twitter if there was a “Top 100 Most Successful Women” list to counter FHM’s the male response was (on the whole) disheartening. Responses such as “boring” and “who would want to read that?!” were shot back. The problem is why some males (and females) have developed this opinion which is what needs to be addressed. Considering the media is still heavily dominated by male editors and publication owners it’s no wonder women are still primarily represented in this shallow, degrading light.
By Lizzie Roberts
[Image Credit: Alexis Silva]