This isn’t what you think. Or maybe you think that I am about to rant about unnecessary pop culture drama. Because maybe then it is what you think.
Today a friend sent me an image of a headline stating, “Miley Cyrus voted hottest woman of the year by Maxim, beating Rihanna, Mila Kunis and Selena Gomez” along with a corresponding gif of a man doing one giant face-palm. I, being not so happy with the media as of recent (or ever), noted the subjective nature of these magazines, the fact that Miley Cyrus is actually beautiful (despite what popular media claims), and that Maxim is not an educational magazine, but rather one about sex. But this headline got me thinking about the subjective nature of magazines and media in general, but mostly about this instance.
This Maxim Hot 100 list is not objective by any standards. It essentially compiles all of the women in pop culture within the past year and ranks them based on their looks, popularity, and wow-factor. But mostly their looks. And Miley Cyrus won this year. This fact I am not opposed to. Miley Cyrus is a beautiful girl and deserves to know it. But accolades in this form aren’t healthy or necessary.
Miley Cyrus is popular right now. She’s been in the news, she’s caused controversies, she’s released a new album. Putting Ms. Cyrus as the cover girl of the Hot 100 would lead to ratings which would lead to money. In the end that’s what it’s really about. Maxim isn’t factual. It isn’t a poll. It’s just a bunch of guys sitting in a room putting together their perfect woman in list form. This year that perfect woman just happens to be Miley, and that perfect woman just happens to make the magazine a perfect amount of money.
When I read about this, I found out that some were appalled that Miley was seen as more beautiful than Beyoncé. Beyoncé is idolized. She is frequently regarded as one of the most beautiful women on earth. And yet, she has never been number one on this list because this list is in the opinion of a few select men and not a diverse range. Further, she does not fit the perfect image: she is a minority, she has recently cut off all of her hair, she’s a mom, she’s not single, she’s not 20. She’s a strong, sexy black female. And she doesn’t put herself out there (especially in her personal life) for the entertainment and sexual appeasement of others. She does what she does for herself, not for men. And thus, she is not “the sexiest” in the eyes of Maxim.
I’ve researched so-called gentlemen’s magazines for a while now. I’m even currently writing a thesis on the perception of Playboy. Maxim is a bit different, but still of the same premise. In essence, Maxim is an absurd excuse of a magazine that unhealthily puts women up on a list of how much they fuel the sexual desire of men, consequently pinning women against one another and promoting the comparison of physical attributes. I mean, look at the Internet: we’re currently debating whether Miley Cyrus is more attractive than Beyoncé. The two can’t even be compared. Hell, they aren’t even of the same race, let alone age, background and physical features.
And let us just assess the past thirteen Maxim girls (in chronological order): Estella Warren, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Garner, Christina Aguliera, Jessica Simpson, Eva Longoria, Lindsay Lohan, Marisa Miller, Olivia Wilde, Katy Perry, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Bar Refaeli, and Miley Cyrus. All of these women were between the ages of 20 and 31 at the time of their winning. Ten of these women identify as Caucasian. The other three “pass” visibly as white. They are all popular, thin, cisgendered, white (looking), heterosexual (minus bisexual Olivia Wilde), 20-something females. Not one black girl graced the leading spot in Maxim. In fact, this year there were only four (FOUR) African American women to even be included in this list. So yes, Beyoncé is deserving of a leading spot, but first, this list needs more diversity.
The point is this: the initial headline I was sent along with the subsequent societal reactions of “What the hell?” are the problems. And it is not our fault. We’re supposed to believe that it’s absurd that Miley is the “sexiest.” We’re supposed to have that knee-jerk reaction. The issues are in Maxim, societal perceptions, a lack of visibility, and (a woman’s) sexuality as a commodity. Things need to change. Lists like this shouldn’t even exist. But since they do, we need to reshape the way in which they exist in our world. Until then, we may be opposed to Maxim’s beliefs, but we are sure as hell all subscribing to them.