Honoring beauty with titles degrades women

What does the sexiest woman look like? Hint: she has blonde hair, blue eyes, plump lips and a proportionally “perfect” body.

Wendy Fu | Daily Trojan

Wendy Fu | Daily Trojan

On Oct. 7, Scarlett Johansson was named “Sexiest Woman Alive” by Esquire magazine for the second time since 2006, making her the only woman to reclaim the title. Though it comes as no surprise that people think Johansson is beautiful, naming her the sexiest woman alive is a blow to the self-esteem of every other woman in the world. Let’s face it: No one in this world looks exactly like Johansson, so therefore it’s a ludicrous idea to impose this so-called ideal upon society.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and thus it is unfair to force one magazine’s idea of the most beautiful woman upon society. Sexy comes in all different hair colors, eye colors, skin colors, shapes and sizes.

But Esquire magazine is not the only culprit. Each year, People magazine announces who the “Sexiest Man Alive” is, with past winners including George Clooney and Channing Tatum. The title of “Sexiest Man Alive,” though awarded by a magazine with a predominantly female readership, can have the same negative effects on society as the title of “Sexiest Woman Alive” does. Men are compelled to reevaluate their look, and others feel the need to reconsider what their ideal guy might look like.

In addition to giving women an ideal image of unattainable beauty, the notion of “Sexiest Woman Alive”convinces men that their significant other must look a certain way. Because Esquire is a magazine written for men, this title is virtually telling men what to look for in a woman. This brings self-image anxiety to not only women, but to men as well, who might feel compelled to date a woman deemed “sexy” by society’s standards.

In USA Today’s article about Johansson claiming the title, all that they mention is that this is the second time she won, a quote about her current career as an actress, and information on her engagement to a former French journalist.

There is no backstory about her life or how she became famous, and the very short article makes it seem like the only thing Scarlett Johansson is good for is named the “Sexiest Woman Alive.” If young girls want to look up to Johansson, there isn’t much that the title allows them to strive for.

With a long history of the media causing self-image issues in young adolescents, the “Sexiest Woman Alive” title does not help. According to AdMedia, “69 percent of girls concurred that models found in magazines had a major influence on their concept of what a perfect body shape should look like.”

And now with Scarlett Johansson’s image on the front of Esquire with the bolded words “Sexiest Woman Alive,” young women have something else to unfairly compare themselves to. It promotes the idea that Johansson is what sexy looks like.

In the end, no one should feel obligated to care about who the “Sexiest Woman Alive” is. After all, it’s simply a title subjectively voted on by a men’s magazine.


Izzy Albert is a sophomore majoring in business administration.

2 replies
  1. Ras
    Ras says:

    The last sentence of this op-ed is ironic given the fact the writer cared enough about who the “Sexiest Woman Alive” is to write an entire article.

    It is also hypocritical to pan a magazine’s celebration of beauty and sexy when we all make personal decisions about our relationships with this criteria weighing in as a large factor. I find it funny, women who chirp the loudest about the degrading nature of beauty titles are also the ones who would rather go out with the hunky dolt then have their yenta friends catch her going out with the super smart, super kind, short, fat, dumpy guy with zits…

    If you truly want society to place less currency on looks – then perhaps you can start with yourselves.

Comments are closed.