Men of the Year are dressed. Woman of the Year is not.
Upmarket British men’s magazine GQ has declared for ‘Men of the Year’.
Starring in the ’15th Annual Men of the Year Awards Special Issue’ is English rapper of Nigerian decent, Tinie Tempah; English singer-songwriter Robbie Williams (not just any old man of the year but ‘icon’ of the year); Mad Men actor John Slattery (if you’re a fan as I am, you’ll know him as Roger Sterling); and TV and film actor, James Corden.
All four men have been photographed dressed homogenously in black suit and tie.
I don’t really know what any of these men have contributed to the sum total of humanity. Are there no living British men who have done something truly amazing for the world? But that’s just an aside. What’s attracting all the attention is that this year GQ editors have included a ‘Woman of the Year’.
She’s Lana Del Rey, 26, a singer. But there’s no suit and tie for her. Actually there are no clothes for her at all. The only things she’s wearing on the cover are a few glitzy jewels and bright red lipstick.
It seems giving her the label ‘Woman of the Year’ was just an excuse to take her clothes off.
If a woman wants to own the title, she has to do it on GQ’s terms. And that means a photoshoot designed for titillation, not respect; a birthday suit, not a black suit.
Not only is Del Rey featured with knees bent, naked, sitting on a floor — in contrast to the men who are standing, dominant and dressed — inside photos of Del Ray reinforce her true place as sex object.
In one image her breast is being groped from behind by a man standing over her, his hand securing her face (he’s in a suit, are you surprised?). The hands grabbing her are those of GQ’s own creative director Paul Solomons. The image has sinister overtones, suggesting sexualised violence.
In another photo Del Rey is naked from the waist down, touching herself. Another has her demure and submissive in a corset holding a rose. Her crotch appears digitally emphasised.
It seems this is how GQ editors and male readers prefer their women of the year. Actress Jennifer Aniston, a former woman of the year — it has a patchy history, of course you couldn’t dish out a title like that every year — was posed topless.
While the titled men appear as sophisticated citizens of the world, achieving important manly things, Del Rey exists only for male gratification and pleasure. She is up for grabs, literally. Her job is to strip and pose and look hot. Who cares what she has achieved?
GQ mentions her number one debut album Born To Die, that she has signed with NEXT models and done some other stuff, but really couldn’t they have illustrated this without disrobing her?
The men are not being groped. They are not depicted touching themselves in sexually suggestive ways. It shows just how normalised pornified images of women are in the mainstream.
Of course this isn’t the first time women have been posed naked beside fully dressed men. Fashion designer Tom Ford features women naked with clothed men in advertising. Vanity Fair featured Scarlett Johansson (then 21) and Keira Knightly (then 20) with a (suited up) Ford.
Glee stars were depicted in a photoshoot for GQ in 2010, the females in underwear, the male stars fully clothed.
Unequal dress almost always reflects unequal power. To be undressed around others who are completely dressed is a sign of vulnerability and of the power the clothed individuals hold.
But this time it is attached to an awards honour. Sexism, submission, objectification, groping — this is what a ‘Woman of the Year’ — and perhaps all women — deserve?
And this is the message we send to young women: that in a culture that rewards exhibitionism, your achievements count for nothing unless you’re willing to get naked.