We’re all aware of the popularity and growth of the ‘list’. I’m guilty of both writing and reading my fair share of these articles; the format floods our newsfeeds these days and, if you’ll excuse the fluffy marketing speak, the online audience in particular seems to love snackable, shareable content like this.
Although articles of this nature can be on the subject of just about anything, I’ve noticed that they veer towards the judgemental and often it’s made me come to a certain conclusion: that ranking women (and men – it just seems to happen more frequently with females) is a bit of a pointless exercise.
Take GQ, for example. Google 'GQ top 20 coolest', and you'll see that they like to list everything, from hamburgers, to albums, to graphic novels… to women. One of the most amusing and ridicule-worthy pieces I came across was a pretty sexist one about the female characters in Game of Thrones, entitled ‘The Westeros Hot 100’. It’s an awful shame to see characters from a show that portrays women in powerful, pivotal, multi-faceted roles boiled down in just a few lines (example: ‘Ygritte. Fan of oral sex’). It’s a cheap trick to reduce complex, well-written characters reduced to nothing but their sexual worth. Is there any real function to declaring that Khaleesi, the ‘dragon MILF’, is the hottest?!
And another point. At a very basic level, it seems futile and meaningless to list women from 1-20 or 1-100 in this manner – we're all good at different things, right? This isn’t like the Leaving Cert – what is the purpose of ranking Kendall Jenner above Emma Watson on a 'cool' list, when they have completely different careers, personalities, goals and quirks? I realised this myself when a friend sent me this list. I was surprised that Kendall was #1, and annoyed that three models (Kendall, Kate Moss and Gigi Hadid, FYI), came ahead of Emma Watson.
Subsequently, I got quite annoyed and frustrated at myself for presuming that Emma Watson is smarter and thus more ‘important’ in my mind than three models, simply because it’s well-known that she’s in an Ivy League school and is quite the activist. But that’s my prerogative. Having said that, I do feel bad when I realise how strong my own proclivity for judgement is… I’m far from perfect myself.
A lot of this is junk content, and there’s no excuse for it. It lowers the tone and compromises the future of writing as a proper profession. Even in concise pieces, it is possible to scale down on the quantity and not quality of writing. I’ve also realised how silly the whole thing is when you're not measuring like with like. In that case, why are we all so preoccupied with these lists and polls when they make absolutely no sense?! Their popularity reigns supreme because of human nature; we’re predisposed to argue and debate rankings and polls until the cows come home.
What is beyond debate, though, is that we cannot and should not put anyone into boxes. We’re all guilty of judging people, particularly public figures, based on mostly their appearance and a smattering of meagre facts. I’ve said before that I sometimes worry that my entire generation has forgotten how to think independently. Well, if we’re prone to group thought, let’s make a group decision; let’s be kinder to ourselves and to celebrities, and quit the trash talk.
Deirdre Foley is a history grad, sceptic, wearer of red lipstick and self-confessed 'beauty maniac'. She is also the co-founder of fabulous Irish beauty blog, Viva Adonis.