The Sexist

Huffington Post Swimsuit Edition Goes Gender-Neutral

The Huffington Post's latest foray into celebrity eye-candy linkbait, "Iconic Swimsuit Movie Moments," comes in two flavors: Male and Female.

The Huffington Post, it seems, has tired of just fetishizing female bodies, and has moved onto more equal-opportunity objectification. Since it's too much to ask for a Web site to refrain from objectifying any humans, is this a cause for celebration?

Blogger Echidne of the Snakes, for one, isn't convinced by the Web site's newfound gender-neutrality. The effort falls short of equal exploitation, she writes, as HuffPo's readership appears to decisively prefer one set of skin-baring pics over the other. So while Phoebe Cates, Ali Larter, and Bo Derek are currently workin' it to the top of the Web site's "Popular Stories" slots . . .

. . . Daniel Craig, Patrick Swayze, and Sacha Baron Cohen are being boxed out of the top spots by such decidedly nonsexual fare as this:

That's right: Huffington Post readers are more interested in discovering the key to happiness than checking out semi-naked dudes. Say it ain't so!

Echidne's got her theories: "Huffington Post wants to make money and advertising money is in clicks. And what gets clicked is bodies of chicks. By dicks? I'm getting carried away here, but let me just add that I would have thought Huffington Post has female readers, too. I guess their clicks don't have the power."

So, is the Huffington Post engineering some sort of mass sexist conspiracy to push naked ladies onto the front-page while subjugating the male bodies to barely-linked territory? Not exactly. HuffPo is just cashing in on that same old mass sexist conspiracy—the one that's been around long before blogs figured out how to make money off of it.

Here's a refresher on that old thing: Young, thin, hairless, and female bodies are for being sexy. Aged, hairy, fat, and male bodies are for making jokes about how un-sexy they are.

By adding the "Male" gallery—and encouraging readers to click through for the hot swimsuit moments—the Huffington Post isn't making an honest attempt to expand the definition of what's sexy, or to ease the objectification of women by objectifying men alongside them. What the Huffington Post is doing, I think, is responding to some recent criticism by turning the heat on its readers, not its editors.

Once HuffPo offers up the naked girls and the naked boys, it's not up to the site's editors anymore to determine which bodies are click-worthy—"you" decide for them.

Unlike Echidne, I don't think the popularity of the female body on HuffPo's site necessarily means that the site's female "clicks don't have the power" of its male readers. I just think that we haven't been taught to objectify male bodies like we have female ones. Cosmo's valiant efforts aside, the objectification of women is a mainstream entertainment standard—and both women and men grow up taking it all in. It's telling that HuffPo's male beefcake gallery has to be filled out with a couple of joke entries—Sacha Baron Cohen in Borat, Eddie Murphy in Norbit—in order to meet sexy slideshow quota. Women—even heterosexual women—are more likely to check out photos of bikini-bedecked females than Speedo-clad males. This trend doesn't let purveyors of female flesh off the hook, of course. Offering men photos of girls in swimsuits helps men see women as objects. Offering women photos of girls in swimsuits helps women feel bad for not looking like them.

Is the Huffington Post's focus on scantily-clad women still sexist? Sure, but it's a sexist view that comes with the support of at least 2,890,011 male and female viewers. Would HuffPo print a sexist op-ed, even if it were of interest to millions of Internet trolls? Probably not—HuffPo readers are usually self-aware enough to shun clear sexism when it's written in black-and-white. But when it's written in tits and ass? Click click.

If the Huffington Post decides to keeps up its gender-neutral exploitation efforts—despite the poor page-views for the male portion—I have just one request. When you're objectifying male bodies, can you try not to ridicule female bodies while you're doing it?

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