Power, Sex and Seduction
Boris Johnson graced the covers of the February edition of British GQ. Illuminated like a 21st century icon, his blonde mop glowed like a halo as the magazine crowned the London mayor the Most Influential Man in Britain. The feature interview went on to describe him as a master of ‘seduction.’ Political seduction, that is.
Meanwhile, on its American counterpart, Beyoncé gave us more than a peek at the curves that made her the magazine’s Sexiest Woman of the 21st Century. This was a whole different kind of seductive power – her underwear was pulled up so high they must have airbrushed her wax line.
Don’t get me wrong – Mrs Knowles-Carter is an incredibly gifted singer, performer and businesswoman. Her voice dominates most of the songs I have ever considered to be an anthem. Bills, Bills, Bills spoke to me from a young age – if he didn’t have any pocket money, there was no future. Then I became an Independent Woman and decided I didn’t need his money. Now, I hope to run the world.
Beyoncé’s worked pretty hard to get close to world domination. So if she wants to flaunt what she’s been given, she’s got the power to do as she pleases.
But is there something odd about the contrast between these two covers of the same magazine? One cast BoJo as some kind of divine visionary, whilst the other pictured Queen Bey as what I would describe as a ghetto-fabulous sex object.
To be fair, Boris Johnson doesn’t try to sell himself on his desirability, whereas Beyoncé clearly profits from the power of her booty. She owns her sexuality in a way that I hope Boris has no interest in doing. Perhaps it’s wrong to judge them on the same criteria.
But a few days before the Boris cover was published, I had a conversation with a friend that made me think twice about the way we judge all women in the spotlight. After an afternoon spent at a political assembly, the first thing he had to report was that the female councillors were ‘all really gruff, butch and just so unglamorous. I literally spent the whole time thinking, how are you so ugly?’
Did these women have any interesting views? Maybe. Did they have to rush to work after a school run? Who knows? Might they just have had better things to worry about than mascara? One can only guess. And the most pressing question: were any of the men particularly attractive?
It would be easy to list the scores of men on TV, or in politics, that are below what I believe to be average levels of attractiveness. Fortunately for them, I don’t believe we should force men to strive for standards of physical perfection that are beyond their reach.
So why do we expect women to? The way society has panned out, it’s apparently easier for a woman to ‘make the most of herself.’ I’ve heard that a woman can go from a ‘4’ to a ‘7’ with some make-up, good hair, and nice clothes, whereas a man can’t do much with what the good Lord has given him, except, perhaps, exercise. As women get older, there’s always botox. If you can’t look semi-decent, you are either very unlucky, or you’re not trying hard enough.
It’s not only men that are responsible for this fixation on female perfection. We all know that women’s magazines present us with a physical fantasy of what we often aspire to look like. So although they are often wearing more clothes, women also like to see ‘sexy girls’ on the covers of their magazines.
In a way, I admire GQ for choosing cover-men that would never win World’s Sexiest Man. They choose men who demand respect for the impact they are making on the world, not for their cheekbones or guns of steel – perhaps women’s magazines have something to learn from this.
It’s not only sexy women who run the world.
Words by Yosola Olorunshola