Wednesday morning, BuzzFeed sent out a typical tweet about a hot dude.
I don’t know when I began noticing it, but BuzzFeed — or at least its Twitter feed — almost never finds women hot. Only men. It wasn’t always this way. Nearly ten years ago they tweeted a link to a story about “Hot Pregnant Women: Maxim releases their list of the hottest moms-to-be in Hollywood.” Shortly thereafter we learned about Dennis Kucinich’s “hot wife,” ten of the “hottest Sports Illustrated swimsuit covers,” 25 of the “hottest girls on Digg,” and hot female synchronized swimmer twins.
But pretty soon, it was more like “Rafael Nadal Topless: He’s the hottest male tennis player,” “Martin Heinrich: hottest new member of Congress.” In 2012, we met “Clemente Russo: Italy’s Hottest Olympian,” learned that “Robert Redford, 76, is still the hottest guy in Hollywood,” met 17 of the “hottest silver foxes” — only one of whom was female– and saw 50 “hot” photos of Tommy Lee.
In 2013 we saw 25 of the “hottest Zac Efron” GIFs from Paperboy, the “10 hottest dads” on TV, the “17 hottest ages” of Justin Timberlake, the “20 hottest dudes nominated for an Academy Award,” the “20 hottest male celebs,” the “25 hottest photos of Joe Dallesandro,” “31 reasons why Stiles is the hottest part of Teen Wolf,” the 23 hottest TV dads of all time, the 50 hottest dudes in Harry Potter movies, ranked, the 51 hottest Jewish men in Hollywood (for which there was a female equivalent), the 12 “hottest pictures” ever taken of Leo DiCaprio, the “22 all-time hottest hunks of PBS,” the world’s “hottest male supermodel,” the “50 hottest male indie musicians,” the “hottest guys on Pretty Little Liars, ranked,” the “20 hottest male models” on Instagram, 15 of “all-time hottest hotties on HGTV” — all male — the “51 hottest bearded men in Hollywood,” the “hottest” Bachelor contestant ever to exist, 13 “mugshots of the hottest guys ever arrested,” the “hottest gynecologist ever,” the 15 hottest male celebrities according to a straight guy (for which there was a female equivalent), the “hottest” Vatican priests, and the top 10 “hottest selfies” taken by Justin Bieber’s dad.
In 2014, we learned of the hottest 52-year-old currently living (Dylan McDermott, natch), the 23 hottest bearded men in Britain, the 26 hottest Irish men in Hollywood, the 17 hottest Catholic men in Hollywood, the hottest (male) subway security guard, the hotness of Barack Obama, the 30 hottest bearded men of the World Cup, the hotness of the Spanish World Cup team, and the German World Cup team, and the body parts of various World Cup soccer players, the World Cup’s “hottest bad boys,” the hottest guys from each World Cup team, ranked, the hottest player in the World Cup, the 23 hottest guys remaining in the World Cup, Ryan Gosling as the “hottest” “DILF,” proof that “French men” are the hottest, the hottest (male) country music singer, the “hottest music video boyfriends” of Taylor Swift, and the “hottest game of ‘would you rather‘” between soccer and rugby players.
By 2015 we were learning about how hot Zac Efron looks in slacks, the “hottest former Air Force dude ever,” the world’s “hottest” male math teacher, the hotness of golfer Jordan Spieth, the hottest boyfriend of Rory Gilmore, the hottest mushroom farmer in the entire world, the hottest soccer players in the world, the hottest bean curd seller in the world.
This year we learned Mark Ruffalo was the hottest man in a tuxedo at the Oscars, the hottest animated DILF in the Disney oeuvre, the 38 hottest guys in the show “Once Upon A Time,” the hottest U.S. presidents, the hottest grandpa on Instagram, the hotness of Harry Styles, the hotness of Olympic swimmer Nathan Adrian, the hotness of the Spanish men’s water polo team, the hotness of Paul Rudd in 2016, the hotness of Alfred Enoch, the hottest Jonas brother, the hottest teacher alive, and the aforementioned hotness of Drake.
During all this time the pickings for female hotness were pretty sparse. A few women were included in a listicle on “Hottest Aristocrats Of The Restoration,” “hottest celebrity gingers,” and “hotties on Broadway.” There was something about the 41 hottest women at Comic Con, written by a woman who assured us she was not judging them based on clothing to skin ratios. A random soccer referee and Raquel Welch were the only women to be described as hot in tweets. Far more likely they are decrying objectification, decrying objectification, and decrying objectification.
I asked some friends why they think BuzzFeed always presents women as empowered queens while crowning various men the “hottest on planet earth” every few weeks. Mockable or not, it’s an important site — perhaps millennials’ most-favoritist-superlative-obsessed cultural agenda setter in the history of the world.
Theories ranged from the idea that BuzzFeed is a hostile work environment for straight men, or simply lacks the diversity of talent that would include sufficient numbers of straight men to shape their content, to the idea that BuzzFeed actually seeks to alter human nature itself by the pattern of their articles. One BuzzFeed fan admitted this view, saying that since everything’s always been so awesome for straight men sexually, objectifying them is “cathartic hypercorrection” that empowers women’s and gay men’s sexuality.
I, too, assume that BuzzFeed employees are simply products of an educational system that pathologizes normal, healthy male sexual interest and teaches women that being noticed for beauty is patriarchal oppression.
In such an environment, objectifying men for their looks while pretending that people don’t care deeply about female beauty is a way of killing both birds with one cheaply thrown-together listicle.