Recently, I saw an article titled “These 10 Colleges Have the Hottest Girls”, that two of my female friends shared on Facebook. Normally, I don’t pay attention to those kinds of articles because I think they are stupid and unimportant, but the fact that two female friends on Facebook shared it sparked my interest. I clicked on the link and read the article, but what I read made me question a couple things.
First off, why is the attractiveness of JMU’s (female) student body something that is valued? What about our academics? What about our extremely successful student-run organizations? After some digging, I found that Niche.com, the website where the data for this article came from, includes lists of colleges with the best academics, most diversity, and safest campuses, things I personally see as more worthy of being proud of than our looks. Unfortunately, JMU did not make the list for any of the above categories.
Second, the format of the original article on Thrilllist.com really bothered me. It showed 10 images of smiling women representing their overall “attractive” female student body. Taking a look at those photos, one could observe that the majority of the women pictured seem to be mainly caucasian and thin, currently society’s ideal standard of beauty. Looking more into the captions of the images, the images were taken from sororities and/or athletic programs. Since the images depict such a homogenized categorization of “attractive” girls, this made me wonder, is this [still] what it means (to the majority) to be attractive in America? White, thin, athletic, and maybe in a sorority? Tell me how that is inclusive of the melting pot that is all of America and American universities.
Third, after doing some more digging, Niche.com proudly explained their research methodology for how they concluded which schools had the “hottest” girls in America. In sum, “The Most Attractive Girls ranking assesses the attractiveness of female students at traditional four-year colleges and universities in the United States based on 42,269 opinion-based survey responses from 42,151 current students and recent alumni” (Niche.com). The ranking methodology explains how they selected universities to put on the survey, not what the opinion-based survey they sent out to students included. That worries me because it doesn’t explain what students said to rate their fellow classmates, which makes me believe the rating standard for “hotness” could have been very crude and objectifying.
Fourth, do the women pictured in those images know their photos are there? Did they give permission to have their photos posted within this article? All the photos have links to subsequent Facebook pages, but I’m still wondering if they know that they’re photos are being used to represent the entire attractiveness of the female student body and their respective schools.
Lastly, the author kindly reminds the reader “before you call us sexist, here are the top 10 colleges with the most attractive male students”, and has the list below. GREAT! Let’s tell men that their value is also placed on their physical attractiveness, because society really needs more people valuing attractiveness over intelligence and self-worth.
In my mind, this whole concept of ranking colleges for having the most attractive study body is ludicrous and shouldn’t be valued. What does having pretty people at your school reflect about the intelligence of your student body? Taking it a bit further, I think articles and surveys like this are damaging to college students because it once again places value on looks rather than every other positive human trait. Society already puts pressure on boys and girls from a young age to look a certain way, and often castigates any deviation from the norm. These kinds of surveys perpetuate that mentality, and I think have no place in a college setting, where we are supposed to be aware of societal pressure and inequality.
On the lists for America’s most attractive study bodies, JMU’s women are #3 on this list, and JMU’s men are #47. WHO GIVES A FLYING FUCK? I say love yourself, we’re all beautiful, but know that your physical attractiveness is not your most valuable trait – it is your intelligence, and everything positive you contribute to society.