As I mentioned in my post about the women of the Democratic and Republican parties, the sorting of women into good or bad, rather than tell us anything about the women concerned, instead reveals how the authority of the male viewer is maintained. By manifesting through a system of evaluation and comparison, the male voice takes a position of invisible dominance. The target of this assessment is therefore automatically positioned as dependent upon, and inferior to, this voice, with even those that are found to be of merit still vulnerable to this approval being removed at any point. A woman’s worth in this hierarchy is not a quality she possesses, but one that is conveyed upon her, with her own sense of self being entirely ignored in favour of the judgement that is placed upon her.
The chart I have included here is from the site Return of Kings, which positions itself as being for ‘masculine men’[i]. Crucial to the manifestation of this masculinity is the classification of women, as it establishes the dominance of the male viewer over the female viewed. The considerable detail of this chart, grading women from 1-10, demonstrates the level of commitment to this principle of organisation – multiple examples of each ‘grade’ are included, along with a description of certain criteria. Some examples of descriptive text for the grades follow here:
1 includes those who have been in an accident, or had serious medical issues, both which render them “un-mate-with-able”.
2 is classed as “humorously unattractive… so ugly you can’t help but laugh at their misfortune.”
4 and below, “hygiene is not taken into account, as it is automatically assumed to be appallingly bad. If the female matches the criteria for 1-4, they are automatically that level, regardless of ability to dress, hygiene etc.”
5 (misspelt ‘nuetral’) contains those who are not ‘ugly’ but neither are they attractive. They are held to be “either clueless about fashion / looking good, or is so lazy they put no effort into it…Possible B. O. Often poor social skills.”
6 “has at least one nice body feature (nice ass, boobs, legs etc.)”
8 “very few minimally exaggerated facial features – you really have to nit-pick, but they are not imagined flaws.”
A few points in particular stand out from these statements, relating to objectification, authority, ownership, subjectivity and the malleability of photography. Firstly, the voice is assessing in terms of what use value these women have for them, and whether they are “mate-with-able”. This viewing of others as a tool for one’s own gratification is one of the criteria for objectification, as is the focus on body parts to the detriment of seeing a person as a whole.
Secondly, the judgements are assumed to be so authoritative that inclusion within a certain group is viewed as “automatic” and unquestionable. Thirdly, enormous assumptions are made regarding the subject’s hygiene and social skills. This shows the degree to which photographs are used as a heavily subjective tool for discipline, depicting whatever the viewer wishes in order to fit their narrative.
Lastly, the position of ’10′ is left empty, as this male-created scale removes the right of women to achieve this high-status position. Instead, this gap remains tacitly the domain of the both the creator and the viewer, whose own status and perspective is unchallenged. This classification process, as well as conveying authority also suggests ownership, as the women surveyed have the mute status of things, which can be positioned and rearranged as their ‘owner’ desires. Interestingly, it is only when considering the possibility of a ‘10’ that subjective choice is acknowledged: “there are no outright, true 10s. A 10 is really a 9 that is filling a niche for someone.” Up until this point, the idea of personal choice has not been entertained at all, in favour of some sort of universal, faux-scientific system of classification.
By enabling an evaluation that is both detailed (subject “lacks hygiene and social skills”) and authoritative (subject is “automatically” at a certain level), the photograph’s claim to veracity is here referenced and distorted in order to fulfil a specific, divisive purpose. When used to support a hierarchy, in which some are positioned in opposition to others, but where all are subordinate to the organising principle, the image becomes a tool of oppression. The types of comparisons and scales we have seen in this section are commonplace on social media, which collectively legitimise the hierarchy as a means for social organisation, and reinforce the principle of both judging on appearances, and determining worth on that basis. In this context, the photograph both presents and restricts one’s identity to what can be seen or interpreted by the voice of assessment. The political implications of this process become clear when one considers the broad categorisation and organisation of large numbers of women taking place in this way, the limited and biased opinions which are expressed, and the assured logic of scales and tables that seeks to justify what is being asserted. This process, presented as a combination of information and entertainment, is an explicit example of hegemony in practice, where gender stereotypes are not just being reiterated, but also somehow validated, by naturalising connections made between a certain standard of femininity and other personal qualities.