GQ's bizarre cover edit

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Each year upmarket English men's magazine GQ bestows the honour of "Man of the Year" on one of its esteemed countrymen (generally an actor with a movie to promote). The anointed gent will then appear on the cover and in an inside spread where he will no doubt be wearing a "suit and watch combo" with the combined value of a home deposit. 

This year they ran with four men of the year – John Slattery, Tinie Tempah, James Corden and Robbie Williams – and one woman, Lana Del Ray.

In a series of alternate covers, the men each appear attired in a nice suit, looking like they’re on their way to an expensive awards dinner. They ooze sophistication, taste and just a hint of alpha sparkle in their eyes.

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Then we get to Lana Del Rey’s Woman of the Year cover. Rather than being dressed for the ball, she’s stripped down to her birthday suit, seated with legs crossed, in a pose reminiscent of 1970s porn. (No, really.)

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Indeed, GQ has a penchant for featuring their Women of the Year au naturel, though the accolade seems to have a spotty history, given (as The Vine points out here) women aren’t necessarily recognised each year. Remember Jennifer Aniston’s topless cover?

Yep, nude covers are nothing new – and as Lindy West notes in her Jezebel post, perhaps we’re so accustomed to seeing women naked on magazine covers that we’ve become desensitised to what they mean.

Personally, I’m on board with women’s freedom to (un)dress as they please, but there's something unsettling about the story GQ is telling here. While the title suggests all the accolades are awarded in a similar spirit, the accompanying images suggest otherwise. The men are celebrated for their successes, but Del Rey is judged - and esteemed - according to her appearance and sexiness. She’s the sole woman in the men’s locker room, and she’s exposed.

The message? We celebrate men and women according to different standards. Consequently, we also recognise their successes in different ways.

Of course, some people will gladly dismiss Del Rey’s nude cover as a desperate  blameless attempt to sell magazines. Others might even argue that at least they "kept it classy". But did they, really? Accompanying the feature on Del Rey is a photo of her being groped by a faceless man (in a suit), who turns out to be GQ’s creative director, Paul Solomons. In another shot, she’s half-naked, fiddling with a curtain. (Because, you know, that’s what ladies do in their time off.)

At the GQ awards ceremony last week, Del Rey made an acceptance speech that offered up a bit of a nudge-nudge-wink-wink response to the shoot. She appeared to be in on the joke, saying, "Paul [Solomons], the creative director, was very hands on with the shoot … in the middle of the spread, you'll see a hand hoisting up one of my boobs … That's Paul's hand. Couldn't have done it without him."

But given she also acknowledged that the shoot was accompanied by an "interesting interview - for a change", it’s disappointing that Del Rey didn’t seem too bothered that the photos would probably eclipse anything she had to say.

Some might argue it’s Del Rey’s choice (true), as celebrities are increasingly capitalising on their sex appeal. Yet it seems they’re only getting sucked into what the media has long sold to us: a woman’s beauty (and consequently, her hotness) sells. Anything else is a bonus. 

It’s unfortunate that a cover series in which the men look confident, cool and successful while the lone female is naked and looks vulnerable, is how magazines are being sold - though if the ladies at Miss Representation have their way, #NotBuyingIt will trend as people tweet GQ to express their disapproval. 

Del Rey is making a name for herself with her old world image - vintage glamour, husky voice, innocence combined with sultriness. Her debut album, Born To Die, was the fastest selling album of the year in Britain. And whether you think she’s authentic or not, she’s selling out tours worldwide.  

Yet here Del Rey has inexplicably been reduced to little more than a sex siren, disempowered, applauded for her beauty rather than her work. The GQ cover offers no hint of why Del Rey is being recognised besides her sex appeal. Yeah, Woman of the Year indeed.

118 comments

  • It's a men's magazine - had it been Cosmopolitan then the publicists for the male celebrities under consideration would have been pushing their clients' willingness to get their gear off if they were guaranteed a cover out of it.

    Commenter
    DisDis
    Date and time
    September 10, 2012, 8:34AM
    • The issue isn't so much that's she's nude in a men's magazine, it's that the woman is nude and all the men are fully clothed, i.e. it's the contrast not the nudity that's the issue. If cosmo did a similar story about people of influence I doubt they'd have all the men nude and all the women clothed.

      Commenter
      Judy
      Date and time
      September 10, 2012, 10:51AM
    • Yep, agreed - This is being overly sensitive as it is a men's interest magazine. Shots of pretty women wearing not much is standard.

      Had they been gender-neutral awards from a newspaper or some such, then it would obviously be sexist.

      Saying that the boob shot is a little odd?

      Commenter
      Steve
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      September 10, 2012, 10:59AM
    • It's a men's magazine and none of the people involved in the production of it could come up with any other way to depict a woman than demeaning, vulnerable and exploited. In 4 or 5 generations, reading and viewing materials specifically designed for men will not by definition be anti-woman. When the power and control of women by men is no longer accepted (or promoted) we will finally see a sense of equality between the genders.

      Commenter
      thylacine60
      Location
      Kinglake
      Date and time
      September 10, 2012, 11:41AM
    • @Judy - haven't Voodoo hosiery been running advertisements for years (on billboards! Where children can see!) that combine nude men with fully clothed women? The brands of the suits the men are wearing are almost certainly credited inside the magazine, and most likely they are big advertisers.

      Commenter
      DisDis
      Date and time
      September 10, 2012, 12:10PM
    • thylacine

      Just think you have to take the whole thing with a pinch of salt.

      'GQ Woman of the Year' is unlikely to be an unattractive but high-achieving woman; it is clearly not a genuine achievement award.

      Men's magazines certainly do have stories on women that don't involve them taking their clothes off - but it is undeniably an area of 'Male Interest' and I don't see any reason to pretend otherwise.

      Commenter
      Steve
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      September 10, 2012, 12:35PM
    • A Greek blog not only has more pics, but also doesn't seem at all concerned about the images - indeed the blog finds them rather interesting.

      http://www.akous.gr/post.asp?sID=1706&uid=9543

      In any case she agreed to the shoot and will probabaly come out saying that the images are "art" that represent how confortable she is with her body/sexuality...blah, blah.

      And we like to think that women of the Muslain faith are oppressed....

      Commenter
      anna hathis
      Location
      plato's cave
      Date and time
      September 10, 2012, 12:37PM
    • DisDis,
      I think the Voodoo ads are worse than the the GQ photos shown in this article. The GQ photos at least treat the woman as human, whereas the Voodoo ads treat the men like animals. Just because I claim something can be sexist towards women doesn't mean I can't acknowledge that sexism towards men also exists. Just because one exists, it doesn't make the other acceptable.

      Commenter
      Judy
      Date and time
      September 10, 2012, 12:41PM
    • GQ have a vested interest in selling suits, watches and other accessories to men, so they deck their man of the year accordingly. Lana is there to sell GQ and very few of its readers are in the market for some expensive dresses. Readers are well within their rights to find Lana's naked body distasteful (they're crazy, in my humble opinion), and if that's the case don't buy the magazine or any of the products inside.

      Commenter
      James Hill
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      September 10, 2012, 12:48PM
    • Ok, So it's a men's magazine but I'm wondering if it is mainly a white persons magazine?

      Commenter
      Gee
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      September 10, 2012, 2:14PM

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