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babe of the day
July 15, 2013 | by  | in Features |
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Babe of the Day

On June 18, a new cover photo depicting renowned babe Derek Zoolander wondering whether “there’s more to life than being really, really, really, really, really ridiculously good looking?” signalled the demise of ‘VUW Babe of the Day’. Apparently, there is. The calibre of babes slowly diminished, and suddenly on June 23, the Victoria University tap of #baben students ran dry.

The Babe of the Day social-media phenomenon supposedly began in ‘Dunners’ on June 6, though the VUW page officially began two days earlier than its Otago counterpart. Despite its participation in the Babe of the Day affair, Victoria University has managed to soar under the media’s radar relatively unscathed. But who’s really surprised that some Wellington kids instigated a nationwide frenzy, and then tactfully avoided taking the rap? Instead, University of Otago’s ‘Dunners Babe of the Day’ and the University of Canterbury’s ‘UC Babe of the Day’ stole the spotlight once the babe epidemic hit mainstream media, claiming they merely appreciate and acknowledge overall ‘talent’, not just looks, in response to complaints that the pages were sexist and a “tribute to gender expectations of beauty”. Page administrators argued the inclusion of small blurbs about the babe (e.g. “studying building science—‘I would love to survey her structure’”) shows that clearly it’s about more than just sex appeal. Then again, I guess sexism isn’t really a problem, is it, if the babes don’t mind? But of course they don’t. They’re babes. What blonde airhead wouldn’t want a photo of themselves plastered on the internet, to have 300+ strangers affirm their spectacular performance of femininity? Anyone against the pages is fat, jealous, and seriously in need of MAC lipstick.

New Zealand Union of Students’ Association Women’s Rights Officer, Arena Williams, said the pages were sexist and “[invited] viewers to comment—and comment they do, on everything from looks and dress sense to the person’s sex life.” Some respondents claimed that featuring
both a babe and bloke of the day, as on the UC Babe of the Day page, meant the pages weren’t sexist. Williams, however, pointed out the comments on ‘babes’ were directed towards their aesthetic appeal, while blokes were instead congratulated for their performance of masculinity. Mainstream media pounced on Williams’ criticism that the pages were a “tribute to gender expectations of beauty” and published it everywhere, as if including this was enough to really address the rampant sexism the pages propagate. And what a way to address the issue, by filing an article about the whole sorry Babe of the Day saga under the Lifestyle – Beauty section on Stuff.co.nz and putting ‘sexism’ in scare quotes. This totally undermines Williams’ valid concerns about an overt manifestation of misogyny and the objectification of potentially unwilling subjects. But perhaps my scorn of the apparent overflow of babes attending New Zealand’s universities doesn’t give credit where it’s due. I mean, with comments like this—”I would swim through the Amazon with 45kg dumbbells attached to my scrotum using Helen Clark’s flatulence as my only source of air supply if it meant I could share frozen dinner with you”—who needs to learn about Lancelot and chivalry in Le Morte d’Arthur? What gallantry.

But surely we can’t criticise UC, especially after they featured Hugh Devereux-Mack as bloke of the day for rescuing a damsel in distress on her solitary walk home from town. Kudos, Hugh, for being an upstanding citizen. Seriously (I find it hard to sound sincere these days, but I do mean this). But hey, how about the rest of us take a step forward, away from discourses that perpetuate gender stereotypes by focussing on his physical actions and congratulating a ‘bloke’ for his display of masculinity?

Apparently misogyny isn’t ‘news’; it’s a lifestyle. Reporting the issue of sexism in Stuff.co.nz’s Beauty section couldn’t express this more clearly. But even the advent of the Babe of the Day pages themselves reveals a dark underbelly of society which mainstream media platforms are unwilling to address. Heaven forbid they should investigate something real. It’s undeniable that inside everyone’s mind is their very own Babe of the Day page. Except it’s more likely Babe of the Half-Second. Aren’t we all secretly judging each other as we walk past strangers on the street? We’re bound up in appearance. I’m not saying that’s inherently wrong—I think it’s natural. But take a moment and listen to the voice in your head that’s rating that girl (“a 9—oh no, wait, no! Look at that nose, 6!”) as she walks towards you, but then wonders what sort of job that guy in the suit has (“I bet he earns a lot of money and gets shit done”). Familiar? Instead of addressing the inherent misogyny that instigated the Babe of the Day concept, the media is quick to quash the issue as a youthful indiscretion, a lack of judgment, sighing with relief as Otago University dutifully takes the blame.

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  1. Hugh Devereux-Mack says:

    I was just shown this by a vic friend.

    Cheers to the author for the mention :)

    ~H

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