Race, Othering, and GQ’s Opinions On Hot Women

GQ’s latest excuse to publish photos of pretty women betrays a deeper underlying problem.

GQ has one of those hottest-women lists up, and at first you might think it’s just another one of those tedious exercises in enforcing stereotypes about conventional beauty standards, but no, this time they’ve added an innovative twist: pervasive racial Othering. Multiple women are flagged by their ethnicity, pointing out how they’re different from assumed-normal, that is to say white, women.

This is not what we think of when we think of racism. We like to imagine racism as being restricted to cross-burnings and racial epithets, something safely distant from us. This is more like the base code for racism, the underlying operating system that racist apps run on. This is someone writing on deadline, not taking time to unpack the unexamined assumptions that nobody ever taught him to unpack. It is not, in and of itself, a grievous sin. But a weird black mole on your shoulder is not, in and of itself, deadly. It’s the beginning, the necessary starting place for worse things, and if we catch it in the early stages, it’s easier to treat.

There is no “hot white chick” on GQ’s list. The closest they come is a “hot Italian chick”, which could lead to an interesting digression about the history of the concept of whiteness, but that’s a side issue. The core problem here is that white is considered normal, and nonwhiteness is considered a deviation from that norm. That is the base code, that is the underlying assumption, that is programmed into us from childhood, in nothing more than the way we construct sentences.

There is a concept, and a thriving market, of “black movies”, that is to say films with a predominantly African-American cast. There is no concept of “white movies”, because all movies are assumed (accurately) to have predominantly white casts unless otherwise specified. Because white is normal.

When Justice Sotomayor was confirmed for the Supreme Court, people asked whether her Puerto Rican heritage might affect her judgment in certain kinds of cases. Nobody asked, during John Roberts’ confirmation, if his Caucasian heritage might be a similar factor. Because white is normal.

If you really want to see people’s unvarnished id, go to where the id lives: browse some porn sites. Note how videos or picture sets with non-white performers are tagged “black” or “Asian” or “interracial” or whatever, but nothing’s ever tagged “white”. Because white is normal.

And one short step back from porn, we have GQ’s list of 60 women they consider hot. Their taste in women is their own affair, though the “top 5 as dictated to you by your girlfriend” one is hideously sexist coming and going. The issue is that the way they’re tagging and identifying these women betrays a much larger, deeper problem. I’m sure the fine folks at GQ are smart enough to think seriously about this, and start examining those unexamined assumptions, but so far they haven’t. Still, no time like the present to get started.

About Noah Brand

Noah Brand is a writer and editor, and quite possibly also a cartoon character from the 1930s. His life, when it is written, will read better than it lived. He is usually found in Portland, Oregon, directly underneath a very nice hat.


  1. I agree. The notion that GQ needs to come up with ‘excuses’ to publish photos of hot women is a troubling sign indeed. No excuses should ever be offered for reveling in female beauty–especially if one seems to be expected out of some twisted sense of feminist prudery.

  2. Bay Area Guy says:


    Othering is part of human nature, and all races, ethnicities, religions, nationalities, and even castes (in places like India) engage in it.

    Whites have historically been the majority, so it’s natural and inevitable that they are seen as “normal.” As whites continue to decline in number, this will also inevitably change. As a white person in the Bay Area, I’ve even seen this change personally. Whites are not referred to by a normalizing “people,” and are often explicitly referred to by their race. At least around the people I hang out with.

    Trust me, compared to the type of “othering” that goes on in other parts of the world (including other 1st world countries), having GQ identify non-white women by their race is child’s play.

  3. That article you linked on the colorlines site mentions that the GQ people didnt have categories for hottest black woman or hottest latina in their list, so it appears that according to your logic, it isnt just white women that are considered “normal” to them. I believe those three races largely account for the demographics of the US, so it would probably be more accurate to say that the list seems to “other” people who dont fit their unconscious mold of what a US citizen is like. As someone who is NOT a US citizen, I suppose I should be offended at that.

    But anyway, good job on not letting the facts get in the way of a good opportunty to guilt white people over their rascism.

  4. Anthony hill says:

    What a white-centric article. You do not seem to consider what other people of other races do. I’m sure if you were in an Asian country or an African country you would find that they talk about people of other races in the same way. Using their own racial majority as a reference, everyone else is assigned a name to distinguish them from the predominant race. You can and should treat everyone as equals, but cannot ignore that fact that people are different. You can honour that fact and those people, why not, but to criticise others for acknowledging racial and cultural differences is futile and counter-productive. In the end it will create more division and hostility. Let us acknowledge and welcome diversity, not pretend it does not exist.

  5. Deanna Ogle says:

    What!? Really? I feel like this would have been much different if they were celebrating diversity or pointing out, as the article you link to says, the beautiful women from around the world… That’s so weird.

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