'Good-looking' and 'influential' are not synonyms

How will women be remembered in history?

Clearly it depends on whom you ask.

Esquire magazine identified the 75 greatest women of all time a couple of years ago. The headline popped up in one of my Google searches Monday afternoon and I was intrigued.

I suppose I should not have expected too much after reading the blurb that accompanied the list: “Politicians, pop stars, Native American guides: A definitive list of the women who have shaped the world. Well, inasmuch as definitive can be completely arbitrary.”

The blurb really should have read “Pop stars, pop stars and more pop stars. They’re good-looking and we’re running photos with this list!”

Or — “By arbitrary, we mean based on looks.”

A full third of the women most responsible for shaping history, you might be surprised to learn, are actresses. Esquire’s favorite leading ladies range from three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep to Racquel Welch.

Almost a quarter of them — 18 — are singers. And perhaps because the architects of the list are writers, fellow practitioners of the craft were relatively well-represented, filling eight of the 32 remaining slots. I question the choice to include Judy Blume over, say, Jane Austen or Toni Morrison or one of the Brontë sisters or — well, I could go on, but you get the idea.

The most impressive of the women fall under a loose category I’ve dubbed “political.” The dozen women grouped as such range from Joan of Arc to Madeline Albright.

Three athletes, two journalists, an inventor and a miscellaneous half a dozen women (from Sacajawea to Julia Child) round out the list.

Thoroughly disgusted, I went back to Google to look for something a little more encouraging to ponder during Women’s History Month. I found plenty.

Instead of including 18 singers, the magazine could have listed the 18 women who have won Pulitzer Prizes for writing.

The 25 movie stars — along with Jessica Rabbit, Cheryl Tiegs and a few others — could have been nixed to clear 48 slots for women who have won a Nobel Prize. Make that 47. Esquire had enough sense to include Marie Curie on its list.

I think Amelia Earhart might have been a better choice than Joan Rivers, and Sandra Day O’Connor clearly overrules the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders when it comes to shaping history.

There are so many amazing examples of accomplished women that Marie Claire magazine was able to find 50 by looking at just one year, 2017. Its list looks far different than Esquire’s.

The women highlighted here have much more varied occupations. They are U.S. senators, astronauts, Marines, federal judges, pilots, professional hockey players, neurosurgeons, governors, directors, prime ministers, sports broadcasters, motorcycle racers, teachers and journalists.

They’ve been nominated for Oscar, Grammy, Emmy and Tony awards — and received quite a few as well.

There are Hollywood types on the list, of course, but the criteria is accomplishment rather than appearance. Kim Basinger (so beautiful, Esquire opined) is out and Jodie Whittaker — the first woman to play The Doctor in 55 years of “Doctor Who” — is in. So is Joi McMillon, the first Black woman nominated for a film-editing Oscar for “Moonlight.” And Lena Waithe, the first Black woman to win a comedy-writing Emmy for “Master of None.”

Unlike Esquire’s list, Marie Claire’s is worth reading.

I’m flabbergasted that a magazine — even one for men — in this day and age would compile photos of females whose primary attribute, in many cases, is sex appeal and dare to present it as a list of historically significant women.

Women’s History Month seems like the ideal time for the folks there to do a little more homework.

— Pamela Lannom is on vacation this week. The column was first published March 1, 2018.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean