GEN­TLE­MEN, LADIES

Esquire (Philippines) - - THIS WAY IN -

Be­ing a gen­tle­men’s mag­a­zine in an age where it has been pointed out (rightly) that it’s a con­cept that peers ever so dan­ger­ously over the precipice of sexism means hav­ing to tread a very del­i­cate bal­ance, every day, on every story, on every page. Nowhere else is that bal­ance more dif­fi­cult to man­age than in our an­nual Sex­i­est Woman Alive issue, as you might imag­ine. How does one look at a woman with frank sex­ual at­trac­tion, with­out over­step­ping bound­aries? If the male gaze has be­come anath­ema to po­lit­i­cally cor­rect po­lite so­ci­ety, is it pos­si­ble at all to main­tain a gen­tle­man’s gaze in­stead?

I’ll bet that every Esquire edi­tor in the world, upon be­ing given the top-se­cret driver’s man­ual to the brand, turned right to the page about Women. At the risk of spoil­ing the magic, here is what it says in its en­tirety: “An Esquire branded way to present women, this is a four- to eight- page fea­ture on a gor­geous woman, usu­ally an ac­tress, model, or mu­si­cian and is a ‘must-have’ to every edi­tion. It can be a cover story or can be an an­nual re­veal of the edi­tor’s choice of Sex­i­est Woman Alive.”

In short: Fig­ure it out, buddy, you’re on your own.

It should be easy, right? Sex­ual at­trac­tion should be the sim­plest thing: It ex­ists partly sub­lim­i­nally, run­ning be­low the sur­face of self-con­scious­ness; but there is also no way we can­not be aware of its ef­fects. Sex­ual at­trac­tion in­sists on be­ing rec­og­nized, even when we don’t un­der­stand it.

But the pol­i­tics of sex and sex­ual at­trac­tion are a lit­tle bit more tricky, and this is the con­text in which we name our choice for Sex­i­est Woman Alive. This is a pub­lic choice, and so it is also a some­what po­lit­i­cal one.

Through the six-ish years of its ex­is­tence in print, Esquire Philip­pines has named a wide range of women, some­times con­tro­ver­sially, to the ti­tle: Solenn Heussaff first, in 2013; Hol­ly­wood ac­tress Shay Mitchell in 2014; TV news­caster Karen Davila in 2015; Miss Uni­verse crown-holder Pia Wurtzbach in 2016. (Also of note: jour­nal­ist Maria Ressa was named to the in­ter­na­tional list on Esquire.com in 2010. She again ap­pears in this issue for our ESQ&A, on page 19. We kind of like that sym­me­try.) Some were more ob­vi­ous choices than the oth­ers. Oth­ers worked pre­cisely be­cause they were un­usual picks.

In the chang­ing global me­dia land­scape, men’s mag­a­zines every­where have pulled back from this mine-filled ter­ri­tory be­cause it’s been so dif­fi­cult to nav­i­gate. But at Esquire…we love women. And we love them well. So, if this is the last love let­ter we get to write to the women we love, we wanted to write it to all the women we ever loved, and whom we never got to tell. The Filip­ina—for all her grace and her beauty, for all her strength, and for all the crap she’s had to put up with— is the Sex­i­est Woman Alive.

Kris­tine FONACIER with grat­i­tude and re­spect for Pa­tri­cia, Au­drey, Clif­ford, Kara, Miguel, Sarge, and Paul, who al­ways asked for noth­ing less than ex­cel­lence, al­ways.

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