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"Unsexiest" Woman Holds Mirror Up To Judges

03/24/2008 04:42 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

"Am I really the unsexiest woman in the world?"

That's the rhetorical question actress Sarah Jessica Parker posed to Grazia (which actually bills itself as Britain's "first glossy magazine"). She was responding to the title of "Unsexiest Woman Alive" bestowed upon her by a poll of the readers of another magazine, Maxim.

In questioning their choice, Ms. Parker fails to notice that she's acquiescing to the notion that there really is an unsexiest woman in the world. But she deserves credit for bravely admitting that it caused her significant pain, enhanced, in turn, by her husband's anger.

"Do I fit some ideals and standards of some men writing in a men's magazine?" she asked. "Maybe not." (Plaudits also for taking the trouble to Q & A herself, thus lightening the interviewer's work load.)

Again, Ms. Parker is on the right track, but only halfway there. She herself illustrated the point in the 1991 film LA Story. Playing SanDeE*, a dizzy, flirtatious young woman, she beguiles the middle-aged Steve Martin. (And, in the process, makes it impossible for girls to ever unselfconsciously twirl again.)

By parodying it in its most juvenile and blatant form to a T, Ms. Parker draped herself with the mantle of sexiness and the rest was history. It's indicative of her intelligence that her career was built on irony.

Maxim's readers likely weren't singling her out for a lack of sexiness, which no red-blooded man can dispute at this point. Arguably, it's her long face to which they object.

In fact, Ms. Parker is the latest in a long line of formidable women stretching from Cleopatra to Bette Davis to Madonna. Though lacking the symmetry of a classic beauty, they bent men -- and the world -- to their whims, whether by disposition, determination, or talent.

The case can be made that Maxim's readers object to having a sex symbol chosen for them on the basis of her success in a "women's" TV series. Also, there's no disputing that La Parker is ubiquitous -- besides TV, from billboards to magazine ads to commercials -- not to mention, much the richer for it.

But, as is too often the case with a poll, it reveals more about the voters than the subject. First, Maxim readers seem oblivious to the extent to which their tastes in women have been shaped by today's surgically enhanced models and actresses. Talk about an image being forced down their throats.

Second, conferring a title as vicious as unsexiest woman alive on anyone reflects a poverty of spirit that, in itself, cancels out a Maxim reader's qualifications to choose the winner of any poll.

Except for maybe which male mixed-martial-art star they'd most like to be in the ring with alone and naked.