The Washington Times - May 3, 2009, 11:39PM

TIME’s beat-sweetening puff list of the “100 Most Influential People” leaves me less than impressed.

For starters, just 29 of the 100 listees (whether individual or part of a group) include women, and the list lacks any sort of coherent metric and reinforces gender stereotypes, a la Larry Summers.


When the physical magazine landed in my mailbox yesterday, I was struck by the front cover, which includes a montage of the 100 winners. The women tend to be the ornamental, glitzy entertainers like Penelope Cruz, Kate Winslet and M.I.A., who may be fantastic artists but are certainly not  comparable counterweights to the high-caliber business, political and scientific leaders on the list with XY chromosomes.

The list is broken down into five nonsensical categories that blur together in undistinguishable ways. Brad Pitt is in the “Builders & Titans” category instead of “Artists & Entertainers” and “The Twitter Guys” are in the same slot as Pitt. There is some improvement numerically over the 2008 list, which had 24 female listees, including Miley Cyrus, Mariah Carey and Stephenie Meyer.

This year there is Christine Lagarde, Angela Merkel and Sheila Bair, but these heavy-hitters are vastly outnumbered by the men. And while the list does acknowledge female human rights activists like Hadizatou Mani, Somaly Mam and Suraya Pakzad who have fought for women’s rights around the world, it’s ironic to see these brave women placed in the same realm as Jon Favreau, a speechwriter for Barack Obama who was caught groping a likeness of Hillary Clinton (who also appears on the list).

Women fare the worst in the category called “Scientist & Thinkers,” with just three—Dambisa Moyo, Barbara Hogan and Connie Hedegaard—making an appearance. Women fare best in the categories of “Heroes & Icons,” “Artists & Entertainers.” Women in the “Builders & Titans” category include a British fashion designer and the founder of ZipCar, both admirable positions but in no way approaching the realm of men like Timothy Geithner, Alexander Medvedev and Jamie Dimon.

To top things off, TIME allowed gadfly contributor Joel Stein to give his two cents on the list, which includes this high-minded commentary on Cruz, “Every time I see you, you influence a certain part of my body.”

In a shrinking magazine market, what type of value do these sorts of lists add? Was the list was created to curry favor with the stars who appear in its pages?