If you think the reaction to Kim Kardashian’s GQ cover is extreme, you should see Jennifer Aniston’s.

The wave of outrage following Kim Kardashian's inclusion in GQ Magazine's Men of the Year issue is as predictable as Taylor Swift's red lip. Or our yearly debate about when is the correct time to set up your Christmas tree

There's always an air of disapproval around any move the 43-year-old reality TV star and business owner makes, bubbling away in the background like the whir of an air conditioner, or that one neighbour who never quite moved on from discovering the Hamilton soundtrack.

But in this particular instance of pearl-clutching and Instagram commenting, the outrage, while not exactly an issue that demands an extensive defence to be mounted in Kim's honour, is also a little misinformed.


There are the usual wails about her photos being too sexualised, her cover being too photoshopped, and how we need to stop celebrating people who are 'famous for being famous' (which, I think it's fair to say, no longer applies to Kim). But this time around there's a certain amount of online outrage linked to GQ naming her 'Man of the Year' in the first place.

And, as many outlets and commentators have argued today, if a woman was to be named as Man Of The Year, then surely there were more deserving women who could have suited up and appeared on the cover. 

The GQ cover story featuring Kim Kardashian is certainly gimmicky, but it's also completely precedented and makes sense from a business perspective, which is what a magazine is.

Jennifer Aniston was actually the first woman to appear on the cover of GQ’s Men of the Year issue back in 2005, when the title had been in play at the publication for 10 years.

At this moment in time, Jennifer's coronation as Man of the Year did feel interesting and zeitgeisty, thanks to the fact that she was still freshly embroiled in one of pop culture's most infamous Hollywood breakup narratives, having recently divorced Brad Pitt while his new relationship with co-star Angelina Jolie was still freshly making the headline rounds.


Image: GQ.

At the time of Jennifer's cover reveal, GQ denied they had taken their inspiration from tabloid news, and while that story feels wholly unrealistic, what they did tap into was the public's need to protect and validate what they saw as Hollywood's reigning and wronged golden girl, and so their choice was a reader (and therefore a commercial) success.

Since then it has not been uncommon for the publication to throw a woman's name into their list of cover stars for the annual Men of the Year issue on a pretty regular basis.


In 2011, a Man of the Year cover went to actress Mila Kunis; musician Rihanna was featured as GQ’s Man of the Year in 2012; actress Shailene Woodley was a GQ Man of the Year in 2014; Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot made the list in 2017; tennis star Serena Williams was 2018's cover star, followed by Jennifer Lopez in 2019, and rapper Megan Thee Stallion in the mix in 2020.

So to address the many commenters who have expressed their concern, both on Kim's Instagram account and across GQ's platforms, that this 'unprecedented move' has subverted entertainment journalism in some sort of landmark way, or has for the first time 'taken away from the achievements of men', you may find some small comfort in the fact that neither of these allegations are factually true.

Watch Kim Kardashian in American Horror Story: Delicate. Post continues below.

Video via FX.

This year, Australian actor Jacob Elordi and rapper Travis Scott were both honoured with GQ covers along with Kim, so we can all rest assured that the celebration of men's achievements, via a carefully curated cover story designed to promote their latest releases, is safe. For another year at least.


(Personally, I think Scarlett Johansson's inclusion as "Babe of the Year" in GQ’s 2010 Men of the Year Issue roundup is the slightly more eyebrow-raising piece of trivia here, but I digress.)

The other piece of feedback offered up by the masses regarding Kim's GQ cover is that she feels like an expected, gimmick-ridden choice, and there are many other women with famous names who would have been more deserving of the award.

This stance is, of course, a matter of opinion, as it's not an award measured by a distance run or a game played, but more a strategic decision by a corporation designed to sell and promote their wares.

At the same time, there is something impressive about a woman whose appearance on a magazine cover is so wholly expected yet still utterly attention-grabbing. The act of being everywhere at once yet still having readers pour through your words and images in order to dissect every ounce of their existence.

And yet, even in this era of attention economy we're currently living in, it's an oddly good time to nab an interview with Kim Kardashian.

With her extensive social media platforms, SKIMS campaigns and lucrative reality TV series, Kim is a woman never short of an avenue in which to share her thoughts and spruik her products – but in the last few months, her reign of publicity opportunities has been a little bit more limited.


Kim's first prominent acting role played out across our TV screens in recent weeks, thanks to her portrayal of ruthless publicist Siobhan in American Horror Story: DelicateDue to the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) strike at the time, she was unable to do any promotion around the series, and it's understood that these restrictions also played out around the promotion of the new season of The Kardashians

(Although she was criticised for crossing the picket line to film American Horror Story after the strike was announced, as the production was one of the few in Hollywood that refused to shut down.)

This means that the flurry of interviews, magazine covers, and social media coverage that would normally have accompanied two such big releases as these were unable to materialise. Leaving the GQ team in a prime position to interview a woman who, while still among the most visual women in the world, has taken just the slightest backseat in terms of publicity over the past few months.

No matter which way you want to slice this story, Kim Kardashian's GQ Man of the Year cover is neither history-making nor dangerous to men – but it is headline-making.

Laura Brodnik is Mamamia's Head of Entertainment and host of The Spill podcast. You can follow her on Instagram here.

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