The XX Factor

“Time” Honors a Carbon-Based Life Form Who Just Happens To Be a Man

It’s been 10 years since Time changed its “Man of the Year” (or “woman” or “planet” of the year) award to the grating-to-my-ears “Person of the Year.” Time purportedly made the switch to be “more inclusive,” as the Wikipedia entry on the topic states , but it just serves to whitewash the fact that the recipient is usually a guy. Why not just call it what it is? If it’s a man, he’s the Man of the Year. If it’s a woman, then Woman of the Year.

From 1927 to 1999, women were chosen by Time four times (not counting group awards that went to “scientists” and “Middle Americans”). Since then, and with today’s announcement that the 2009 honoree is Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, women haven’t made much more of a dent in Time ‘s list. Melinda Gates was honored in 2005, but only along with husband Bill Gates and Bono, when the award went to “Good Samaritans.” At least in 2002, the selection of “Whistleblowers” highlighted Sherron Watkins of Enron, Coleen Rowley of the FBI, and Cynthia Cooper of WorldCom. (I am ignoring that “we” all won in 2006.)

I’m not big on political correctness and don’t feel a burning need for affirmative action in the meaningless-year-ending-attention-grabbing awards department. I don’t care who Time picks. (And, believe me, I’m not sad it wasn’t Nancy Pelosi this year.) But if Time is so uncomfortable with itself because its “Carbon-Based Life Form of the Year” award comes across as sexist, it should, you know, give the honor to a woman once in a while.