Enjoy the Scenery: Ratings Game

SPM finds out exactly what gets Palm-walkers a 'hot' score

 by Stephanie Berger
 published on Thursday, November 3, 2005

Deanna Dent / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE

ASU's Palm Walk, the walkway from the University Bridge on the north side of campus to the Student Recreation Complex on the south, has been a selling point for ASU tour guides for years. The orientation leaders mention that Palm Walk is lined by 117 palm trees, but they probably don't tell prospective students about the corridor's darker side: Palmwalk.com.

Palmwalk.com is a Website featuring pictures of more than 200 female ASU students taken without their permission. The site allows visitors to rate the pictures on a scale of one to 10.

Palmwalk.com's creator, finance and marketing senior Thomas McCarthy, could not be reached despite SPM's repeated attempts at contact. However, McCarthy told The State Press in September that the photos were taken last semester with a "high-tech digital" camera.

"I believe Palmwalk.com is morally just," McCarthy told The State Press.

We wondered what kind of women McCarthy chooses to feature on his site, and also, what characteristics gain the highest ratings from viewers. So, SPM set out with our equally "high-tech digital" equipment (one reporter and a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet) to collect data about Palmwalk.com

We collected data on 100 of the women featured. Ratings varied from 4.7 to 7.3.

The demographics of the women on the site showed a lack of diversity, with 98 white and two Asian women.

Blonde was the dominant and most popular hair color, earning the highest average rating of 6.3. The second most popular (6.2) were the 14 girls with light-brown hair and three with red hair. Even though dark brown hair was the second biggest group (26 women), it came in third place with a score of 6.1. Finally, the lowest average rating of 6.0 went to the 16 dirty blondes and nine girls with black manes.

No overweight women were featured in our sample. About 75 percent of the women had an average to thin body type; about 25 percent were extremely thin.

Palmwalk.com viewers are into skinny girls with medium-sized breasts, who got the highest average rating of 6.4. Although over a third of the women in our sample had small breasts, girls with average bodies and small breasts got the lowest rating of 5.9.

Jaseon Outlaw, co-president of the Black Graduate Student Association, says all of this data is biased.

"Lack of diversity on this site is only one issue," Outlaw says. "Racial biases exist in terms of what beauty is."

Outlaw says that while some ethnicities may think skinny girls are more attractive, others might appreciate curvaceous girls.

Women's Coalition facilitator Megan Faragher adds that Palmwalk.com perpetuates gender stereotypes.

"Palmwalk.com is just another example of how female college students are held to standards of arbitrary beauty, which only work toward undermining their ability to be taken seriously as students, or even as well-rounded people," she says.

On Palmwalk.com, the women's academics are not taken into consideration. The only non-physical things viewers can rate are the women's clothing and accessories.

Our sample included almost equal amounts of girls wearing tank tops, athletic T-shirts, girly T-shirts or spaghetti strap shirts and other varieties. For bottoms, the distribution of jeans, shorts and short skirts were about equal, with the remaining girls wearing sweatpants or other styles. The highest average ratings (6.7) went to the two girls wearing tube-top dresses and the one girl who was wearing a short skirt and knee highs.

The accessories that a girl carries may have some bearing on her perceived attractiveness. Purses and book bags don't seem to make a big deal, but viewers seem to think backpacks are out of style, since they earned an average 0.5 points lower.

A girl carrying a drink of any kind earns a lower rating (an average 6.0 versus a non-drink 6.2). But Palmwalk.com viewers like caffeine, with Starbucks and sodas get a higher rating than sports drinks and water.

Also, the five girls carrying iPods earned a 6.3, 0.2 points higher than the non-audiophiles.

However, there is one inspiring statistic to be derived from our study of Palmwalk.com. Only 11 women in our sample happened to be smiling, but these girls earned an average 6.3 rating, 0.2 points higher than the blank or frowning expressions.

Maybe there's some merit to the expression, "You're never fully dressed without a smile."


Reach the reporter at stephanie.m.berger@asu.edu.


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