Maybe it seemed exciting at the time, but as of now, Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize is no longer the splashiest laurel won by a musician in 2016. Yes, Glamour magazine—everybody’s favorite bastion of forward thinking—included Bono as the first-ever male in its “Women of the Year” feature. He shares the unexpected honor with, among others, gymnast Simone Biles, Black Lives Matter founders Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, plus-size model Ashley Graham and Gwen Stefani. Perhaps most jarringly, he also shares the honor with “Emily Doe,” the anonymous Stanford rape victim.
If you think literary types got huffy about Dylan usurping their turf, the certifiably female human beings who took to social media to vent their annoyance at Glamour’s stunt casting were not only more irked, but much funnier. “It’s so important our daughters know they can grow up to be Bono,” wrote one tweeter. Since turnabout is fair play, another woman seized the opportunity to declare herself “the greatest member of famous rock band U2.” And then there was my girlfriend, who more tolerantly opined, “I never thought of Glamour as hard-hitting. Marie Claire? Yes.”
Unlike squirrely old Dylan, who turned keeping the Swedish Academy on tenterhooks for two weeks into the best joke of his career (it was kind of a letdown when he finally acknowledged the prize), Bono was quick to express his delight. “I’m sure I don’t deserve it,” he told Glamour, which has to rank among the all-time most demure Great Quotes. Because he’s Bono, he went on to, ahem, mansplain that “the battle for gender equality can’t be won unless men lead it along with women”—a point that would have been a lot more valid if he’d only said “join” instead of “lead.”
All the same, if Bono’s inclusion in the “Women of the Year” feature sounds silly, it’s not really any sillier than giving Dylan a Nobel Prize—or getting wrought up about either, pro or con. Those secretive Scandinavians like to pretend otherwise, but they aren’t immune to faddishness or limelight-grabbing moves. Remember Barack Obama’s 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, which he won when his only accomplishment was not being George W. Bush? For what it’s worth, Glamour is probaby a more reliable judge of who’s worthy of feminist kudos than the Nobels are of literary merit, even though I still don’t understand what Gwen Stefani did to make the cut.
Glamour editors knew Bono’s inclusion would make big waves. The magazine hasn’t gotten this much buzz in, like, forever. That no doubt was the goal, but they didn’t pick Bono just for laughs. He may be an insufferably grandiose twerp, but his Poverty is Sexist campaign sounds on-the-money politically—and since I haven’t followed his every move with bated breath, I might not have known Poverty is Sexist even existed without Glamour’s help. Anyhow, we live in hermaphroditic times, and who can say for sure anymore what’s silly and what isn’t? Not me.