Wait—the RateMyProfessors.com “hotness” chili was about attractiveness?

Wait—the RateMyProfessors.com “hotness” chili was about attractiveness?

Enlarge / So long, red chili pepper of hotness.

This week, Buzzfeed reported that RateMyProfessors.com was dropping its “hotness” rating for professors after an outcry from female professors who said that the rating was sexist.

RateMyProfessors was right to do so; professorial competence and perceived attractiveness have nothing to do with one another. The rating also disadvantages women, who are too often pressured to conform to absurd beauty standards, even in a professional setting where men wouldn’t feel the same pressure.

But this week’s news really baffled me, not because I fail to understand how sexism works, but because until this week I thought that “hotness” referred to how exciting a particular class was. Throughout my college years, I used RateMyProfessors.com to choose undergrad classes, all the while thinking a professor with a chili pepper gave… invigorating lectures. (I promise, that’s not a euphemism.) I mean, you’re rating professors with chili peppers! Chili peppers mean spiciness and excitement, not sex appeal! Right?! Right, guys? Back me up here!

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