Originally created 05/15/04

Magazine says Athens is haven for bachelors



ATHENS, Ga. - Come here often?

Enough fit, young single women apparently do to make Athens the top town for bachelors in the United States, according to the latest issue of Men's Journal magazine.

Factors such as the city's healthy female body mass index and male-to-female ratio put the home of the University of Georgia at the top of the magazine's list, beating out other college towns including Santa Barbara, Calif., Gainesville, Fla., and Charlottesville, Va.

"Even if you're not single, it's nice to be in a place with some eye candy," the magazine says about Athens. "If you are single, have fun."

Some of Athens' eligible bachelorettes and even some bachelors are offended by the magazine's use of a body fat rating to assess the city's women. They consider that kind of criterion sexist.

"Certainly it's going to be the case that something like Men's Journal is going to judge the attractiveness of women largely based on physical character," said Bonnie Dow, a University of Georgia speech communications professor who studies how women are represented in media.

Most colleges, particularly in the South, have a sort of cultural norm of thinness for college women, said Ms. Dow, who is single.

"I completely believe the statistic that we have some sort of admirable body mass index," she said. "We have lots of thin blondes in this town."

Senior editor Tom Foster said the magazine also places a high emphasis on a healthy, active lifestyle in its broader annual ranking of the 50 Best Places to Live. As for its scrutiny of body fat of the female form, he offered no apologies.

"It's a men's magazine," he said.

Other data used in the rankings were the percentage of people between ages 18 and 40, and the percentage of college graduates. At the University of Georgia alone, 57.8 percent of the 33,000 students are female, according to fall semester 2003 figures.

"Athens has some of the best-looking girls in the world," Jacob Nolan, a 23-year-old sophomore, said while drinking with friends on the deck of a restaurant near campus. "I have a good time."

Athens' reputation for vibrant bars and music clubs that launched bands such as R.E.M. and the B-52s sometimes competes with its renown for attractive young women.

"The girls here are gorgeous," acknowledged Katy Meeks, a 25-year-old resident.

The city is sometimes referred to as "Barbie world," said Erin Westbrook, a 21-year-old student.

Walker Oxley, a 22-year-old student, was even more matter-of-fact.

"We go to school to look at girls."