The World's Most Powerful Women?

The American media obsession with all things American and little less is well-known. But the supposedly international Forbes magazine has outdone even the lowest expectations of awareness of the outside world with its World's 100 Most Powerful Women selection for 2010.

No less than 18 of the top 20 turn out to be Americans – 67 of the top 100, headed by the wife of the US president, Michelle Obama, and including a bevy of television presenters and other media celebrities. Lady Gaga, who many regard as a freak, ranks no. 7, 36 places ahead of Christine Lagarde, the finance minister of France.

Asia's most powerful woman, according to Forbes, is Ho Ching, the wife of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and head of Temasek the state investment company. At number 30 she easily beats out Britain's Queen Elizabeth II who comes in at 41, one place behind someone called Meredith Vieira, who is described as a "co-anchor."

Being the elected head of a significant country counts for nothing compared with the US media's obsession with celebrity rather than real power. Argentina's president Christina Fernandez is a lowly 68 on the list but at least that's better than Brazil's new president Dilma Rousseff, who barely makes the list at all, coming in at 95, well below a New York resident Brazilian model named Gisele Bundchen.

The choice of Asians is equally bizarre. Names include Chua Sock Kong of Singapore Telecoms and JP Morgan's China stocks promoter Jing Ulrich. Only one other Chinese makes the list – Sun Yafang of Huawei Technologies, and two Indians, Shikha Sharma of Axis Bank and Chanda Koccor of ICICI. The wives of the hereditary rulers of Qatar and Jordan make it but Sonia Gandhi, the power behind the ruling Congress party is ignored.

Of course lists such as these were never meant to be taken very seriously. Nonetheless the current Forbes list displays an attitude of mind which is unable to grasp the wider world in general, let alone make judgments on power, or distinguish between power and celebrity.