Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bikini Banter

I had been waiting for a week, and yesterday it finally came. I opened the mailbox and there it was – this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

Please don’t misunderstand. I wasn’t excited to receive it. I was anticipating its arrival so I could intercept it before Jayson or the boys could see it. Out of the mailbox and into my bag it went.

I had seen the new cover online when it was released last week, and it made my blood boil. But seeing it on glossy paper in my hands made me so angry I couldn’t shake the feeling all day.

If you want to sell swimsuits, then sell swimsuits. Women have to wear something to the beach, right? And I’m not opposed to bathing suits – not even bikinis.

But 24-year-old Hannah Davis is practically naked on the cover. Honestly. As if her bikini isn’t skimpy enough, she’s pulling her bottom down way WAY low. I am a woman, I know woman parts. And she’s dangerously close to revealing hers.

So what is Sports Illustrated really selling here? A visual treat, a bonus, a goody bag, a reward to its male subscribers? Because they’re definitely not selling swimsuits.

I did a quick count of the swimsuits featured. Roughly:
  • 66 bikinis
  • 11 one-piece swimsuits
  • 8 poses with the swimsuit being pulled down or off
  • 20 topless photos, with just a bikini bottom (one creative shot offers grapes up top; another, oars)
  • 2 shots of completely naked women

This is objectification at its finest. Straight up porn disguised as sporty fun, supposedly more palatable because it’s presented in a legitimate format. Does Sports Illustrated really value women? No. They are presented as objects to be looked at, ogled, and worse.

Am I supposed to be impressed that, for the first time, two plus-size models are featured in the issue? (Ashley Graham is featured in an advertisement and Robyn Lawley models several looks.) This is not a real achievement, friends. In the words of Beauty Redefined, “We absolutely do not see the inclusion of one ‘plus-size’ (6’2”, size 12) model in the 2015 issue as a victory. We see this is a slight expansion of who SI deems ‘objectifiable,’ which still upholds dozens of beauty ideals sold through every other image, even if she embodies a size slightly larger than her objectified counterparts. Additionally, we absolutely do not see the inclusion of a plus-size model in a $455,000 paid advertisement as a victory. We are not equal opportunity objectifiers and we can’t applaud anyone who is.”

If Sports Illustrated truly valued women, they would highlight characteristics other than our appearance, as they do men: strength, skill, athleticism, determination. How many female athletes has Sports Illustrated put on their cover? “Researchers found that of the 716 SI issues published between 2000 and 2011, a mere 35 of them had covers featuring female athletes. That’s only 4.9%.”

5%. What an insult. But women get an entire issue – a double-issue, even – promoting our assets for the male gaze? This is rubbish.

As I ranted yesterday, a friend of mine made an important point. He said, essentially, that no one was holding a gun to these women’s heads and they were choosing to objectify themselves. This is a valid argument that points to the deeper issues of objectification in our society. Women will often look at themselves the way men look at them, and let their actions and appearance be dictated by how they want to be seen by others. This type of attention is glorified and coveted. It is also dangerous. It eats up how we truly view ourselves and buries it under how others view us.

This outward view contributes to self worth issues, eating disorders, and a slew of other problems. We cannot determine our worth by how others look at us, which mostly involves our outer appearance. If you want to have a killer body and wear a tiny bikini, do that of your own volition. But please do not let others’ perception of you lie on the surface of your skin. There is so much more to you than that – your thoughts, beliefs, ideas, purpose, motivations, accomplishments, grades, skills, achievements, desires and opinions are so valuable. These are the things that determine who you are in a complete way.

Can women look hot? Of course. Is that all we are capable of? Of course not.

No one forced those women into those bikinis (or out of them). We all have a choice.

Choose to not be something to be looked at – because you aren’t a person being looked at in these cases, you are a THING.

Choose to define your worth inwardly.

Choose to value those who value your mind over your body.

Choose to accept beauty in all of its meanings, not the narrowly-defined version our culture depicts.

Choose better than what our society offers – a disrespectful, misogynistic view of women as objects to be pieced apart and consumed.

My choice? To toss the SI Swimsuit Issue into the trash where it belongs.

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.


  1. My friend my blood is moving rapidly because of your passion and my agreement!

    I have a husband and a young man I am raising with integrity and dignity. My husband an son both look away if there is a women in a bikini on

    Good for you for not allowing those visuals in your home. It is not shocking to me that SI has gone this direction it has become increasingly more acceptable for photos to look like they came straight from the latest playboy.

    The super bowl is one of the largest events for human trafficking and young women are forced to meet the demands of clients through what is called "the circuit" traveling where sporting events are taking place. Do you think there is any connection to these types of photos and the drive for men to pay for sex... I do!

    This is a shoebox that needs to be on my more women more often. You go girl!

  2. Thank you for this thoughtful response, Amanda! You're so right - we have to do better for our families. See you next week!

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