Sports Illustrated released its annual swimsuit issue this week. The irony of the situation is that all three cover models weren’t wearing swimsuits at all. Well, they are wearing swimsuit bottoms, just nothing else. Perhaps calling the 50th anniversary issue the birthday suit issue would have been more appropriate.
The swimsuit issue has a long history of objecting women while using the guise of sports. Since its beginning in 1964, the cover has gotten more and more revealing and pornographic. This year’s issue features three models, Nina Agdal, Lily Aldridge and Chrissy Teigen and this number beats the number of female athletes featured on the cover of the magazine for the entire 2013 year. Something is seriously wrong with that.
In recent years model Kate Upton has been featured on the cover twice, once topless and one wearing an extremely thin bikini. Opening the cover of the 200-page magazine will assault the viewers with dozens upon dozens of topless models in suggestive poses. The magazine also features models in nothing but body paint. Remind me again how this is supposed to be about swimsuits? And what happened to the sports?
Caryn D. Riswold, Professor of Religion and Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, published an article entitled Of Course Barbie in which she stated, “Let’s just stop pretending thatthe male gaze cares at all for the flesh and blood women with brains, hearts, and ambitions it regularly features.”
“They gave up on actually featuring swimsuits years ago,” she said referring to the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
Barbie even is getting in on the party this year. A special SI edition of the children’s toy will be available at Target starting the same day the swimsuit issue is released. Barbie and Sports Illustrated are also teaming up for promotion. Barbie can be seen on billboards marketing the swimsuit issue using the hashtag #unapologetic. You’re right, Mattel. That’s pretty unapologetic. It’s also just plain icky.
Lexie and Lindsay Kite, Ph.D., co-founders of the nonprofit Beauty Redefined are fighting back against this and many other forms of objectification of women in the media. In a post on their website, beautyredefined.net, the Kite sisters call out this continued social issue, specifically Sports Illustrated and Barbie.
“Barbie and Sports Illustrated are certainly unapologetic. They’re unapologetic for selling full-blown, pornographic sexual objectification under the guise of ‘empowerment.’ They’re unapologetic for constantly defending Barbie as harmless for decades — just an iconic doll that doesn’t communicate anything about beauty or body ideals. Now they’re unapologetically blowing that argument out of the water in favor of a highly sexualized promotional platform for this toy. Just a doll? Not a chance. Mattel and SI have solidified Barbie’s role as a tool for teaching girls and women that they are sex objects, first and foremost. Barbie has officially rebranded itself (or at least admitted to what many of us recognized all along) as a vehicle for teaching sexual objectification. And they’re teaming with one of the most notoriously sexist, objectifying mediums to do it.”
Okay, so what’s the big deal? It’s just a magazine and a children’s toy, right? If only that were true. Beauty Refined states on their website that “dozens of studies show girls and women suffer in very literal ways when sexualized female bodies inundate our media landscape.”
It has been reported that just looking at magazines and advertisements for mere minutes can cause women and girls to feel worse about their bodies and contribute to the cycle of shame, even viewing one’s own self as nothing more than a sexualized body for the gratification of others. It’s called self-objectification, and our society is overwhelmed by it.
Men may also be affected by the media’s portrayal of women. What is viewed is stored into the subconscious, whether we like it or not. Men who view this kind of media may in turn come to view women negatively without even knowing it.
There is a movement growing online to combat this over sexualization and dehumanizing of women known as #notbuyingit. This hashtag is used on Twitter to highlight when a woman’s body is used to sell a product. There’s even a free app also called #notbuyingit for those equally minded individuals to share their ideas and highlight media they deem as inappropriate.
The goal is for those who are opposed to this kind of marketing to stop supporting companies and products that utilize this kind of lazy advertising and to call out these companies in a public forum.
If you don’t support the sexualization of women in Sports Illustrated, let them know. Reach out on social media. Write them a letter. Make your voice heard.
If you’re offended by Carl’s Jr.’s overly sexualized and tacky commercials, don’t eat there. You can find equally tasty, less socially destructive fast food elsewhere, my friend.
Consumerism is what runs our world. If we stop buying into this idea that women are to be viewed for their bodies and used to sell a product maybe companies will start listening.
Ladies, it’s time to take our bodies back.