Sports Illustrated is in financial trouble, and the magazine’s famous swimsuit issue is apparently what’s keeping it afloat.
This is almost certainly why they put (no! I know you’re shocked!) a controversial photograph on the cover.
Tracy Moore at Jezebel reports on the controversy over whether or not model Hannah Davis is “showing too much” here. Moore’s basic point is that Davis is coming in for a lot of criticism and no credit, while the magazine and the industry are getting a free pass.
Our culture is awash in pornographic imagery and Sports Illustrated is just another try-hard trying to keep up. Which isn’t to say that we should all sit back and smile for our facial, but rather, that there are probably better uses of our energy when it comes to critiquing the industries that breathlessly try to out-pornifying each other. We should target them by examining their motives, not the motives of the models in question, who are simply going after the work that exists.
Instead we slobber; we salivate; we ooh, we ahh—then we demand that the women defend doing it—to make it make sense for us. You know what you’re doing right? we seem to ask. You’re…titillating us. Isn’t that the point? Since we’re titillated, isn’t it…naughty? And what does it say about you for being so naughty? Well, what does it say about us? And then the model or actress with the sexy photo or nude scene must say: No, it’s no big deal. It’s totally not. It’s the most normal thing in the world. Nothing scandalous about it.
Moore doesn’t quite get to the difference between semi-nudity as softcore porn and actual nudity as reflective of real bodies, but she’s very close. And I can only stand up and cheer at her defense of Davis, and her analysis of the impossible position of a swimsuit model.
… these sorts of pictures in mainstream, ubiquitous places make us squeamish. That’s pornographic! And it’s not over there with the porn where it’s supposed to be! What’s she doing there, making me uncomfortable?
And this is the weird rock and a low-slung bikini place we put women in when they traffic in their own sexuality as a commodity.
But that’s not the only story about this year’s issue. SI isn’t quite ready to feature a plus-size model, but they’ll take Swimsuits for All‘s money, even if the ad shows Ashley Graham (size 14) in a bikini.
Size 14 isn’t my idea of plus-size, and I wish it wasn’t even anybody’s idea of midsize, but you can definitely see Graham’s curves and shape. And we are dealing with an industry where size 4 can be considered “too fat.”
According to Liz Dwyer at TakePart, this is part of an apparent trend of greater visibility for plus-size models (some of them truly plus-size) in 2015. Dwyer cites Tess Holliday’s new contract as a clear example. The magazine agreeing to run the ad may well be another sign of the trend; you’d be surprised how often ads like this are turned down as “offensive,” or “unacceptable to readers” even by publications in financial trouble.
Who knows? Maybe someday there will be a swimsuit issue which shows real women’s bodies and has the models choose their own poses. A girl can dream.