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Sports Illustrated’s failed attempt to be more “accessible” to women readers

Date: February 14, 2013 | Posted By: Vera

We all know that the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition comes out every year, and with each year, we all groan at the images, growing more and more tired of the airbrushing and scantily clad models.

Cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue 2013 featuring Kate Upton.

Cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue 2013

It looks like Sports Illustrated has caught on to our feelings, has decided to switch things up a bit, and is attempting to be a little more inclusive of their women readers. Well, not really.

See, Sports Illustrated didn’t include women athletes or tell stories of empowerment to other female athletes. The barely-there bikini clad models, in all of their airbrushed glory, is still the focal point of the magazine’s issue.

With this new, supposedly more inclusive edition, SI is including beauty tips and a “behind the scenes” look at the models. This isn’t progress folks; we’re going backwards. It was bad enough with the swimsuit models and now we get directions on how to look like them.

Magazines like Sports Illustrated set up the standard for cultural ideals of beauty; their content reaches the masses, and with every issue of the swimsuit edition they tell women, “This is the goal you want to achieve.”

I decided to watch some of these “Secrets of Beauty” videos and see if there were any redeeming qualities in them. In one of the videos, MJ Day, Editor of the SI Swimsuit Issue, said, “I always like to say that Sports Illustrated Swim is all about accessible beauty.”

Photo of MJ Day, editor of Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.

Editor, MJ Day, gives “beauty tips” in video extras on SI’s website.

I’m not sure what she meant by “accessible”.

All I see in these editions are models who are enhanced to push unhealthy ideals about body image, advertisements that sell products to make us buy into beauty standards, and now, tutorials on how to achieve these completely unreal “looks”.

Here is what I would say to Sports Illustrated:

Get with it! The messages you send to your readers have an impact. There were so many other things you could have done, such as including models of all shapes and sizes, or taking a moment to recognize female athletes. Empower women; don’t objectify them.

Vera Kim Mikrut is a Women and Gender Studies major at San Francisco State University and is grateful for the tools and feminist framework that her education has given her to critique the media. She loves pugs — a lot. You can find more of her writing at missverasays.wordpress.com.



What Do You Think?

One Response to Sports Illustrated’s failed attempt to be more “accessible” to women readers

  1. Jonathon on 02-26-2013

    The day SI stops objectifying women has to be the day women stop objectifying themselves. No models? No profit. As long as they can find people like Kate Upton, and they will for a long time to come, they will profit, and this issue will continue to hit stands.

    Call it shallow or wrong, but it's working for them, and it makes sense.