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Why the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover brought me to tears

Date: February 11, 2015 | Posted By: Audrey

Why did the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover bring me to tears?

sports illustrated swimsuit issue february 2015

24-year-old model Hannah Davis pulling off her bikini bottoms while standing in front of a fence. On the cover of a sports magazine, natch.

(Hint: It had nothing to do with wanting to look like the model.)

It was because I have no idea how I’m going to explain the image to my two sons (ages six and eight), who love sports and are about to be SI’s target market.

When the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue (SISI) cover image hit the internet last Thursday, I happened to be at my kids’ soccer practice.  I was watching them run, jump, and practice with gusto (yes, gusto) as they were being coached by a female athlete. A twenty-something who played at a national level during college — and who now teaches kids to go all out for the game.

She was not in a bikini. Nor did she make like she was about to take her skivvies off.

So it hit me there on the sidelines that no matter what I try to teach my own kids about respecting women, and no matter how many inspiring female athletes they meet, my boys — all of our boys — are still going to get the message from powerful mass culture outlets that sports are theirs to dominate.  As for girls’ role in athletics, that’s easy: To be hot and looked at.

How is it that we are we still fighting this battle?

We’ve had three waves of feminism; we live in a post-Title IX and post-Girl Power culture where we’re consciously raising girls to participate, excel, and Lean In. And yet this image makes me think of the tweet Rashida Jones (love her!) caught hell for last fall: “This week’s celeb news takeaway: She who comes closest to showing the actual inside of her vagina is most popular. #stopactinglikewhores”

kids playing soccer

My kids! Playing soccer!

I don’t expect Sports Illustrated to catalyze the revolution when it comes to media portrayals of girls and women — and I’m trying really hard not to get all judgmental about the women who choose to be featured in the SISI.  In fact, in an ironic way, their choices actually show how smart they are.  They’ve clued into which women in our culture are celebrated and financially rewarded, and they’re gettin’ some rewards for themselves.

But I wish — oh, how I wish — that we could educate ourselves out of being a market for these messages and images. That we could raise a generation of girls who won’t be seduced by the “glamour” and reward of trading on their appearance. And that we could raise an army of boys who don’t expect girls to look/act this way, and who don’t feel entitled to consume such images of women in just about all media that targets them.

With any luck (and a lot of work), it will be my boys who help lead the way.

Audrey D. Brashich is the author of All Made Up: A Girl’s Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype and Celebrating Real Beauty, a media literacy and body image guide for teen girls.  She writes regularly about trending pop culture issues for national newspapers, websites and magazines including The Washington Post, SmartMom and XoJane.com. Follow her on Twitter @AudreyBrashich.




What Do You Think?

11 Responses to Why the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover brought me to tears

  1. Asher on 02-14-2015

    You're training your boys to be taken advantage of.

    Your sons aren't the problem. It's the daughters of the world that aren't actively discouraged from such persuits.

    Attention seeking behavior feels good. It's a short sighted high just like drug use.

    It should be mitigated against in the same way. (note: criminalizing behavior is stupid and ineffective)
    • Pam on 03-13-2015

      Yes blame the girls. The girls are all to blame.
  2. Ashley on 02-15-2015

    Brought you to tears? Bless your heart. You must live on an emotional rollercoaster. Teach your boys that women are actually respectable and not so irrational to cry about swimsuits.
    • Blog Manager on 02-18-2015

      Thank you for visiting the About-Face website. While we appreciate your feedback, we ask that you refrain from posting comments that contain personal attacks. Insults directed toward authors or other About-Face users will not be tolerated. We appreciate your cooperation. About-Face Management
  3. Brett Caton on 02-15-2015

    "Why did the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover bring me to tears?"

    Because you hate male sexuality and despise anything that reminds you of it? that you want your sons to be gay, or eunuchs, or both, anything, anything but individuals capable of desires?

    Because you can't imagine a man wanting a woman without that desire somehow degrading her?


    "On the cover of a sports magazine, natch."

    No, on the cover of a men's magaizine with a focus on sport. You know most men are straight, don't you? We like looking at pretty women. How awful. We must be CRUSHED.

    "(Hint: It had nothing to do with wanting to look like the model.)"

    Yet that's the first place your mind went.

    Women compete with other women - and quite often, want to look like the most sexually attractive women, to have all of their power. Same with men.

    But since the author hates male sexuality so very, very much, maybe it's not hatred... so much as... you haven't been on a date for a while... and that girl is looking rather hot?
    • Blog Manager on 02-18-2015

      Thank you for visiting the About-Face website. While we appreciate your feedback, we ask that you refrain from posting comments that contain personal attacks. Insults directed toward authors or other About-Face users will not be tolerated. We appreciate your cooperation. About-Face Management
  4. Glenda on 02-18-2015

    "Because you hate male sexuality and despise anything that reminds you of it? that you want your sons to be gay, or eunuchs, or both, anything, anything but individuals capable of desires?"

    This ranks up with the dumbest things I have ever read. Lets have all the male athletes grace each cover naked, six packed with their drawers hauled down. No? Exactly. Its stupid, degrading and unnecessary.
  5. Pam on 03-12-2015

    Audrey, thanks for a thoughtful essay. I agree with you 100%. Every year I cringe after the Superbowl knowing that another swimsuit issue is about to slap me in the face every time I walk into a CVS or bookstore. It's bad for all of us, including men and women. But really bad for our children to keep seeing this sickening objectification of women staring us in the face. Next year we should get out there and make a stink in person.

    Once again, thanks for a great essay. And, ignore the BS hateful comments women always get on the internet. Another problem that needs attention.
    • Audrey Brashich on 03-12-2015

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments, Pam. And y'know, I never thought about how the SISI comes out right after the Superbowl. It IS kind of a double whammy...

      As for the troll comments that women often get subjected to online. I agree that it's a huge problem. And the Washington Post does, too. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/online-feminists-increasingly-ask-are-the-psychic-costs-too-much-to-bear/2015/02/19/3dc4ca6c-b7dd-11e4-a200-c008a01a6692_story.html.

      Thanks again very much for your positive comments....
      • Pam on 03-13-2015

        Thanks for the link. That's a great article but such a sad reality. I myself have thought about blogging feminist issues but decided against it. What a sorry situation that women can't express themselves (or even play video games) without being harassed and threatened viciously. The internet needs to be policed.

        As for the SISI, it's a terrible objectification of women. And I hate how they always find female athletes to pose, turning them into sex things instead of the talented athletes they really are. Sad.

        Whenever I see an SISI at the register I always cover it up with a different magazine. My small act of defiance.
  6. DB on 12-09-2015

    Give it up mom. 100's of thousands of years of human evolution is telling your sons the female body is stunningly beautiful and desirable. Feminists have been screeching their psycho-babble for about 100.