At a time when the #MeToo and #TIMESUP movements are sending shockwaves through all male-dominated industries, disrupting the very fabric of gender identity within society, Sports Illustrated is faced with a difficult task; How best to craft its famous swimsuit issue— one which is fundamentally based on the objectification of women—while respecting and highlighting the current social climate surrounding sexual harassment and abuse?
So, naturally, the creative geniuses of SI just threw a bunch of nude models together and wrote blocky words on their bodies. Words like “mother,” “feminist,” “artist,” “nurturer,” “truth,” and…”human.” Nailed it!
This is just a small aside in the annual swimsuit issue called “In Her Own Words” (don’t worry, swimsuits and sandy beaches will abound in the remainder of the spread.) Models Paulina Porizkova, Sailor Brinkley Cook, and Robyn Lawley, among others were shot by an all-female crew led by photographer Taylor Ballantyne—the first in the issue’s 54-year history. So that’s something.
“SI Swimsuit models celebrate more than just their bodies in candid, new project … The women of #SISwim 2018 became a canvas … to share their truth,” the publication said Wednesday in a series of tweets.
“It was a really beautiful thing because it’s a female-powered project so I walked in [to the shoot] and it’s my friend Mary doing makeup and my friend Taylor doing the photos and my other friend Robin doing the videos,” model Sailor Brinkley Cook told People magazine on Thursday.
Critics accused the SI team of sending a contradictory message, and not because it used women’s nude or nearly-nude bodies in the name of female empowerment, but because a historically female-objectifying and primarily male-gaze-obsessed magazine riding on the coattails of #MeToo rings a tad false in the eyes of many.
Many on Twitter loudly wondered what message this “Me Too” project was intending to portray:
it's empowering to think how much more guys are gonna respect women while they get off to this year's swimsuit issue
— Jessica Roy (@JessicaKRoy) February 8, 2018
god those woke sports illustrated swimsuit issue pics are the dumbest shit i've ever seen
— Amanda Mull (@amandamull) February 8, 2018
I really don't understand how making them MORE naked and writing words on their bodies makes this any better
— Olivia Messer 💀 (@OliviaMesser) February 8, 2018
I mean, this Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue #MeToo effort would be more meaningful if the women's bodies weren't all sexualized – or at least not all size 4 literal bikini models. 😐
— joanna schroeder (@iproposethis) February 8, 2018
Posing nude can be empowering! Body positive campaigns can be empowering!
The swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated, which caters to horny dudes, is not an empowering depiction of women. This is not a magazine I trust to fight sexual harassment and assault. #MeToo pic.twitter.com/NNi5vMaP3E
— ella dawson (@brosandprose) February 8, 2018