Six years I reported on sports such as baseball and basketball at Sports Illustrated. Those six years the SI Swimsuit issue was published in mid-February. Still is. Gotta snap the men out of their winter doldrums. No more NFL where they can watch men crack heads, in the week after the Super Bowl the nearly naked women issue appears. Well, a man can go ice fishing for so many winter weeks. Heck, it's what men want, its sales and focus groups tell them – time to serve up gorgeous women wearing less and less of bathing suits as each year goes by.
This year, at least, in one section, they've dispensed with bathing suits altogether.
So along with nudity, Sports Illustrated is parading the fact that for first time ever both bosses in charge of this issue are women – the editor and the photographer, also a first.
By the way they are marketing this year's issue, you'd think #MeToo linked arms with a different kind of female empowerment. All the while the editor is assuring men that no matter what's up with women they can count on SI to serve up "sexy" images.
So how are the 2018 reviews?
"Spectacularly Silly" – The New Yorker
"Ridiculous?" – Fashion
"the first shoot in which 'models were as much participants as objects' – Vanity Fair
The opening words of Vanity Fair's dive into this 2018 issue:
Let's pause to consider the word "objects." Really? SI sees its models as much as objects as participants? Sounds about right. Can we agree that the women are objectified. I know some argue that being nude or nearly nude in these magazine spreads so men can ogle their bodies is an act of empowerment. I'm not in that camp; one reason I'm not is how often some of the same male sports fans objectify women who broadcast and write sports – undressing them on Twitter et al. with descriptions and threats that strip them of their humanity.
In trying to "mirror" the #MeToo movement on their model's bodies, SI explained its mission this way; they are "allowing women to exist in the world without being harassed or judged regardless of how they like to present themselves." Yet, as editor MJ Day assured its predominantly male audience for this annual post-Super Bowl issue, this issue is “always going to be sexy, no matter what is happening.”
Again, a word check: "Allowing" this to happen? Perhaps, a wiser word choice would be "enabling" if this is such an empowering act.
Perhaps all of this explain why on the brink of Sports Illustrated's sale to Meredith, Time Inc. announced the launch of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Enterprises. Here's how New York Post greeted with this news:
Sports Illustrated is going into the modeling business
Meet SI's 2018 Swimsuit Calendar. Stay tuned for more as the year moves on. My hunch is that this is one part of SI's "editorial" content that won't be tampered with by Meredith.
"Vigilantism is the new black, and it’s not a good look for feminists. Sanctifying accusations of sexual misconduct as proof of guilt, effectively blacklisting alleged abusers, #MeToo activists celebrate mob rule."
Wendy Kaminer, a civil liberties lawyer, opens her essay by examining if the #MeToo movement is driving feminism toward what she sees as potentially a revived era of undesired vigilantism over women's hard-won freedoms and equality. Kaminer has written widely on this topic in her essays and books, and in this essay she summarizes historic evidence and arguments that buttress her perspective that if women move down the "victimized" route with legal protectionism, they will challenge the sustaining of the sturdy roots of equality that have been won through tough-fought campaigns.
In the concluding paragraph of her thoughtful essay (below), Kaminer cautions against regressive actions in the wake of these challenging times of #MeToo revelations. There can be no doubt that women experience personal trauma due to sexual harassment and abuse and that many women's careers have been jeopardized by men's use of power in demanding sexual favors in exchange for their advancement. Such assaults should not continue. This is a reason I am grateful for Kaminer's plea that we bear in mind women's roller-coaster experiences through history in attempting to secure equality and freedom as we seek solutions to this current crisis. She also warns us to stay acutely aware of missteps we could make that could hurt women, among whom as those who've been victimized already. Finding remedies for sexual abuse and harassment involves discussions about gender in an extremely polarized society, which seems a potentially worrisome sign that misjudgments could end up driving solutions.
"Restoring double standards of sexual behaviour and underlying sex/gender stereotypes will not free or safeguard women, much less imbue feminism and the #MeToo movement with renewed regard for fairness and individual liberty. Nor would a regression to double standards advance equality. It requires what Mary Wollstonecraft and Elizabeth Cady Stanton envisioned centuries ago: the recognition that all of us – men, women and transgendered people alike – are ‘human creatures’, burdened by the same existential anxieties and entitled to the same rights and liberties. The challenge for contemporary feminism and the #MeToo movement is the challenge of equality – if that’s still what feminists want."
I encourage you to read her essay and scroll though some of the online comments.