As I laid in bed last night, doing my regular pre-sleep social media scroll, I came across Camille Kostek’s post about her getting the cover of the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. As the girlfriend of my favorite dunce Gronk, I gave mental “good for you” and clicked on the video of her finding out she made the cover. Cute stuff. But then I fell down the rabbit hole of looking at the other models in this year’s issue, and was intrigued by three in particular:
A plus size woman, a Muslim woman, and a woman with vitiligo? Interesting. But instead of (smartly) leaving it at that, I (stupidly) clicked on the comments, and of course had my faith in the human race diminished yet again. They ranged from the lame (real original use of a whale gif, guys) to the truly despicable, and my blood started to boil at the boldness of people to insult people from behind their keyboards (likely from their mother’s basement). But then I realized that that’s a conversation that’s been had a million times, and my thoughts moved toward another question entirely:
Does it even matter?
On one hand, it’s good that SI is trying to make something as blatantly misogynistic as the Swimsuit Issue a little more representative. Increased exposure for any marginalized group is always a positive thing. But on the other…is that actually true in this particular context? The standard audience for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue likely isn’t interested in equal media representation of all types of women. And even if they were, they aren’t coming to this issue of this magazine for it – they are here for tits and ass. So I guess the real question is: is it a wasted effort? Would the time, money, and effort that went into those shoots be better spent somewhere else? Would Winnie, Hunter, and Halima be better served to appear in a publication that could better further their cause of greater representation rather one where they will likely only be exposed to ridicule?
I honestly can’t say that I know the answer, although the comments I read certainly give me some insight. To quote the optimistic Ms, McGrady: “Exposure to diversity is the catalyst that will ignite tolerance, acceptance and understanding.” She’s 100% right. But is the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue really going to be the place that ignites that catalyst? Somehow, I doubt it.