The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue arrived in the mail today. We've subscribed to SI for years. Minus a 3-4 year break when finances were tight, we've had a subscription since the mid-80s. We both read it. Dean often reads the whole thing, cover-to-cover, and I pick it up when something catches my eye--like a recent article on coach-athlete abuse, or the Olympics last summer.
When we first started our subscription, I was fresh out of college and I was a feminist and I was mad about everything. I could rant on cue at the drop of a hat--hand me a topic. But for some reason, the annual swimsuit issue never raised my feminist ire. Mainly because it's such a blatant fantasy--the women were so perfectly toned, styled, made up, air-brushed, and retouched that it was hard to get too worked up about it.
Even when I was young and thin, I never looked like that. So paging through the annual flesh-a-thon definitely had (has) the capacity to make me feel like a pale, shapeless blob. But I could never take it very seriously because nobody looks like that. I mean, obviously those women do (even without the airbrushing and photoshopping, they're still way more gorgeous than most of us), but there's a dozen (?) of them, out of all the women in the world, and that's why they got the job: because they're way more spectacular than the average woman. It's not supposed to be about reality. And you can hardly blame the magazine-- I wouldn't be surprised if they make more money off the swimsuit issue than they do on the rest of the year's issues added together.
But this year, 25+ years later, they finally offended me. Not the women, who are still impossibly gorgeous. Not even the settings, which I've just read have offended some people, because of juxtaposing "natives" with white women in swimsuits (although that did occur to me as a bit strange).
Nope, it's because of a new feature about "how to get the look" of the swimsuit models. What? Oh, please. There's always been a section about where you could buy the swimsuits, and there's nothing wrong with that. But this is an 8-10 page insert with inspiring phrases from the swimsuit edition editor like, "Beauty is within all of our reach. It begins with confidence." Advice for hair, eyes, lips, skin, nails and "Insider Tips" from the hair stylist and the makeup artist.
The whole thing irks me so much I'm having a hard time knowing where to start. Are they serious? The women on the pages of the SI swimsuit edition are each one in a hundred million, and even then, they've been styled, prepped, accessorized, airbrushed, photoshopped, and edited. That look is not WITHIN OUR REACH. It's insulting and patronizing to suggest that it is.
The kind of beauty they display on those pages is a fantasy, and it is as a fantasy that it's OK with me. It's not much different than me watching Batman Begins to ogle Christian Bale. Dean knows I'm never going to look like a swimsuit model, and he knows that if one of them showed up in our town next week, he would not be in the running to be her escort for the evening (at least probably not, although there is an outside chance because he's pretty dang hot). Just like I know that Christian Bale isn't really like his onscreen persona, and if he showed up at our house, I wouldn't rate a second look.
It's just insulting for them to infer that with a few tips from them, we could "get the look" of a swimsuit model. Or that we'd even want to, as if we sit up nights wishing we could be swimsuit models. They are full-time professional models, with the near-infinite resources of a best-selling publication to help them look fabulous. There's a reason I didn't go into modeling as a career (besides the obvious one that no modeling agency in their right mind would have wanted me)-- I'm willing to spend about 20 minutes a day on my looks, and that's including a 12 minute shower.
And to top it off-- this little "Secrets of a Swimsuit" section is a mini-magazine of it's own that is detachable from the rest of the magazine. WTF? So some guy is going to pull it out and hand it to his girlfriend?? Are they freaking serious? Here, honey, read this and you can look just like a swimsuit model. the whole thing is just ludicrous.
The irony is that I suspect that it was written with exactly the opposite intention-- I suspect that the editors were trying to downplay the one-in-a-million aspect and make it sound like true beauty comes from within or some such nonsense, which would be all well and good if you'd just flipped through 60 pages of women they'd picked off the street--women with muffin tops and flat hair and no makeup, or at least makeup inexpertly applied.
But it's a little much to assure us that you don't need a beauty team to look gorgeous when they've just published a magazine full of pictures of models made gorgeous by a professional team of photographers, lighting techs, stylists and makeup artists.
Give it up, SI. Just let it be what it's always been-- an impossible fantasy.