The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is a highly anticipated publication that has seen it’s fair share of scrutiny. As the women’s movement has progressed throughout the years women have gone through a roller coaster of emotions and thoughts surrounding the heavily circulated issue of the sports magazine. From feeling powerful to feeling objectified, we went through it all:
I am woman hear me roar!
This magazine completely objectifies women!
We don’t all look like that! It isn’t realistic!
Finally a woman with curves! Thank God for Ashley Graham!
Any woman reading this article can relate to the back and forth struggle we have been in for years over the popular magazine. Now, Sports Illustrated has doubled down on it’s recent commitment to inclusion of all types of women with the stunning Halima Aden, also recognized as Miss Minnesota 2016, who became the first swimsuit model to wear a swimming hijab and Muslim burkini. Muslim women across the nation (and world) woke up to find a beautiful 21 year old woman representing them on the cover of a magazine that will be flying off the shelves soon. Muslim girls headed off to school with a tiny little thought in the backs of their minds…”maybe I can be cute AND modest”. These past couple of days must feel like a dream to many in the Muslim community.
Obviously, you will see articles that speak to this being “long overdue” and writers claiming that the magazine “is taking big steps toward inclusion”. All of those thoughts are correct…but I have decided for once in my life to take a step back and look at the big picture, rather than focusing narrowly on the facts. In a recent conversation with Professor Cassie Gabelt, M.P.S. at Aultman College, we discussed how the swimsuit edition has become an unlikely tool for empowerment of females. “The swimsuit issue is representative of where we’ve been, and where we have come in such a short time” Gabelt said. As we chatted it occurred to me how right she truly was. The magazine full of scantily clad women has become a full-blown show of empowerment and is no longer celebrated as an annual opportunity to see some skin and not feel bad about it. Women are emboldened by the successes of those that closely resemble them. Women are enjoying representation that is unlike anything they have seen before.
Have all the comments been positive? Of course not. Our country is racist. Plain and simple. From a marketing standpoint though, this is a move that was calculated and socially responsible. So honestly, the negative comments and hate-filled responses to the inclusion of a Muslim woman in the magazine don’t mean a damn thing to me.
Women should be celebrated. All women. Kudos Sports Illustrated.