You can love your body, be in Sports Illustrated AND be a feminist badass

You can love your body, be in Sports Illustrated AND be a feminist badass

If you want to fight against inequity, sexual violence, and sexism as women, you can’t do that and police womanhood, too, writes columnist Jeneé Osterheldt of the widespread feminine reaction to the Sports Illustrated #MeToo pictorial


From a fine op/ed that appeared in today’s Kansas City Star which notes that, as the slamming of sex work and sex workers, and the disregard of their bodily autonomy, by celebrities ranging from  Rashida Jones to Lena Dunham to Chelsea Handler illustrates, some of the most tone-deaf attacks on women and sexual equality often come from other women:

Please, ladies, stop with the pearl-clutching over Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue’s #MeToo spread.

Often dismissed as soft porn and nicknamed the sexploitation issue, every year Sports Illustrated teases its annual special edition. And folks get big mad and talk about family values and the safety of women.

A few days ago, photos of this year’s issue, due out this week, were released. Nude models used their bodies as a canvas for words that expressed how they see themselves. Called “In Her Own Words,” it’s meant to smash stigma. Some just see naked women. The models see themselves as more.

“I am appalled at the #metoo photos you just released,” tweeted Kaya Jones. “As an entertainer who was abused I feel disgusted that you show naked women in your magazine and claim you support women when you are completely objectifying women. More of what we DO NOT need!”

Gabriella Hart, a Kansas City model, did a shoot for domestic violence shelter Hope House where she had positive affirmations written along her arms.

“I have also done runway for an intimate apparel line as well as posed nude on separate occasions and felt empowered by it all. The female form is beautiful. I see these photos and I see women in their most authentic form. I don’t think sexiness is anti-feminist. If you think that the male gaze necessarily controls how a woman should be allowed to present herself, then you [are] a part of the problem.”

I’m a loud advocate of women’s rights. I believe in our humanity and equity. I support #MeToo, and how the movement bolsters survivors of sexual assault and harassment. And I, like 16 million other women, am among Sports Illustrated’s readers.

But feminism and a love for swimwear, fashion and models are not mutually exclusive. Is the fashion industry riddled with sexism and racism? Yes. Are women too often reduced to their body parts? Yes.

We have to call out the issues, just like we call out the body-shaming and unrealistic beauty standards. But if you care about the style of your hair, make-up and clothes, you participate in fashion culture. Magazaines, clothing and beauty brands should be more active in providing a platform.

So I don’t understand the argument that because Sports Illustrated features women in bikinis that these women can’t support #MeToo.


You can love your body, be in Sports Illustrated AND be a feminist badass
Model Robyn Lawley has words like “Mother,” “Human,” “Creative” and “Progressive” on her body. The SI pictorial was photographed by a female photographer, Taylor Ballantyne.


Read the full op/ed here.

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