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Swimsuit issue

February 17, 2010

Over the last ten days I celebrated a birthday – well, okay, I didn’t “celebrate” it so much as piss and moan about it, like I always do – and watched the Super Bowl and watched the NBA All Star Game and got a day off work for Presidents Day.

And right in the middle of all that good stuff, the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue arrived in my mailbox. Icing on the cake, right?

Not really. Fact is, I find the swimsuit issue more disappointing every year.

There was a time when I eagerly anticipated it. There was a time when it was a cultural event. It’s such a good idea: in the middle of the winter, when people are weary of the cold, in a magazine where you don’t normally expect it, show people a bunch of beautiful women wearing bikinis in warm climates. C’mon, what could be better than that? Men get to ogle and women get to complain about the men ogling, so everybody is happy.

The issue used to sell out so fast your chances of actually buying one at a newsstand were slim-to-none. It’s still the best-selling issue of the year for Sports Illustrated but it’s not really an event anymore, and I think the reason for that is Boney Blonde Obsession. Starting with the cover and continuing through most of the magazine, the models look like clones. They’re skinny, they’re blonde, and they’re monotonously and zealously non-ethnic.

Who is picking these women? David Duke?

Here’s the statistics, gleaned by painstaking manual research by my best researcher (in other words, me): 83 featured pictures of women in swimsuits, 10 of them non-Caucasian. That’s 12%. And even this miniscule statistic understates the problem, because 4 of those 10 were at the tail end of the magazine, on the very last pages… pretty much an afterthought.

Maybe at the last minute somebody noticed the boring whiteness of the modeling cast and threw those four pictures in as emergency remediation. Bikini affirmative action.

Damaris Lewis, a knockout beautiful black woman with nary a trace of blondeness, had three featured photographs – numbers 80, 82, and 83. Whew! Barely made the magazine! If Sports Illustrated sells one or two fewer ads and needs to shorten the issue by a couple pages, Damaris ends up on the cutting room floor… so to speak.

(And what’s up with the Boney Blonde at number 81, Genevieve Morton? Who did she piss off? Maybe they couldn’t abide three pictures of Damaris in a row, so they threw in one last blonde to break up the filibuster.)

The only other black woman – ironically named Jessica White – dyes her hair blonde. To fit in, no doubt. “Fitting in” got her 3 featured pictures in the magazine, so I guess it worked. Being an authentically Caucasian Boney Blonde, however, got Brooklyn Decker 8 featured pictures plus the cover. Sorry, Jessica. What you really need is different parents, apparently.

I hate it when people use political correctness as a bludgeon to accuse someone of racism, so I’m not accusing Sports Illustrated of racism. I’m accusing them of stupidity. Jeepers, how out of touch can they be? Nobody told them the standards for beauty have changed since the Leave It To Beaver show?

Men think all different kinds of women are sexy now, and everybody knows that except the morons in charge of the swimsuit issue.

It’s not just the blondeness. It’s the boniness, too. You’d think in a magazine dedicated to athletics you could count on resistance against, if not outright antagonism toward, the societal pressure on women to be anorexic. Right? Isn’t that a no-brainer?

Sports Illustrated should be ashamed of the models they feature. They look like dieting heroin addicts on crack. If anybody should be showcasing the beauty of healthy, fit bodies...

You know what this is? This is what happens when you let women pick the models. Women don’t know what men want – they merely think they know what men want.

For God’s sake, ladies, men don’t really want skinny women! We never have and we never will! Y’all have it stuck in your heads that you can never be too skinny for us, and no matter how much we tell you different the misconception lingers… possibly because your brain cells are calorie-starved. (I don’t know, that’s just a guess.)

Turns out that all three editors of the swimsuit issue are women.

Sports Illustrated, it’s time to put a man in charge of picking the bikini models and save your swimsuit issue from its slow death spiral. It’s time to go cold turkey on the Boney Blondes and find some healthy athletic women who eat more than once a year and maybe even excel at some kind of physical activity. (You don’t necessarily have to tell us the specific physical activity at which they excel. We’re men. We can imagine that part.)

Most important of all, Sports Illustrated, it’s time to recognize that blonde isn’t the only color in the world. Why not join the rest of us in the 21st Century?

From Reno, Nevada, USA

February 22, 2010 - Remember, magazines are digitally mastered/airbrushed, so you wont find realism! - Susan, Georgia

February 20, 2010 - Hey! No column on the Bayh resignation from reelection attempts??? I'm surprised. You must really be busy... LOL... - LiAnne, Connecticut
J.P. replies: It's about priorities, LiAnne. I felt that women in swimsuits was a more critical national issue at this time.

February 19, 2010 - WOW!!! :) - Penny, Texas

February 17, 2010 - J.P.: Birthdays come and go. I continue to enjoy mine and I believe that your folks enjoy theirs. You were put on this earth for some special reason. Be patient and you may be doing what you should do without knowing it. - Uncle Howard, Ann Arbor
J.P. replies: That's one of the nicest things anybody could say. It would certainly be nice to finally do what I should do without knowing it, after years of doing what I shouldn't do and knowing it. (Pretty sure that sentence makes sense.)

February 17, 2010 - Thank you, JP for realizing that beauty comes in many different sizes, shapes and ethnicities. Are you married? - Phat and Phabulous, Reno

February 17, 2010 - Your story on Sports Illustrated will not make Tiger's day! no,no,no,no! - Bob, Reno

February 17, 2010 - Finally a column I completely agree with. Although I think the motive of the women editors is that they are in thrall to the capitalist machine that runs the magazine, not that they think that they know what men like. Me I like all sorts of women..tall short big little athletic fat and sloppy every kind the Good Lord created there is beauty everywhere call me a male chauvanist pig or whatever. I think it is really disgusting that everywhere one turns the anorexic look is being shoved down our throats. The sole exception was Anne Nicole Smith and look what happened to her. All the best - Godofredus, Chicago
J.P. replies: "Fat and sloppy?" Really?

February 17, 2010 - Thanks for that. Much clearer than my ranting at the television over my bourbon while sitting beside my unemployed spouse. (He's employed now, wasn't then.) - Jennifer, Kansas
J.P. replies: Your husband was unemployed but you could still afford bourbon? You sound like my kind of people.

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