If you recently saw headlines or tweets about a new Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue “#MeToo photoshoot” and were v. v. v. confused, you’re not alone. The magazine recently announced that in this year’s swimsuit edition—yes, the one that has a long history of celebrating/objectifying women’s bodies, depending on your personal opinion—will contain, amongst its many sun-and-sand shoots and teeny bikinis, a spread dedicated to raising awareness for the #MeToo movement.
According to Vanity Fair, the forthcoming 2018 Swimsuit Issue will feature a nude photo shoot called “In Her Own Words” that was reportedly shot by female photographer Taylor Ballantyne, alongside an all-female crew. The shoot was conceived by Ballantyne and allowed the models to choose words to write on their bodies, “in an attempt to give [them] a voice in a silent medium.” The resulting spread features models with varying ages, body types and experience, including 1984 cover star Paulina Porizkova and newcomer Sailor Brinkley Cook (daughter of Swimsuit Issue veteran, Christie Brinkley) with “powerful words, positive words that represent them and their beliefs and their passions and their messaging” written in black marker on their naked bodies.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Sports Illustrated editor MJ Day sees the shoot “as an opportunity to continue with an idea she’s been interested in for a while: how can she use the images that you’ve come to expect from S.I. to change attitudes about women?”
According to VF, Day has been editing the Swimsuit Issue for the last four years but has been an Sports Illustrated employee for 20. And while the magazine profits from delivering a product intended for the male gaze, her editorial team is comprised of all women. “This is a safe space,” she said in the interview.
Make no mistakes, Day was clear that the issue will still contain the requisite sexy beach shoots and barely there swimwear—”These are sexy photos. At the end of the day, we’re always going to be sexy, no matter what is happening. We’re Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. The ideal is to create something artful, to create a beautiful image that both the subject and the team is proud of and collaborates on together”—but nevertheless, VF reports that Day sees a connection between her work and the#MeToo movement. “It’s about allowing women to exist in the world without being harassed or judged regardless of how they like to present themselves,” she said.
“That’s an underlying thread that exists throughout the Swimsuit Issue. You have Harvard graduates, you have billion-dollar moguls, you have philanthropists, you have teachers, you have mothers—you have a full range of women represented in the alumnus of this magazine, and not one of them failed because they wore a bikini.”
This development has me…. torn, to say the least. On the one hand, I completely agree that a woman’s clothing or lack thereof should have absolutely zero bearing on how she’s perceived as a human. I think victim-blaming and clothes-shaming are bullshit, point blank. But on the other, I find it hard to reconcile that a magazine that objectifies women in either barely-there or nonexistent swimwear is celebrating a movement about coming forward against sexual harassment and assault via a nude photoshoot—that it stands to profit from, too. Upon reading the VF interview, I immediately wondered if any of the proceeds from the magazine sales would perhaps go to supporting the #MeToo or Time’s Up movements, which would at least give the shoot some legitimacy IMO, but at press time, that was unclear.
Twitter seems to be landing on the side of outraged.
So @SInow Sports Illustrated is honoring the me too movement by publishing pictures of nude women. Is it just me, or isn’t there something wrong here?
— V. DeMola (@vdemola) February 8, 2018
Uhhh right. Sexist displays of women in barely there bikinis all intended for men’s ogling benefits is hardly believable.
‘S.I’s Swimsuit Issue tackles Me Too movement https://t.co/4pUaKsPUZ8 via @usatoday
— Althaea (@althaea_flicek) February 8, 2018
i’m gonna delete the internet in preparation for the release of this new sports illustrated photo shoot…….”first swimsuit issue of the me too movement” literally fucking gag me with that v*nity f*ir headline alone i’m tapping out
— aysen (@girlallday) February 7, 2018
Final question: where are the actual *swimsuits,* though?
Canadian Millennial Men Are Confused About #MeToo in the Workplace
10 Women on Aziz Ansari, Sexual Assault and Bad Sex
Hundreds of Celebs Are Fighting Workplace Sexual Harassment—In All Industries—with Time’s Up