Have you seen the re-creation of the Sports Illustrated cover using topless plus-size models? It’s hard to miss, as it had made the rounds on traditional and social media. The press has been positive overall–the feedback talks about celebrating the different ways women are sexy, it talks about acknowledging different body shapes and sizes. It talks about redefining the societal definitions of beauty.
All that is fine and good. I’m all about reclaiming body image and loving our bodies just as they are. So when my very independent, strong-willed, feminist friend rolled her eyes at the cover, I couldn’t believe it. What woman doesn’t want to change the goals of what we’ve learned to covet and chase, and the costs associated with that?
So she talked, and I listened. She truly believes to each their own–whatever you want to wear, wherever you are, is to be celebrated. Rock that bikini on the beach no matter what you look like as long as you’re comfortable with it! It’s your decision and she can care less what your body looks like or what your fashion choices are.
But she makes the very valid point that the re-creation of an SI cover is different–that magazine covers are expressly and solely designed to sell magazines. She makes the point that scantily clad women are used to sell products. And it doesn’t matter what size you are, showing your ass to sell a magazine is exploiting your body and yourself.
The secondary consequence is in fact shaping views on beauty and what society finds attractive, but the primary goal remains. We’ve lost sight that the goal we’ve been sold, and that we have bought into, is not just being thin. But to be exploited. That’s not a goal for anyone regardless of how you look in a thong.
Most of us can agree that the ideal standard should be one of health. We should promote healthy living and eating and activity to men and women. We should celebrate that and covet that instead of being thin. But when sex sells, that’s not healthy either.
And we’re exploiting both genders now. There’s a growing generation of men with body image issues as they chase hard bodies of their own with defined biceps and six-pack abs. Because sex sells. Hell, even I feel compelled to buy the men’s H&M underwear the Becks sells.
We need to not only redefine what society accepts as attractive, but we also need to stop exploiting ourselves. No one wins, and exploitation is not to be celebrated no matter what we look like.