AN ADVERTISEMENT IS NOT A FEATURE
AMBER LOVE 06-FEB-2015 This week the sports buzz quickly ditched Serena Williams going back to Indian Wells in favor of praising SPORTS ILLUSTRATED for “breaking barriers.” Why? Because someone somewhere decided to initiate viral marketing with the words: featured, first time, plus-size, Ashley Graham. Why is Graham getting all the credit when – as I just found out after I hit [post] – that size 10 Robyn Lawley is actually in the issue? I checked H&M and Kohl’s and 10 is not “plus” in their selections.
“Perhaps the mother of all body image enemies is comparison. If women are always facing the mirror but looking at the reflection of the girl standing next to them, then of course they are not going to notice all the great things about themselves.” ~Jessica Leahy, model/writer
Graham is not “featured” in the pages of SI’s famous swimsuit issue. She’s part of an ad. A fashion company, SwimsuitsForAll, hired Graham and then PAID for ad space in SI. That’s not at all “being featured” in the SI swimsuit issue. Not even close.
The message this move should be is that SwimsuitsForAll is breaking barriers (mind you – plus sizes are not new and not “groundbreaking” nor “trendsetting”). But nonetheless, it’s the fashion label SFA at the real helm of this viral marketing campaign. Maybe what’s really a first for SI is that they’ve sold ad space to a company that sells to plus sized women. Excuse me – average women.
Carol Alt was the SI cover girl back in 1982. Hey, SI, if you want to be daring, put her on the cover of your swimsuit issue now that she’s over 50. Carol Alt was one of the first defined supermodels and has been on over 500 covers. Or, I know this is crazy… put Ashley Graham on the cover and not in an ad! I could dig up countless suggestions as I google for models who aren’t white, models over size 4, models over 25, models who are transgender. There are plenty of ways that I could see SI warranting going viral and being discussed on Good Morning, America and The Today Show. This SFA thing is not it.
It matters because it’s not SI being inclusive. It’s SI sending the message that the only way an average size woman would get into their prestigious swimsuit issue is if someone pays them for the privilege.
I’ll acknowledge this point: SI is not a fashion magazine. On a daily basis, I wouldn’t put it in the same category as those that churn out content that’s harmful and makes people hate their bodies. It’s about sports and the athletes, equipment, what-have-you that contribute to that particular industry. Since beach sports are a real thing, I can see why they’d make the swimsuit issue. Of course, none of the suits featured are the kinds swimmers, beach volleyball players or water skiers would actually wear. I haven’t had a subscription for decades so I have no idea if they’ve changed what goes into the swimsuit issue.
Below are scans from the plussizemodelsunite blog where they show what a real feature of a curvy model (Jessica Leahy) looks like. Leahy is also a writer who has said that she’s exhausted by the “photoshop policing” of fashion images.
Women haven’t forgotten that in 2014, the gorgeous size 8 model Meaghan Kausman was photoshopped to the point where she took action, opened her mouth, and let the world know she how displeased she was by the finished image. You can easily backtrack and see how she was quoted everywhere from E! Online to People Magazine about what it does to audiences and to the models who are constantly under the microscope for not being thin. What? You’re not Elle Macpherson? We’ll just photoshop you until you are!
A lot of comic readers were saddened to hear that Marvel Comics, the leading comic book publisher, was not going to have their mocking version of SI with their annual swimsuit issue. Marvel artist Kris Anka was the one to say the project had been in the works but was halted. Maybe – just maybe – that means Marvel will still put out a swimsuit issue but not that issue Anka was working on with Kevin Wada. Peruse the 90’s glory of tacky art and bad fashion at Comics Alliance.
As much as I want women of all ages to heed the words of real trendsetters like singer Mary Lambert, I equally want the publishers, media, retailers, and designers to fucking get it already: Size does not define your health. Plus means average.