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Dually Noted: The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue

Anna Swenson, Opinons editor:


Women aren't for sales purposes only

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When Sports Illustrated features men on the cover, as it does over 98 percent of the time, it features athletes who are at the top of their form and the top of their game, who do more and are respected for more than being great at rolling around on a beach. Those men, unless they are swimmers, will be wearing a shirt, and they might even — gasp! — be less than handsome. When the magazine features female athletes on the cover, they are made into sex objects in a way that undermines what they should be features for: Talent, hard work and achievement.


The cover of the Feb. 8 issue features skier Lindsey Vonn with a headline that reads ""America's Best Woman Skier Ever."" It's great that Sports Illustrated featured her as one of the on average less-than-five covers per year that feature women. So why did they have to pose her with her (very toned and jealousy-inducing) ass in the air? There is no reason an Olympic athlete like Vonn can't be featured for her story, her talent and her achievements, but Sports Illustrated sexualizes her for its own purposes and therefore downplays her merit to be on the cover by the virtue of being a great athlete. Writing on Vonn's Sports Illustrated cover, Newsweek's Kate Dailey wrote, ""If we lived in a world where female athletes, even the ones that aren't leggy and blonde and gorgeous, graced the covers of magazines all the time in a variety of athletic positions, this picture wouldn't seem so egregious. If women weren't constantly sexualized and objectified in ads and art and other forms of media, maybe this ad wouldn't have stuck out. But it did, and there's value in discussing why.""


The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue features a 15-page spread of female athletes from the Winter Olympics — in bikinis, frolicking in the snow, like they need a big bear-man to come warm them up. These ladies could kick most mens' asses on the slopes — why must they be depicted as helpless snow-bunnies? The issue also features ""WAGS,"" or wives and girlfriends, wearing nothing but paint. Nowhere is it even alluded to that these women might be something more than beautiful, or something more than the arm-candy of a great male athlete. Notably, ""HABS"" — husbands and boyfriends — is not a term in our lexicon.


Of course sex sells, but the entire point here is that women, and especially female athletes, are more than sex. They can do significantly more than take their clothes off to sell magazines — like win gold medals. What they can't do, apparently, is be appreciated for something other than having a nice backside.



— Anna Swenson is a sophomore majoring in English. She can be reached at letters@email.arizona.edu.



 


Lance Madden, Editor in chief:


Face reality: Sex sells


People are often asked who their idol in the same field of work is — someone they strive to be like. Athletes will name former athletes, singers try to hit the same notes as past singers and computer geeks might have a shrine dedicated to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.


As the editor in chief of a large print publication, Hugh Hefner is my choice.


Stop laughing.


It has nothing to do with the whole party-like-a-rock star, robe-wearing, multi-girlfriend aura he's got going on, though that does sound like a helluva good time. It's more about the businessman he has become and the ones he has inspired.


Hef is the greatest editor in chief of any American magazine ever printed, and the reason for this has nothing to do with sex. At the same time, it has everything to do with sex. From the launch of Playboy in 1953, he has undeniably discovered the best way to turn heads.


Andre Laguerre took notice of how powerful skin can be. The Sports Illustrated managing editor from 1960 to 1974, he started the swimsuit phenomenon in 1964 as a five-page supplement to spruce up the lack of actual sports content in the winter months. More than four decades later, the swimsuit issue — which became a stand-alone annual supplement in 1997 — is the source of much controversy.


Subscriptions have been cancelled, boyfriends have been slapped and 12 year olds have cried.


But the swimsuit issue shouldn't be looked at as anything more than tasteful creativity, entertainment and sheer brilliance. Remember, the magazine industry is a business, too.


The coveted issue is a great platform for mass advertising. In 2005, the swimsuit issue contained $35 million in advertisements, according to Slate magazine.


This year's issue contains 184 pages, 61 of which are non-Sports Illustrated ads. According to the magazine's 2009 rate card, a full-page color ad cost $394,700, and the national circulation was upped from the standard 3,100,000 to 4,500,000 for the swimsuit issue.


Estimating that each magazine is looked at by four or five people, along with the addition of SI.com, mobile and other multimedia devices, the swimsuit issue engages around 67 million consumers, the magazine has reported. Plus it has a longer shelf life, attracting even more sets of eyes.


Last year, the swimsuit issue generated 7 percent of Sports Illustrated's advertising revenue for the entire year. In this instance, ass equals cash.


So complain all you want about how demoralizing and sexist the swimsuit issue is, but face it: Sex sells.



— Lance Madden is a journalism senior. He can be reached at editor@wildcat.arizona.edu.


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