Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bottom Out

Every swimsuit issue has a handful of topless pics, wherein the breasts are covered by the model’s hands, a prop, or a well-placed obstacle.And with surprising regularity, a swimsuit issue will present to you a model who’s completely naked, twisting her body to hide from you that which must be hidden.But in all my years of flipping through swimsuit issues, I have happened across only two photos of models who are wearing tops but not bottoms. And they are the aforementioned Tori Praver (2008) and Melissa Haro (2009).Thank you ladies, from the bottom of my heart.

UPDATE: Add Ana Paula Araujo to the list.

UPDATE #2: And Chrissy Teigen.

UPDATE #3: And Nina Agdal.

UPDATE #4: And Kate Bock, Chanel Iman, Hailey Clauson, and Rose Bertram.

UPDATE #5: And another from Hailey Clauson plus one each from Kate Upton and Samantha Hoopes.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Women in Sports vs. Women in Sports Illustrated

I recently had my beliefs challenged.

Ana Ivanovic, a tennis player who was featured in the 2010 issue, was docked a game because of an unscheduled trip to the bathroom.The problem with this is that it directly contradicts my theory that Sports Illustrated models do not go to the bathroom.

But then I realized—this isn’t a model! This is an athlete! Female athletes have to go to the restroom; it probably helps them play sports, or something. But models? No.

But while we’re on the subject, I’ve always felt the presence of athletes in the swimsuit issue was a bit of a sideshow. More of a gimmick, like 3D. Athlete sexy is different from model sexy. It’s cool and novel to see athletes disrobe for cheesecake shots, and they look great. But all else being equal, I’d rather look at the models than the athletes, even the sexpot athletes like your Jennie Finches and your Maria Sharapovas.I do wonder if including athletes is a way for SI to defend themselves against charges of sexism.

Hear me out.

Billie Jean King once said, “Women should stop screaming about that one issue and start screaming that Sports Illustrated doesn't carry enough women's sports. That's what's important. That's what's sexist." Obviously, putting them in bikinis isn’t going to count as covering women’s sports. But maybe it’s easier finding a few female athletes willing to pose as a way of de-stigmatizing the issue. “Lindsey Vonn doesn’t have a problem with the swimsuit issue. Why should you?”

Speaking of Lindsey Vonn, there was an uproar in certain circles when she appeared on this cover:…with some critics even postulating that Vonn didn’t know what the cover would look like ahead of time and was therefore being sexually exploited.

It must have been a bit of a mixed bag of emotions a half a week later when the swimsuit issue came out, and there was Vonn in all her pinup glory.On one hand, those who felt she was being objectified probably had their opinions reinforced. On the other hand, people who assumed she’d be horrified at the thought of being featured in a sexy manner probably had to recalibrate their responses a little.

By no means am I suggesting that putting female athletes in bathing suits is an adequate way to address the dearth of coverage of women’s sports. Only that it might be disarming. If you’re offended on behalf of, say, Venus and Serena Williams, it might take the wind out of your sails when they go ahead and pose.In this interview with Misty May and Kerri Walsh, the interviewer asks if the bikinis that beach volleyball players wear are merely decorational. Walsh replies:
- - - - -
No, not by any means. I think it's part of the alluring part of our sport, which is women in bikinis, but on the flip side of that, we need to be wearing bikinis. You don't want to be wearing baggy clothes and be lost in your clothes.
- - - - -

So there are plenty of female athletes who are comfortable with sex symbol status. (Ironically, neither May nor Walsh has ever posed for SI, despite the fact that their sports uniform is a bikini. Maybe the bikinis render posing moot; any SI issue they’re in will automatically feature a swimsuit spread.)As to the question of covering women’s sports… Well, this blog is about the swimsuit issue, so it might not be the right forum. But I do think SI should make more efforts.

The problem is public interest. Fair or not, women’s sports aren’t as popular with spectators. The Chicago Bulls will always sell more issues than the Chicago Sky. SI’s job is to sell magazines, not to fight for gender equity. Is there a chicken-and-egg thing going on? Maybe more coverage would spawn more interest and vice-versa? I don’t know. I don’t even buy the issues with the Bulls on the cover, so I’m not the person to ask.

But if there were a section in every issue or two dedicated to female athletes, that might be a start. Or, I know that when you subscribe you can opt out of the swimsuit issue, so maybe the replacement issue could be dedicated to women? (That might create its own problems, setting it up as a choice between respecting women and ogling them. I don’t think those activities are mutually exclusive.)

Anyway, I’m just spitballing. The point is, a more overt focus on women in sports would address the problem head-on, and I think a lot of women might stop railing against the swimsuit issue as hard.

(Although to be honest, you hardly hear anyone rail against the swimsuit issue anymore. Maybe it’s too tame, too much of an institution, or too much white noise. Matters for future posts, I suppose.)

And Ivanovic: Go easy on the yogurt.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Buddha and the Beach

I was searching for some unrelated thing a week or so ago, and I stumbled upon this statue:
Does it look familiar?
The name of the statue is “The Final Nirvana of the Blessed One.” The position is a staple of Buddhist imagery.

When I saw it, I did a double take. It is stunningly reminiscent of one of the classic poses for a swimsuit model.
This description is from that link: “the left foot is positioned right on top of the right foot.”
It’s not a natural position to be in, and it would be uncomfortable after a while, but swimsuit models do it to give us a survey of the real estate.
I love this pose. There’s something so archetypal about a girl in a swimsuit on her side, legs together, head propped up.
Also from that link, it is “important especially to note the difference in position of the right hand.” If it is propping the head up, like these glamorous beauties, he is resting.
If it is at an angle, he is preaching his last prophesy.And if it is lying down next to the body, he has entered into Nirvana (passed away).
Our condolences to Paulina’s family. But it seems she has achieved transcendental enlightenment.

Monday, October 4, 2010

All the Models to the Floor Right Now

Kanye West name-checks a bunch of SI models in his song “Christian Dior Denim Flow.” Here is the roster:

Yo, Kanye, I’m really happy for you, I’ma let you finish. But I must correct a couple things.

First of all, “Gomes” does not rhyme with “homes.” (EDIT: Or does it?) It rhymes with, well, “Gomez.” AND SO HELP ME, KANYE, IF YOU DAMAGE ONE HAIR ON HER HEAD…

Second, Bar and Esti are probably not friends.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

An Angel Hangs Up Her Wings

Heidi Klum is retiring from Victoria's Secret.
Of all the collaborations in history, the frequent crossover between Sports Illustrated and Victoria's Secret is rivaled only by Lennon/McCartney and chocolate/peanut butter.Bikini-Ausgabe indeed.

(Pours bottle of suntan oil into the sand in remembrance.)