There was a time when Sports Illustrated was a regular feature inside people’s (men’s) flush tanks. At adult bars. Under the mattress of any teenage boy. All of that was until digital media brought porn into everybody’s hands… and that too free.
It’s no longer hush-hush. Even Netflix has a decent bit of it. If you were the boss at SI, what would you do? Like any chewed out star, an outdated fashion icon, a product that has lost its relevance, you’d try and get back into the headlines, right?
And SI is not new to this struggle. Did you know that the current SI began on 16 Aug, 1954, started by Henry Luce of Time? And at the time, the same breed of intellectuals who have run to support the burkini today, had dubbed it ‘Muscle’, ‘Jockstrap’, and ‘Sweat socks’. This was a time when serious journalism looked down on sports ‘journalism’, and spectator sports hadn’t yet exploded. Because SI, one of the factors behind it, hadn’t arrived on the scene yet. And what made it arrive, was its swimsuit issue some 12 years down the line. Under the stewardship of Managing Editor Andre Laguerre. And thus was created SI’s most popular issue each year, sparking a tradition.
The fact that it had absolutely nothing to do with sports or well, sports… I can’t say men because it had everything to do with men… did bother no one. And it was branded an innovation. Yeah. Putting up pictures of the nearly naked women on a page was seen as an innovation. Now, I’m not a prude; I don’t have an absolute opinion on naked women. The only thing is that I do wonder if they went for a particular looking type of naked women (they did), if they airbrushed them (they did), if they paid them for it (they did), if they judged a lot of naked young women before selecting them (they did), if they objectified them (they did), and more. Finally, they made sure they were naked. Barely covered. They made sure they did all this for men.
#Fact: SI is read by 23 million people the world over, 18 million of these are men.
But, let’s zoom in for a while on this innovation that was the ‘Swimsuit Issue’. The space for it came up because in the winter months in the US, between the college bowl season and the start of spring training for League Basketball, sports journalism was in a lull. So Laguerre had started an annual Feb issue called ‘Fun in the Sun’, sending the staff to exotic locales to write about. In 1964, he asked his fashion reporter Jule Campbell to “go to some beautiful place and put a pretty girl on the cover”. With *only* five pages of girls in swimsuits, SI turned a profit, for the first time in its history.
The fashion reporter had delivered beyond the brief. The art director of SI recognised the “genius” in pandering to men’s sexual fantasies and convinced Andre Laguerre to bring back the swimsuit issue.
Interesting? Not really.
Okay, maybe a little interesting. Especially when you compare the issue with the hand job. Fun if you do it once in a while, problem if you do it thrice daily. That’s me guessing, my dear men. I know beyond that, where be the need to use brains?
The success of this issue was also due to the fact that is cross-populates the world of sports and fashion & modelling.
So coming back to understanding the need for SI to go in this direction, let’s just say the poor guys were looking for getting back into the headlines. All that porn available online is stealing their fun and advertising revenue.
So what do you do? You provoke, but while staying on the right side of the sexist diatribe they’ve furthered their careers on. Why diatribe? They write hateful articles on what’s sexy and what’s not. What’s trendy and what’s not. Their “indecent” proposition to women has, among their kindest acts, destroyed many a young life through lifestyle issues, eating disorders, sexual violence, and more. Worse is the general aspirational quality they have succeeded at endowing this business with. The sheer game of perceptions being played at defining for you and for me what is “sexy”.
The question to women always is: Are you as desirable (read fuckable) as the models on our cover?
The question to men is: well, I don’t have to tell you guys that. You don’t have questions about The Swimsuit Issue now, do you?
So well, this time around it’s different. They decided to go woke. Another name for pedalling victimhood. It’s an attitude characterised by a general feeling that the world is going to shits and everything is a sham (I just conversed with a woke dude this morning who didn’t ‘vote’ because democracy is a sham; I wanted to ask him about Venezuela but experience tells me sensible, real-world questions trigger the woke animal; besides I needed my chair to become vacant soon).
So while they never put a bulimic model on the cover as an homage to the eating disorders they spawned, they went with one that is covered in hypocrisy dating back to a couple of centuries at least. You’ll ask me to keep out of religion but you won’t ask the same of SI. You’ll ask me to keep away from race but you won’t ask the same of SI. You’ll ask me to keep from being judgemental but you won’t ask the same of SI.
SI’s decades-old judge-y, sexist, oppressive BS agenda was fun (not) while it lasted; at least it was under some control. Its woke-ness on the other hand, is just going to fuel more woke. I don’t know if the men reading this issue will give it a hand shake or keep it original.
Eitherways, the thing is this. The tool of oppression that the issue promotes is a step at its mainstreaming; and they need it because the populations that want to propagate it have attained a critical mass. Just like the populations that wanted to propagate the itsy bitsy bikini have lost theirs. Both are equally oppressive and exploitative.
The only difference is this: with the bikini, a regular girl-next-door didn’t face the threat of being asked to strip down when going to buy vegetables. Burkini, on the other hand, is doing the opposite. Mainstreaming a culture that enforces diktats to women asking them to cover up. And when it comes to that, there’s no stopping. Headscarf for the liberal now, Hijab tomorrow, chador the day after. From women shouldn’t expose themselves today, it’s women shouldn’t be allowed to drive tomorrow, and male guardianship the day after.
However, I don’t see why SI should worry about that. It’s made its advertising dollars for the day, its executives have put down the money for that holiday home, its employees have planned their next woke vacation, and that’s all that matters.
It’s the only thing that always has. They’re not interested in deepening your interest. They’ve always only been interested in exploiting your interest. You guys kinda deserve each other.
In sincere woke-ness, me.