It’s the second month of 2015 and Sports Illustrated released an ad with the hashtag #CURVESinBIKINIS to promote their annual swimsuit edition, out Feb. 9th. The magazine typically contains a slew of fit, “skinny,” typically size 4 and below models in swimsuits to attract its primary audience, middle aged men.
This year? They decide to feature one plus-sized model, Ashley Graham, and the media is getting a power trip out of it. Search up “sports illlustrated swimsuit model” and you’ll find a variety of different media outlets commending SI for their feature of a model (size 14, the average size of women in the U.S.), who isn’t standard to the magazine’s normal beauty ideals.
I grew up throughout the late 90’s and early 2000’s as a plus-sized young girl reading monthly magazines, from J-14 to M (gossip and entertainment) and Seventeen and InStyle (beauty and fashion) that sparked my love for the media and storytelling.
It was only when I grew older into high school that I realized what I was reading all these years negatively impacted me and the way I viewed my body. I didn’t love my body as a young girl: not in the fifth grade when I was in the back of the class during our daily mile runs, not in middle school when I was criticized for my size 12 pants in the locker room, not in high school when I developed an eating disorder my freshman year that drastically impacted my health.
It wasn’t until I realized how hazardous comparing myself to other girls (my friends, my family members, my favorite actresses) was that I truly came around to becoming the healthiest version of me, both mentally and physically.
The beauty ideals portrayed in the magazines are crippling to the way young women in this country view themselves and value their worth. The problem: women are in the minority of big decision-making media hot shots.
Who is controlling the what is put into the hands of our young girls who strive to look like the women portrayed on the covers and spreads of magazines such as SI?
Men. Typically, older, rich, white men that are not face with race or gender binaries . A statistic by the Women’s Media Center reports that in 2014, men still had more of a voice in the media, both in print and broadcast journalism.
I decided I wanted to be a journalist in high school when I realized I wanted to use my voice and status as a women to change the way beauty ideals are portrayed in the media. So that young girls of the future with the power to lead are not brought down with unattainable body image expectations in the media.
I don’t want future generations of women thinking that their body makes them less or more worthy than the next girl, or that they need to spend hours obsessing over a few gained pounds when they can be out changing the world.
It’s time to change the conversation: maybe it’s not how women are portrayed in the media, but who is controlling it. It’s time for women to stand up and say: hey, it’s cool that Ashley Graham is featured in this magazine, but why isn’t she on the cover? And why is she the only one? She represents the MAJORITY of women in America and yet we, in 2015, are still shocked by it.
Sports Illustrated, you might be progressing, but you’re still #WAYbehindthegame in the representation of the beautiful women of all shapes and sizes in America.