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10 to Twins

By Jessica T

About this blog: I'm a late thirties mother of a ten-year-old and infant twins. My family moved to Menlo Park 6 years ago from Virginia - where I grew up, went to college, got married, had my first born, and got an MBA (in that order). I'm a manag...  (More)

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My family reads the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

Uploaded: Feb 21, 2014
I got home from work last night to find my husband uncommonly smiley last night. "What's up?" I asked. My eyes followed his to the coffee table. There it was in all its tits and ass glory, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. A little background: my husband gets Sports Illustrated thanks to a pittance of airplane miles. Last year he signed up too late to get the Swimsuit Issue and felt strangely deprived (I can't blame him - I was insanely pregnant with twins at the time.) But, here it was, the prized issue, at last!

My daughter, the ever curious ten-year old, had already perused the entire magazine. She had even torn out a photo for me to giggle at with her. It was a young woman topless, wearing only a scarf, covering her nipple kneeling on the beach. "Look, Mommy! Her milk is letting down!"

I asked her, "So, what do you think? Sexy or sexist?"

"Sexist!" she replied. My husband looked sheepish.

"But Daddy isn't sexist," I said. "He just likes sexy." (After all, he had baked us a fresh lasagna for dinner, whisked the twins off to bathe them, and did the dishes.)

"No, Daddy is a feminist!" my daughter confirmed. At this point, we all began signing our favorite Ani Di Franco lyrics:

Feminism ain't about women
That's not who it is for
It's about a shift in consciousness
That will bring an end to war

After my ten year old went to bed, I admit, I read the magazine cover to cover. Believe it or not there's a section on how being in the Swimsuit Issue was a defining moment in the models' philanthropic and artistic careers! As my husband listened to my commentary, even he had to admit how ridiculous it was to see women objectified in this way. And it's crazy to see corporations like Target shamelessly and opportunistically supporting these images.

I don't mind sexy. I don't mind racy bathing suits. I don't mind that my husband still gets an eighth grade boy thrill at flipping through the pages. After all, I do too. But I was aghast and sad to see that even today, when the sexiest women I know are brilliant engineers and product managers, Sports Illustrated still thinks it's ok to celebrate women as sex symbols who can only succeed in careers like bathing suit model, mother, and celebrity philanthropist.

This evening, my husband volunteered that the Swimsuit issue's cover was downright offensive. (The cover shows three women in only bikini bottoms touching each other's bottoms with playful smiles on their faces.) And my daughter and I ordered the matching purple "Feminist" t-shirts we've had our eyes on for weeks. (Thanks, Sports Illustrated!)
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Peace, a resident of Rex Manor,
on Feb 22, 2014 at 6:37 am

As swimsuit models, are they degrading themselves in their career by being paid millions to model swimsuits? How about the Victoria Secrets ads? Those catalogs come out more than once a year. When does the degradation take place for all those women. Cosmo: every single issue has some woman degrading herself by exposing her breasts as much as possible, then includes articles about pleasing your man ie "What men want in bed", as if all men are the same and its a woman's job to please them. Sexism in EVERY ISSUE all year long at the checkout!

I think the problem is with the magazine's theme, just that the girls look too good. Next year they should put those "Sexy" physics majors or power politicians in bikinis for the issue. I guess if your goal is to end the issue, that would do it.

Also, why do you assume these girls have nothing to offer but their photos?
Your cavalier use of the "Tits and ass" definition shows a sexism already entrenched within yourself. Can you see it yet? Ask yourself, why does this issue _really_ bother me. Keep looking inward for self awareness. It will be rewarded.

Posted by Michelle Obama, a resident of Professorville,
on Feb 22, 2014 at 6:39 am

I think we should just ban the things we disagree with. Life would be so much simpler.

BTW, nice satire column!

Posted by Tunbridge Wells, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on Feb 22, 2014 at 11:40 am

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

I for one am glad to see that you are discussing things like this with your daughter. I hope you also share with her how much those images are photoshopped and promote a wildly unrealistic idea about what womens' bodies look like. I've never understood what bikinis have to do with sports such that a magazine like Sports Illustrated would devote an entire issue to it, and it really seems like a throwback to the 1960's nowadays.

Posted by It is what it is, a resident of Bailey Park,
on Feb 22, 2014 at 12:06 pm

It is and has always been an issue devoted to the latest swimsuit fashion. Yes, modern swimsuits by many of these designers show a lot of skin...a LOT of skin. Yes they use models with amazing bodies to model swim suits, I'm not sure how else you would do it. Yes, it sells a lot of issues, presumably by people not too interested in the fashion and yes, it always raises the ire of some, I think mostly because its main audience is men. People seem fine with the lingerie catalogs that clog mailboxes.

Your minds make it what it is, so I'm comfortable with the swimsuit issue's existence.
Speaking of Cosmo; I think that's a much bigger nod to the 60's than the SI issue, and Cosmo does it 24/7 right at eye level of kids in the check out isle. Again, its what you make it in your own mind.

Posted by not at all, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Feb 22, 2014 at 4:45 pm

"Last year he signed up too late to get the Swimsuit Issue and felt strangely deprived (I can't blame him - I was insanely pregnant with twins at the time.)"

Shame on you for demeaning yourself and all women like this. If your husband is looking at porn because you are enormously pregnant with twins, that speaks very poorly for him, lasagna or no. And by the way he is supposed to cook, clean and take care of his children. That's not a favor. There's no gold star or pornography permission slip that comes in exchange for that.

You are making yourself look like a sad doormat.I feel sick after reading about your impressionable preteen daughter watching her father reading porn because he "likes sexy." The ick factor on that scenario went to 11. I feel nauseous. I will never read this agin. The end. Blech.

Posted by itsbaxter, a resident of another community,
on Feb 22, 2014 at 7:13 pm

What I object to is the partnership between Sports Illustrated Swimsuits and Air New Zealand in their new in-flight safety video, that features the swimsuit girls delivering safety instructions in their bikinis while the camera zeros in on their "private" parts. At least with subscriptions or news stands there is a choice to partake or not. But safety videos are important and "mandatory" viewing. I don't feel that families and children should be under compulsion to watch this video, nor do I feel that safety should be taken so lightly. I understand using entertainment value to get people to watch safety videos as long as it enhances the message and doesn't detract from it, and also is appropriate viewing for families. If anyone agrees with me that sports illustrated swimsuits has no business in the airline safety industry, please sign my petition for Air New Zealand to take it down, and share the message far and wide! Web Link

Posted by at all, a resident of Bailey Park,
on Feb 23, 2014 at 6:25 am

Now that puritanical "not at all" has left and promised to never return, the adults can continue this lively and balanced discussion.

Posted by Older female engineer mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Feb 23, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Charlie Rose had a discussion with several of the models who have been on the cover, including Petra - the model who went through the tsunami in Indonesia. She had more intelligent things to say about longterm needs in disaster recovery than I've ever heard from any agency or expert (speaking as one who also went through a major disaster). She has leveraged the celebrity to do an eye opening amount of good. She's not a philanthropist to remain a celebrity, nor is she just some pretty face they are using. (Remember "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful"?) In the Charlie Rose interview, I could see one of the younger models was thinking about the older ones as examples to live up to.

For the record, we don't get the swimsuit issue in our house. We do watch Charlie Rose....

Posted by Wash Board, a resident of Cuernavaca,
on Feb 24, 2014 at 6:32 am

Does anyone have a problem the David Beckham/Jockey underwear billboards and how they depict men? Do you explain to your sons that they are heavily photo-shopped and promote a wildly unrealistic idea about what mens' bodies look like?
When does that discussion ever take place? Also, if you're upset with SI, why not with the Jockey billboards. At least with SI you can choose to buy it/view it.

Posted by Mother of 4, a resident of Palo Verde School,
on Feb 24, 2014 at 8:48 am

I have never liked the idea of the swimsuit issue and worry about how one issue in 12 can be viewed as the same as the rest of the year's issues. We get Consumer Reports and I enjoy that, but one issue each year is all about cars and has absolute no interest to me, but my husband reads that one cover to cover.

The issue of advertising and how both female and male bodies are used to sell everything from butter substitute to sports magazines is an important discussion to have with kids. But also how advertising affects us in more ways than just what we buy. The current trend to make men, or husbands in particular, as weak parents or subservient to their wives, is another trend that gives cause for discussion in the home. We can choose not to watch commercial tv, but even PBS is now putting in advertising between shows, and it is impossible to get away from all advertising.

Children are bombarded with advertising wherever they go, even to the extent that the shopping carts have cereal advertised where the kids sitting in them when the parents don't notice them. I understand the financial needs for why we have to be subjected to advertising, but kids are getting the wrong messages. It is not ok to advertise a product by sending a subliminal message that degrades a section of society.

Posted by Dad of 2, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Feb 24, 2014 at 8:58 am

Mo4, first of all, good post, and you brought up a point I've noticed for years now. How many times do we have to watch the commercial family mom, roll her eyes and dumb, incompetent commercial family dad? He's always the one to goof up, do something ridiculous and generally be only slightly higher rank than the family dog...sometimes lower.

Someone in advertising told me about 20 years ago, (paraphrasing) "These days you can only make fun of men and sometimes blonde women. The rest will get protesters at your doors. Seems to be true from my observations.
Maybe we should celebrate the tolerance of men ;)

Posted by Married 50 yr old man with teen daughter, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Feb 24, 2014 at 9:17 am

Interesting comments. I often learn more from the comments at the end of articles than from the articles themselves, and many of the comments posted here are very thought provoking. As the father of a young teenage girl, my priority with respect to SI, Cosmo, etc, is: What impact does it have on her? Fortunately, she is surrounded by friends whose mothers are high achievers. I don't think she concludes from the magazine images that the highest goal for a woman is to be a sex symbol, etc. However, I do think the images distort her sense of what a real woman looks like and sets herself up to have low body image, something many teen girls struggle with anyway. So, of the various issues raised in these comments, that is the one which resonates most strongly for me.

As for Jockey ads having a similar effect on teen boys, I suppose it is possible. I just know that poor body image is very widespread among girls, and I have no awareness (not proof it does not exist) of a similar issue for boys. Also, a great many women and teen girls, from my own informal observations, spend a lot of time by choice poring over images of other women. They also spend an enormous amount of time discussing and thinking about their own appearance and that of each of their friends and acquaintances. I have experienced nothing even remotely like this with either teen boys or men. I think that most females are far more body conscious than males (perhaps this is more true of heterosexual males; I do not know) and therefore distorted images of men are not as potentially damaging to teen boys.

As for judgments on whether a woman should be bothered by her husband's viewing other women's bodies for sexual stimulation (whether or not in front of their children), I think this is a decision that needs to be made privately by each family. I find it disrespectful to the wife and disturbing that it is in front of a child, but I am also aware that I am biased by the particulars of my upbringing. I don't believe that there is one right answer for everyone on this issue or that I am or anyone else is in a position to judge. I suppose if one believes that witnessing such is potentially harmful to the child, that is another matter. Unfortunately, parents are free to do much that is harmful to their children - feeding or allowing them to eat excessive junk food, exposing them to second hand smoke, modelling destructive interpersonal communications in their presence, etc. We do not seem too seriously to consider intervening in any of these activities. We do when sexuality is the issue; I suspect because of our own puritanical heritage rather than because of objective concern for the well being of the children involved.

I have seen one more issue raised with respect to images of women such as those discussed in this article - that it trains men and boys to expect the women to whom they are attracted to have similar bodies and to be dissatisfied when they do not. This is an interesting point. I imagine that the truth may be mixed (in some ways yes, in others no - for example, some couples watch porn together (presumably of people more attractive than themselves) to arouse their sexual interest in each other). I wonder if any research has been done on this and what it shows.

Posted by Nutritionist, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Feb 24, 2014 at 1:06 pm

So with all the image problems girls seem to have, do you think people should be complaining about a once a year issue, or perhaps the constant barrage of images from women's magazines all year long...dozens and dozens of them.

ZIts a fantastic discussion, but why have it just now? I think the SI issue is over and done now anyway isn't it?...will we continue this when the next issue of Vogue comes out?

Also to married with a daughter, The answer is a resounding and absolute YES to boys suffering from poor body image and the effects. Anorexia is increasing steadily among younger males, faster than in women percentage wise. Your lack of understanding is not uncommon at all, since most think boys are tough and can handle that stuff, or don't get caught up in it all like the girls do. Its simply not true. Boys tend to internalize much more than girls, so you won't hear the complaining much, but you'll see the results.

Posted by Nomnom, a resident of Cuernavaca,
on Feb 24, 2014 at 4:20 pm

Ani Di Franco songs? That's just cruel and unusual.

Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Feb 24, 2014 at 5:05 pm

@ Washboard,
"Does anyone have a problem the David Beckham/Jockey underwear billboards and how they depict men? "

No, I think they're a great advert to show what happens with tattoos when we age, even on someone as fit as David Beckham. Ew. A great public service for us parents of young boys.

Posted by Older female engineer mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Feb 24, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Sorry, didn\'t realize I already chimed in! - I'm parent just above.

@ Dad of 2,
Seriously, has anyone read "The Trouble with Boys"? While I am not suggesting we backslide with girls, we need to be more proactive and supportive of the needs of our young men, because they are starting to fall behind. Speaking as one who had no positive role models and grew up in the age when women really were only sex symbols in popular culture, things have really changed. The books were all boy hero when I was a kid, now the boys are all cut up failures and the girls the inscrutable protagonist heroines. Things changed because we put energy into it. Girls can be heads of high-tech companies and do Vogue photoshoots, or be in the SI swimsuit issue and leverage it to a meaningful career, but boys are making up less and less of our college roles. There may be more of them in power, but that's all OLD guys.

Posted by grandparent, a resident of Bailey Park,
on Feb 24, 2014 at 5:22 pm

parent: You expect to see 1/2 naked pics of that man when he's not great looking? OK then, I guess the bikini issue is great for seeing how depriving yourself of food will make you look in a bikini when you're 65. Its all one big after school special loaded with public service! We obviously need much more of it at all levels.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Professorville,
on Feb 24, 2014 at 7:43 pm

@married man said: "whether a woman should be bothered by her husband's viewing other women's bodies for sexual stimulation (whether or not in front of their children), I think this is a decision that needs to be made privately by each family. I find it disrespectful to the wife and disturbing that it is in front of a child"

I am disturbed too. I don't think it's a matter of your upbringing. It is poor boundaries for a father to peruse these kinds of mags in front of a preteenage girl and it is poor boundaries by the mom to say "daddy just likes sexy." That is just not right, and it goes beyond "family values" to a whole new level of creepy.

I think people do not really know what this guy was looking at in front of his 10 year old daughter that mom said was fine, he just likes to look at sexy photos. This is not just swimsuits. This is softcore porn:

Web Link

He cooks and cleans so that's OK? That is so not OK. I'm no prude and I'm not Mormon but I think he was disrespecting you -- you don't deserve that. My sister's husband looked at Playboy etc. and I thought it was horrible.

Posted by Yes and Yes, a resident of Castro City,
on Feb 25, 2014 at 6:25 am

I got all creeped out at the park one day watching a woman reading 50 Shades of Grey at the playground, and then to have 2 other women come up to her and giggle and coo over how they enjoyed the book, took it to a new level of sicko stuff. Ick. I agree, there are parental boundaries, and reading porn in a park crosses most of them; discussing it out loud crosses the rest of them.

Posted by Fascinated, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Feb 25, 2014 at 9:06 am

It's interesting that a mom who is somewhat obsessed with the topic of breastfeeding apparently has no problem with the sexualization of breasts. I realize the swimsuit issue is a "tradition" but it has nothing to do with sports -- other than, perhaps, to underscore the outdated notion that women serve only as eye candy rather than as athletes themselves. (It really doesn't matter that some of them are intelligent and articulate. That's not why they're in the issue.)And don't bring David Beckham into the argument. He's not a model because he's got a great body but because he's David Beckham, and it's not that different from any other celebrity endorsement.

The swimsuit issue is not about teaching kids to take pride in their own bodies. The message, especially to girls, is: if you don't have an airbrushed perfect body you might as well curl up and die. As the mother of a daughter, I've invested a lot of energy trying to counter some of those cultural messages that damaged me and my friends when we were kids.

I accept that the issue is a part of the magazine landscape (at least until magazines become obsolete) and that teen boys and young men will gawk at it. I'd wonder at the maturity of a husband who needed to ogle the models -- I wouldn't be happy if that were my husband! -- and any man who has no compunction about reading soft porn around his kids has execrable judgment. "Daddy likes sexy." Yechhh, you crossed the line there.

Posted by Marc, a resident of Bailey Park,
on Feb 25, 2014 at 11:50 am

Still everyone avoids the fashion magazines purchased primarily by women in this discussion. They should be the PRIMARY gripe as they do untold damage daily. If you're upset with SI for its single issue, you should be INFURIATED by Vogue.

But about SI's message: "The message, especially to girls, is: if you don't have an airbrushed perfect body you might as well curl up and die."
Is that really how you feel when you see it? Ouch. I feel sorry for anyone who has that response. My teen daughter picked it up in the store and asked "Do people really wear this stuff in public?"
I said, "No, this is like runway fashion only for swimsuits."
She laughed a bit and said "Thank gawd" then put it down.

Posted by It's porn, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Feb 25, 2014 at 1:59 pm

A lot of almost-porn passes for popular culture. For example I think Beonce is a porn actress, though her fans and the magazines treat her as a singing talent.
She wiggles and wears very little clothing, and forces her breasts to your attention.
I don't think one should hesitate to criticize the wholesale cheapening of the public sphere.

Posted by God's Law, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Feb 25, 2014 at 2:46 pm

It is evil and it should all be covered up.

Posted by NW Resident, a resident of North Whisman,
on Feb 25, 2014 at 3:32 pm

I ordered a subscription to SI this year through a fundraiser at my son's high school and it offered the option to not receive the swimsuit issue. I chose this option so I could still enjoy SI's weekly reporting of a variety of sports throughout the seasons without having to worry about "the issue" showing up at our door in February.

I think SI still has some good sports writing and photography, despite the objectification of women in this one issue each year. It's been going on for 50 years now and I'm glad they offer a choice to the consumer.

Posted by Older female engineer mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Feb 25, 2014 at 3:42 pm

"You expect to see 1/2 naked pics of that man when he's not great looking?"

I think I already have. I guess they can photoshop the photos, but they can't completely remove the hint of Keith Richards in his future from the videos. He still looks great - 40 is the new 30 - but he's not filling out the tattoos quite like he used to...

See, it cuts both ways. Anyone, male or female, who uses their looks for publicity should and does invite and expect commentary...

Posted by Older female engineer mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Feb 25, 2014 at 3:54 pm

"But about SI's message: "The message, especially to girls, is: if you don't have an airbrushed perfect body you might as well curl up and die.""

Someone said something very interesting to me recently about the old Disney premise of the dead parents, especially the mother. He was just commenting on how girls get the msg that their best purpose is to find their prince, get married -- and then they become a mother and DIE! Or become a witch. (Luckily, the new Disney especially Pixar is a little more enlightened.)

I think the msg from Disney was a wee bit more direct and stronger. SI - well, I'll admit I'm less comfortable in bathing suit at my age. Is it their fault? I don't think so. I don't really read the magazine. Great job parenting your daughter, btw. We live in a world with many media choices, teaching our kids to be savvy to navigate it is probably the healthier path....

Posted by Fascinated, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Feb 25, 2014 at 4:25 pm

SI's swimsuit issue has nothing to do with Vogue or any other women's book that's used to sell fashion and cosmetics to women. The Vogue models have to be,on some level, relatable: "This could be me if I bought all this stuff!"

At worse, fashion mags are about using sex to sell clothes and lipstick. Which to me is a lot better than exploitative sex for the sake of sex a la SI swimsuit. But then, I don't buy Vogue or any of the other fashion mags, and I'd bet they are losing a lot of readers to much more relatable blogs plus sites like Pinterest.

Do cultural/social stereotypes of perfect (photoshopped) women affect girls' feelings of self-worth? That's a whole topic unto itself, but anyone who thinks that isn't the case is delusional. Plastic surgery is a huge business around here, and a lot of it focuses not on faces but on reshaping women's bodies to conform to social norms. And those norms aren't even normal or healthy: I'd bet that most of those SI models have had implants. Sad.

Posted by bad parenting and no sex, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Feb 25, 2014 at 5:13 pm

had implants and waxed all their public hair off making them 9 year olds with huge weird looking outer space boobs.

Any parent of a pre-teen girl who has tells their daughter that daddy likes to look at that should be criticized. That's just awful. And if my husband did that he would have a lot of Jergens to look forward to.

Posted by Mother of 4, a resident of Palo Verde School,
on Feb 25, 2014 at 5:29 pm


Thank you for not locking this blog to registered users only. I think this is a really interesting thread and worth seeing all the various opinions.

Locking the threads prevents discussion and debate, and most readers will not register to comment. We don't all have to agree, but it is fun to be able to be more honest than we could be in a room full of faces.

Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford,
on Feb 26, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Nora Charles is a registered user.

The various replies are intriguing, to say the least! I guess I hadn't realized how Puritanical things are around our fair city.

If husband/fathers/men in general want to ogle girls in bathing suits in magazines, I say have at it. There can be so little joy in life, what with endless machinations about school superintendents, mean ol' Stanford's Dish parking policies, and (my personal favorite) what Math text to foist upon our overburdened youth, why not allow men the odd moment of harmless fun? A rare peek into a world they, awash in worry over the impending widening of California Avenue, can glimpse but once a year. After all, as Dad of 2 so wittily put it, if men now rank below the family dog in the pecking order, isn't it right they may savor a juicy bone or two?

Posted by pogo, a resident of Woodside: other,
on Feb 27, 2014 at 5:05 pm

pogo is a registered user.

There are magazines that feature everything sewing, cats, travel, crosswords, baseball, cooking, guns and politics.

If you don't like a magazine that features skinny, sexualized women, simply don't buy it. How would you feel if someone complained about your Atlantic Monthly or Consumer Reports? Would you care?

If this magazine issue didn't sell, they wouldn't print it.

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