virtual children by Scott Warnock

C’mon, Sports Illustrated

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Look, man, I’m no prude (I can hear, from those privy to my debauched past, the knowing snickers rising). I don’t have a Grandpa Simpsonesque view of smut on TV (particularly in episode 7G05). I enjoy the sight of a pretty woman and don’t feel bad about saying that.

But I went to Barnes & Noble the other day with my daughter and there was Sports Illustrated‘s swimsuit issue. On the cover is a pretty woman pulling her pants down. Yep, she’s good-looking, but my reaction to the cover, my response unfiltered, which surprised me a little because of its keenness, was disgust and frustration.

I guess the woman is part of that entertainment trash class that gets so much press in America. They pull down their or someone else’s pants so they can get on the cover of a magazine or get a TV show. She dates some baseball player. You can’t fault these people. They’re making coin for their antics. This bonehead, who, after all, gets the opportunity to be interviewed, defended the cover with this: “I think SI always tries to do something a little different every year, and I think this year, it’s the year of the torso.”

It certainly mattered that when I saw the cover I was with my daughter, who can be a pain in the neck (as has been documented from time to time in this space) but whom I also love to death. She’s a young athlete who has a fantastic, healthy physique, but she isn’t above giving us a scare sometimes by talking about diet and body type in worrisome ways.

I think it’s such a great time to be a young female athlete… (ah, but the dark thoughts can intrude. Sometimes when I’m at a girls’ event and I see these marvelous kids sprinting around the field, I start to think of these medieval societies that oppress women and the thought of the colossal human waste can creep up on me and spur a stroke of searing anger — my god, when we categorically prevent people from reaching their potential.)

… back to reality. It’s a great time to be a young female athlete in the U.S. Then I see the SI cover. All the athletes, male and female, who did something, uh, athletic, that week and someone pulls down her pants and gets the cover.

I don’t go for censorship as a rule, so I don’t feel that’s the answer, but I’ve enjoyed reading some Web militancy about this. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation posted: “Retailers asked to cover Sports Illustrated’s pornographic cover.” Hyundai didn’t advertise in that issue. The American Family Association called the cover “soft core pornography.” Others, like writer Emma Waverman, who also protested that she’s not a prude, said on Today’s Parent that the cover will lead to a conversation with her daughter.

Conversation. Me too. My sighting of the cover led to a conversation – I hope a good one — between me and my daughter. I’m aware that I’m the parent here, not SI or some censor. It’s up to me to support her and help her live a healthy, happy life. Torso-girl and the rest of them just have to accept that they’re not making that any easier.

Obviously, many people with wallets find this cover attractive. I didn’t. So rise up, people, if you like. For me, I just did something simple. I didn’t buy the magazine.

Scott Warnock is a writer and teacher who lives in South Jersey. He is a professor of English at Drexel University, where he directs the University Writing Program. Father of three and husband of one, Scott is on two local school boards and coaches all kinds of youth sports.

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3 Responses to “C’mon, Sports Illustrated”

  1. In my days as a stringer for the Carlisle Sentinel, I covered a talk given by Ann Simonton at the local college. Ms. Simonton had been the cover girl on the swimsuit issue for Sports Illustrated some years earlier, but had taken to protesting at beauty contests, wearing dresses made entirely of cold cuts to get across the point that women are treated “like meat.” Who knows whether this year’s crop will follow suit some years down the road, but this seems a perennial issue (no pun intended, honestly).

    For the record, Scott, I did not buy the issue either. But then, I don’t generally…

  2. Barnes and Noble? How about every aisle of ShopRite? I’m no prude either, but there is a place for that and it’s not the super market check out. The mom in front of me was offended enough to turn the magazine around, The back cover revealed a cute photo of a “dressed” model made up to look like a Sea Witch and that’s what (to my relief) caught the eye of our little girls. Sports Illustrated did that on purpose. I was relieved that I wasn’t the only adult with such a reaction and we chatted briefly about the inappropriate placement of the magazine. So no, Scott, you weren’t the only one.

  3. If you get new edition, you’ll see Duke on the cover celebrating its fifth national championship in basketball. Many people will find that more disturbing.

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