Monday, May 10, 2021

‘Plus-size’ swimsuit cover sparks debate

For decades, the female body has been criticized by society.

Ninety-seven percent of women have at least one negative thought about their bodies in a day according to a study conducted by Glamour Magazine.

The push to try to highlight body positivity in several outlets has increased. Most recently, Sports Illustrated featured a plus-size model Ashley Graham on the cover of the swimsuit edition. This makes Graham the first plus-size model to make the swimsuit edition.

This year’s issue features three women representing three different body types. Graham joins American model Hailey Clauson and Ultimate Fighting Championship’s Ronda Rousey.

PSUC Fine Art photography Associate professor Sue Lezon said she found the term “plus-size” derogatory and offensive. Lezon said the photos were well-composed and very commercial, but she also felt that highlighting Graham as plus-size model is a double-edged sword.

She said labeling someone as plus-size implies judgement on a certain body type. She said labeling is problematic for becoming more progressive in body positivity.

“We’re all just human-beings,” Lezon said.

The Federalist, a blog on pop culture and politics, had a similar stance. “Is commercializing women and loudly pointing out that they are not thin really going to make us not notice the difference between a size zero and a size 12?” according to a blogpost on their site.

PSUC Assistant public relations and journalism professor Luke Cyphers said he does like that the magazine brought this dinosaur of a concept into a more modern world. He said that the cover was a publicity stunt though.

“I’m not sure how effective it will be,” he said. Cyphers said there is something about a magazine cover that is still iconic in this day and age where “print is dead.”

“Going back to the 70s, supermodels launched their careers and became internationally known if they were on the cover.” He also said he’s not sure if Graham will have the same impact.

Cyphers said sports journalism is going into some interesting directions. He said women were typically overlooked in the sports industry. He said there is a juxtaposition between Graham’s appearance on the Sports Illustrated cover and Allison Overholt becoming editor-in-chief of ESPN magazine.

“I think long term, it’s a more significant development in the business,” he said.

PSUC President of Center for Womyn’s Concerns and education history and gender and women’s studies major Steffaney Wilcox said there were some pros and cons to the swimsuit edition.

“I think it’s good that they’re including more diversity in the models that they’re using,” she said. “At the same time, the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated is not necessarily putting out a good role model for young girls as you’re showing a hyper-sexualized woman in a bikini.” Wilcox said there are many other beauty campaigns that do a better job at body image.

“The Dove Real is way better at giving a more inclusive positive body image, where you have tall women, short women.” The Dove Beauty Campaign was created to provoke the definition of beauty, according to their official site.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction. It sends a message that you don’t have to look slender and tall which has been the image of models. It’s good to get away from the stereotype of what the perfect woman looks like,” Wilcox said.

Email Kavita Singh at

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