Friday, February 14, 2014

Swimsuit Competition

Happy Valentine's Day.

Did you know that the average person spends between $90 and $100 on Valentine's remembrances? Candy, jewelry, cards, flowers, swimsuit issues.

Yes, this is the week that Sports Illustrated's famous (or is that infamous?) swimsuit issue hits the stands.

I've never really understood the whole swimsuit issue thing. Oh yes, the magazine may argue that the girls are athletic. But, all I see is long hair, white teeth, big boobs, skinny thighs and a whole lot of flesh. In many cases, the swimsuit is hardly there. In some, it isn't there at all. A fairly recent titillating trend is to paint the suit onto the model's naked body. Suffice it to say, there's not much left to the imagination.

What's the connection? In theory, I guess, a woman could wear one of the featured suits to swim or surf or play beach volleyball.

In reality, the magazine is catering to its audience. After a 51 week diet of hard-core sports coverage, they deserve a little dessert.

Still, the timing seems off. Not only because it's a holiday that's supposed to be about romance and true love. But really, isn't there something a little more sports-oriented going on this week? Like maybe ... oh, I don't know ... the Winter Olympics. Hello???

So, as usual, when I heard that this year's cover was being unveiled, I rolled my eyes. (My teenage daughter has taught me well.) "Which bodacious blonde will be the cover model?" The anticipation was killing me.

Turns out, the cover nodded to another male fantasy: the threesome. Not one, not two, but a trilogy of girls and their — shall we say — admirable assets on display for all to see. The models look about 19 years old. What else is new?

I was about to get on with my work when a sidebar story caught my eye. 'Turns out there's an alternate cover and an alternate, much older, cover girl.


Wow, why didn't anyone think of this before? It's a match made in heaven. 

Barbie is plastic
Barbie is busty
Barbie has an unrealistic (dare I say unnatural) figure
And under all that blonde hair, Barbie's head is empty

Actually, Barbie as swimsuit model is a lot more believable than most of the other careers Mattel has given her over the decades. Maybe I'm guilty of reverse discrimination. Surely it's possible that a woman who looked like Barbie could be a pilot or a veterinarian, a racecar driver or an astronaut. To underscore this point, Mattel asserts that Barbie herself is the victim of a massive smear campaign, focusing on her looks. The theme is "unapologetic," as in "I'm Barbie and I ain't gonna apologize for my 52 inch chest and 14 inch waist anymore, dammit!" Get over yourself, girl.

Oh. Sorry, Barbie. 

Don't get me wrong. We had plenty of Barbies in the house when my daughter was little. She called them "Mommies" (and yes, some tiny little part of me was flattered by that, although I did find out later that she needed glasses). The smaller Kelly dolls were the "Sweeties." 

Well, as you can imagine, people take their swimsuit issues (and their $3 billion fashion dolls) very seriously. 

According to Mattel, the clever cover celebrates "some of the world's most famous swimsuit legends — like Barbie — who have gone on to break boundaries, build empires and shape culture ... Barbie is in great company with the other legends, such as (actress-models) Heidi Klum and Christie Brinkley, to name a few." 

As if this explanation weren't enough, Sports Illustrated adds that Barbie fits in with the swimsuit issues' "message of empowerment" for women.

Now I get it. The swimsuit issue is all about empowering women. I thought it was all about arousing men. My bad.

I'm a feminist by anybody's estimation. I could get all hot and bothered about body image and objectification. But, I'm not going to. Barbie and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue; the combination doesn't bother me. I actually think it's funny. 

Or a little bit redundant.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at   

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