The Hidden Message Nobody is Discussing: Sports Illustrated, Cheryl Tiegs and Ashley Graham

cheryl-tiegs-si-cover-split-tease-today-160226_e6877114c73a7e752a8ccb6930d367f1-today-inline-largeA few days ago, social media was atwitter with comments about the new Sports Illustrated cover featuring plus-model Ashley Graham. Cheryl Tiegs, former SI swimsuit model had criticized the magazine for putting Ashley Graham on the cover. Tiegs, who is now 68 years old, said;

“I don’t like that we’re talking about full-figured women because it’s glamorizing them because your waist should be smaller than 35 (inches)…That’s what Dr. Oz said, and I’m sticking to it. No, I don’t think it’s healthy. Her face is beautiful. Beautiful. But I don’t think it’s healthy in the long run.”

People took sides. Some agreed, while others applauded Sports Illustrated and underscored that health can come in many sizes. But as the media storm showcased the groups that either supported or disputed Cheryl’s words, an unsaid truth laid buried beneath the surface. It was on my professional Facebook page, where we, too, were discussing the new Sports Illustrated model,  that this truth was beautifully stated by a long term personal friend of mine—and I’d like to share it with you:

“I feel like we’re missing the point. In allowing ourselves to get roped into a discussion about which women’s bodies are “healthy” enough to appear mostly naked in a magazine, we are perpetuating the institutionalisation of our own objectification and ensuring that it continues for our daughters’ generation. The fact that the field is widening so that a greater variety of women “get” to be photographed wet and on all fours is not something to celebrate. The day something as archaic as a “swimsuit issue” ceases to exist will be something to celebrate.” (S. Lang)

Yes. ^ THIS. ^

When I’m presenting to audiences on the ten media messages girls receive about themselves each day, objectification and sexualization are two of the most alarming problems that often lead people in the audience to call out in frustration. How is this still possible that women are looked at in the way—and, in fact, in cases such as this swimsuit issue, we argue and tweet and yell so that more women get to be treated in this manner?

Of course we a wider definition of “beautiful.” We want more size acceptance, less criticism, more breaking through glass ceilings and less marginalization. But is this argument—who is hot enough, thin enough, beautiful enough, healthy enough to be photographed wet and on all fours on the cover of Sports Illustrated—a magazine that typically celebrates athletes—the way to do it?

Perhaps this is the real conversation we are meant to have on social media. What do YOU think?

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