Created on: February 16, 2013 Last Updated: February 18, 2013
Before the advent of the ESPN family of networks, fans had two places to access information about sports. The first option was, at 6pm and 11pm, to sit down in the easy chair and wait for their local sports telecast. The other was to go to their newsstand and pick up a copy of Sports Illustrated (SI). Though there were other newspapers and magazines, Sports Illustrated became the go-to place to learn about sports events from all over the globe.
Along the way, the good folks at SI did not mind ruffling a few feathers. Sports Illustrated found themselves in the center of controversy now and again when some of their investigative pieces got published. However, nothing brought indigestion to the folks at SI more than their famous annual swimsuit issue. Though most men flocked to the mailbox for a chance to check out Cheryl Tiegs or Christie Brinkley in a bikini, there were plenty of folks who found it necessary to write letters to the editor cancelling their subscription.
Most of the controversy had to do with the various states of dress of the female models, but in 2013, a new reason to be upset at the issue was unearthed. While the controversy still involves the models, the issue is no longer how much skin is showing in each shot; the controversy now centers on the people accompanying the models in the photos. The website Jezebel came out with a story, accusing the magazine of a number of things, including perpetuating stereotypes of people of color, as well as folks native to the lands. This year's swimsuit issue emphasized models on all seven continents, a sort of all-over-the-world thing.
Here is one example of the logic used by Jezebel.com to get their point across: "The site spotlights particular images that appear to be portraying racial stereotypes, such as a picture taken in China which shows model Anne V. as she reclines as a local man uses a pole to propel a raft. A white person relaxing, a person of color working. Tale as old as time. A non-white person in the service of a white person. This photo cements stereotypes, perpetuates an imbalance in the power dynamic, is reminiscent of centuries of colonialism (and indentured servitude) and serves as a good example of both creating a centrality of whiteness and using "exotic" people as fashion props.”
The picture in question shows the model floating on a makeshift log raft with a man using the push pole to guide it along. It would be fair to say that the logic being expounded by the website is at best, a reach. People such as this most likely make their living by chartering people on the waterways of their country. One might also guess that the magazine compensated these workers for their efforts. To take this to the extreme of past slavery issues is somewhat laughable. Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue will always be a target for controversy, but in this case, a company took it to a new level to bring about more hits to their web page.
Learn more about this author, John Atchison.
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