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Swimsuit Issues.

on February 10, 2015
Ashley Graham, Sports Illustrated (2015) I do not own the rights to this photo

Ashley Graham, Sports Illustrated (2015)
I do not own the rights to this photo

Sports Illustrated’s famed Swimsuit Issue features for the first time a plus-size model by the name of Ashley Graham. Ashley, of course, deserves this recognition not only for being absolutely stunning in a swimsuit and whatever else she chooses to wear, but also for her talents as a model, neither of which have any bearing on her dress size, or vice versa.

The first swimsuit issue, however, was first published by Sports Illustrated in 1964 when it was far more widely accepted that women worthy of the title had curves and lots of them.  Many of the models from then might even be considered “plus size” by today’s standards.  Case in Point:  Marilyn Monroe – arguably the world’s most recognized and idolized Icon of Beauty – would by today’s standards be treated as a plus size model.  Throughout the last 50 years or so, an alarming trend toward near-anorexia has occurred not only in issues of Sports Illustrated but through all media featuring any female models.  Even more alarming is the trend toward impressionable girls and women thinking that thinner is always better, when this is simply not the case.  And, to be fair, I’m certain the trend is affecting male models and their viewing public as well.

Yet, when you speak to the ubiquitous Man on the Street, he will most likely tell you that he would prefer a woman not of a certain age, nor colour, but one who has curves and knows how to wear  them well. Presumably, this is the ideal woman for most men and it has nothing to do with dress size, but rather of confidence and a woman’s acceptance of her own body. Following this logic, we must therefore conclude that a woman’s size is completely irrelevant to her appeal and attractiveness.

This is not to say that only a man’s perception of a woman’s beauty is all that matters!  On the contrary, a woman who accepts her own unique beauty is truly an unstoppable force to be reckoned with and it is her opinion alone which should have any bearing about how she feels about herself.  That being said, there is nothing to stop the rest of us from doing whatever we can so that each woman – and man, as the case may be – to celebrate their uniqueness and beauty.

Going back through the centuries, most women depicted in art are nothing short of voluptuous. How, then, have we wound up here in 2015 idolizing a form which contrasts so greatly with what we as a species have evidently and usually considered an ideal female form?  Why has our media decided that only ONE form of female beauty is acceptably portrayed in their publications?

Those, I’m afraid, are questions for the ages and better left open for discussion.

What is clear, though, is that a beautiful female form does NOT depend on a dress size, nor does it depend on the perceptions of others.  What matters most is the woman’s perception of her own beauty.

The women featured in past issues of Sports Illustrated are just as beautiful and deserving of the recognition and opportunities afforded to them through their exposure of being in the Swimsuit Issue as any of their predecessors.  And what we must ensure in the future is that ALL women be celebrated not only for their diverse and infinitely interesting beauty but for their obvious intelligence and talents in the fields they choose.  In that way, we’ll ensure equality for all and hopefully put an end to weight-based discrimination, regardless of whether it’s directed at women deemed too thin, or too overweight.

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