Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue mocked for using painted-on, nude models to align mag with #MeToo movement

Sports Illustrated’s annual Swimsuit issue will attempt to embrace the #MeToo movement by replacing some of the skimpy bathing suits with empowering words – but not everyone is a fan.  

The magazine rolled out a preview of the issue on Wednesday with a feature in Vanity Fair and a firsthand account from some of the models that was published on Sports Illustrated’s website. The swimsuit issue will now feature more athletes, written pieces from models, a nude spread by a female photographer and an all-female crew.

Swimsuit 2018: Bodypaint In Her Own Words
Paulina Porizkova
The Foundry/Brooklyn, NY, USA
12/28/2017
X161560 TK13
Credit: Taylor Ballantyne

TED Talks editor Ella Dawson said that posing nude can be empowering, but not when the photos appear in Sports Illustrated.  (©Taylor Ballantyne)

A portion of the issue titled “In her own words” replaces clothing with painted-on word such as “truth,” “mother,” nurturer” and “human.” Editor MJ Day said her team decided the 2018 edition would dial back objectifying women months before Harvey Weinstein was exposed, sparking the #MeToo movement.

“I’m thrilled that this movement is going on because I feel like it’s going to change things for the better,” Day told Vanity Fair. “The ideal is to create something artful, to create a beautiful image that both the subject and the team is proud of and collaborates on together.”

While the issue will aim to mirror the #MeToo movement by “allowing women to exist in the world without being harassed or judged regardless of how they like to present themselves,” Day also promised Vanity Fair that the issue is “always going to be sexy, no matter what is happening.”

Day told Vanity Fair that the words written on the nude models in black marker were chosen by the specific models themselves and selected from an assortment of women with different levels of experience and body types.

"In a way, it’s more than being naked. It’s not just that you’re nude, but it’s also 'you’re nude and you show me the way you want me to see you,'” model Paulina Porizkova wrote. 

Despite Day’s efforts, a quick glance at the magazine’s Twitter feed is evidence that the swimsuit issue will still showcase topless women rolling around on the beach — and critics have taken notice.  

Musician and political commentator Kaya Jones tweeted that she is “appalled” by the photos that were released.

“I feel disgusted that you show naked women in your magazine and claim you support women when you are completely objectifying women,” Jones wrote.

New York Times reporter Amanda Hess mocked the issue in a series of tweets, sarcastically thanking Sports Illustrated because “women are only 50 percent object now.” 

TED Talks editor Ella Dawson said that posing nude can be empowering, but not when the photos appear in Sports Illustrated.

“The swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated, which caters to horny dudes, is not an empowering depiction of women. This is not a magazine I trust to fight sexual harassment and assault,” Dawson wrote.”

National Center on Sexual Exploitation Director of Communications Katherine Blakeman wrote a Townhall column explaining it would be “wrong” to suggest the magazine “will be a huge step forward in the effort to promote the dignity and equality” of women.

Blakeman feels that “men who excitedly go out to purchase this magazine” are only interested in “consuming nearly nude images of women.” 

Blakeman ended her column by challenging Sports Illustrated to scrap the swim issue altogether in 2019.

“Instead, sell a women-focused issue with just text interviews of the models about their professional and intellectual pursuits, their interests, and their voice. Include only photos of these models clothed,” she wrote. “I dare you.”

The 2018 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is set to hit shelves on Feb. 13. 

Brian Flood covers the media for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter at @briansflood.