SI photo spread proves none too revealing

Magazine: Sports Illustrated for Women doesn't reveal too much -- of its subjects, that is. What it says about gender equity is another issue.

April 20, 2001|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

Forget demanding equal pay, breaking the glass ceiling and all those other important women's rights battles still being fought.

Ladies, next week we must brace ourselves to protest a blatant miscarriage of justice, a mockery of equality and a glaring disregard for the struggle to give women the same rights as men.

Yes, we're talking about the first all-male Sports Illustrated for Women swimsuit issue that hits newsstands on Thursday. It features only 10 pages of such sports stars as Baltimore Oriole Brady Anderson and New York Giant Jason Sehorn in loose-fitting swimshorts -- with nary a Speedo in sight.

This measly offering begs the question: "Where is the beefcake?"

The world, by now, is more than well-acquainted with the Sports Illustrated annual swimsuit issue. About 5 million people momentarily put aside their desire to read about sports and buy the more than 200-page extravaganza to drool over gorgeous models who sometimes pose in only the itsy-bitsy bottoms of their bikinis.

So, one would think that if the women's SI truly were trying to re-create the swimsuit issue experience, we would breathlessly bound up to the newsstand next week to find supermodel Marcus Schenkenberg on the magazine cover, sprawled on a Tahiti beach, suggestively sipping an umbrella drink.

Instead, the "Sizzling Swimsuit Special!" is given but a small blurb on the cover and gets buried in the back of the issue. It shows pale-chested Brady Anderson in loose, black swim trunks at Key Biscayne, Fla.; 100-meter Olympic gold-medalist Maurice Greene in long black shorts casually leaning back on a boat; and Jason Sehorn looking disappointingly everyday in flowered swimshorts. One of the men -- in-line street skater Michael Budnik -- is so covered up that his ugly gray and yellow swimshorts fall below his knees.

Sure, these players are photographed in sunny locales like Boca Raton, Fla., and the British Virgin Islands. But the pictures look so plainly shot the beaches could just as well be Ocean City or any other sandy locale easily accessible to us ordinary women.

And their poses aren't sexy or hot or seductive. They just look like the millions of Marks, Joses and Peters that litter every U.S. beach.

Now, compare this with this year's SI's swimsuit issue, featuring pouty beauty Elsa Benitez almost bursting out of a barely there orange string bikini on the cover right next to the headline "Goddesses of the Mediterranean." In the magazine's more than 80 pictures, we see evocative shots of Victoria's Secret model Heidi Klum kneeling like a love slave in the Mediterranean surf and MTV's "House of Style" host Molly Simms wearing a tiny white bikini and sporting a come-hither look as she leans over a table.

Somehow, SI spokesman Joe Assad said, without laughing, that 58 million people read the swimsuit issue every year because "it has beautiful women photographed in a tasteful way at great locales by the best photographers. You put all those together, and you've got an appealing product."

Karen Affinito, spokeswoman for SI for Women, stressed that the swimsuit issue is still developing. She said readers have been clamoring for a swimsuit edition since the magazine launched in March 2000. Last summer, the magazine did its first swimsuit spread featuring male and female athletes. Next week's all-male issue came about at the request of readers.

"Sports Illustrated is so synonymous with their swimsuit issue that we wanted to do a `turn the tables around,' just for girls' fun kind of issue," she said. "But the magazine is always evolving, and reader feedback will play a major role."

So this means if women want equal treatment, we're going to have to write in and demand our very own beefcake spread -- um, tasteful photography and all. And, of course, we would purely be doing it in the quest for equity.

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