The Internet was buzzing this past week as plus-sized model Ashley Graham flaunted her stuff in a black string bikini in a new ad for Sport’s Illustrated annual swimsuit issue. News outlets celebrated this historic victory, deeming it a huge win for body positive image and realistic women in media, but they left us cold on the underlying problems.
The intentions of the #CurvesInBikinis campaign through the retailer swimsuitsforall, are great. Featuring sizes 10-34, swimsuitsforall embraces a more inclusive understanding of beauty and what constitutes as a “bikini body.” Model Ashley Graham, who has appeared in Vogue and Elle, is stunningly gorgeous and is an incredible body-positive role model herself. Graham, like the average American woman, is a size 14. So why are we exclaiming this ad to be historic when in fact the majority of the women you will met in your day-to-day life are this size? Shouldn’t this be the norm not the outlier? While I for one am happy that Sport’s Illustrated is featuring a woman who is embracing their curves instead of the typical “Barbie” figurine, it makes me disheartened that a magazine simply showing a more realistic depiction of the female body (or what many people consider to be “plus-sized”) is considered a “historic” leap and bound.
Additionally, the #CurvesInBikinis campaign, like most swimsuit commercials, is highly sexualized. The preview for the ad shows Graham posing in her black bikini as a group of men watch and gawk at her. While the notion that all bodies are sexy is huge, the ad itself brings up some fundamental sexist concerns of objectification. Take a look:
Although Sport’s Illustrated has made an important step towards incorporating beautiful women of all sizes into modeling and media, we need to step back and remind ourselves that #CurvesInBikinis is not necessarily a groundbreaking campaign for women we want to celebrate in our history books.
Cover image courtesy of swimsuitsforall.