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COLUMN: Sports Illustrated isn't making history


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Managing Editor | Sydney Smith

In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give her seat on the bus to a white man, arrested in violation of Alabama's segregation laws. Further back, scientist Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in 1903. Today, women can look to Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban after campaigning for young girls' right to education. 

These women, and many others, made history.

On Sunday, Sports Illustrated announced plus-size model Ashley Graham will grace one of three covers in the magazine's infamous swimsuit edition. Many women I follow on social media erupted in praise for the publication, as this is the first time a woman bigger than size 12 will be included. 

I'll admit, I did too. Graham is the same size as me, the same size as a lot of American women. The past couple years there's been an explosion of "body positivity," criticizing the fashion industry and greater society's cookie-cutter definitions of what's beautiful. 

It's an exciting thought – a woman of my size being recognized as someone who can be thought of as beautiful in a mainstream sense.

But then I thought beyond surface-level. Is being represented on the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition something that constitutes a "victory" for women?

Hardly. 

My question – a challenging one to answer  – is why there needs to be a swimsuit edition whatsoever. I'm sure it mostly has to do with the magazine's sales during this issue.

Last year (and many years before), it was heavily criticized for not showing enough racial and body diversity. Graham is a jackpot for SI. 

I'm not criticizing Graham. She's seriously a bombshell, and designs a fantastic line of lingerie for women like me. My grievances are aimed at SI, and those who call putting a size 16 woman in a bikini on the cover of a magazine solely to satisfy the male gaze "a historical moment for women." 

Women shouldn't have to celebrate being objectified. This weird idea of "improved" objectification is asinine. 

It's not so much "if a girl sees this, she will feel bad about her body." 

It's that the magazine is made for men. If this were a "victory for women," we wouldn't be talking about Sports Illustrated. It wouldn't be "that issue" of "that magazine" that men seem to get really excited about. 

A historical moment for women in today's society would mean the abolishing of things made solely to dwindle us down to boobs and butts and pretty, willing-to-please smiles. 

This is something those new to feminism struggle with a lot. Those who think Aerie's "Real" campaign is some kind of groundbreaking. Those who think Lena Dunham is the end-all-be-all of the modern American woman. Those who accept something .000000001 percent better than the norm and want to burn a bra about it. 

There doesn't need to be a Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. It's not essential to male survival to fulfill a quota of the amount of times he "almost saw a nipple" each February. 

Graham makes history on her own, because she's an excellent role model for women. She doesn't need Sports Illustrated, and neither does society. 

It's not "about time" we see a fat woman on a magazine cover. 

It's about time women are recognized as people instead of body parts, like those that came before us. 

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About Sydney Smith

Sydney Smith is a super-senior at Central Michigan University. She comes from metro Detroit ...

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