Sports Illust-hated

I don’t wish to cause a mass outbreak of shock-induced coronaries and seizures, but apparently The College Times has recently been guilty of poor journalism.

I hope you were sitting down when you read that. As editor in chief of BYU’s Daily Universe, I am well-versed at discovering incidents of poor journalism — indeed, it’s how I spend a good part of my mornings — but even I was shocked and appalled to see last week’s College Times feature an article and picture on the subject of Sports Illustrated’s new swimsuit issue. I felt I should make my voice heard, especially when some College Times guy called me and asked me to.

The swimsuit issue came out last week. By now, it can be found on newsstands and under teenage boys’ mattresses everywhere. In case you are unfamiliar with this annual collection of soft-core journalism, its purpose is to acquaint the reader with the latest styles and fashions in the world of breasts. Some of the photos also feature swimsuits, though just barely. No one even pretends that the photos of mostly nude models, their wafer-thin bodies strewn around the beach like so much driftwood, are at all related to sports. You obviously couldn’t swim competitively in these outfits, and the models are clearly not athletes, unless you consider the 100-yard dash to the bathroom after a meal to be a sport. The swimsuit issue exists solely to make money for Sports Illustrated by arousing its male readership, a feat which cannot be accomplished in a normal issue, considering most of the photos are of sweaty male basketball players.

There’s no doubt the swimsuit issue is tawdry and of very little redeeming social value. But is it actually harmful? Well, no, but as any long-time resident of Utah County can tell you, whether something is harmful or not is by no means a factor in determining whether or not someone will be offended by it.

Case in point: a letter written by one Kelly Crockett and published elsewhere in this issue. Kelly Crockett was quite upset to see Sports Illustrated featured in The College Times. She lists the “Top 10 Ways Sports Illustrated Disrespects Women.” The list mentions that SI features minimal coverage of women’s sports (perhaps this is because there is a minimal EXISTENCE of women’s sports); that the swimsuit issue portrays women as mere “body parts — breasts, buttocks, and crotches” (she has omitted legs); and that the swimsuit issue is “numbing men to women’s humanity.”

I will not deny that men are pigs in general, and specifically for looking at the swimsuit issue. And certainly SI is not beyond reproach as a news organization for presenting the issue. But let’s not forget something here: No one’s putting a gun to the models’ heads. These women are, of their own volition, being paid a lot of money and flown to exotic locales so they can spend a few hours lying in the sand and having their photos used as currency in prisons for the next year. Apparently, they either like this arrangement, or else the lack of nutrients flowing to their brains has rendered them unable to think of anything better. The models are paid well, treated well, and photographed well. Many of them wind up signing less exploitative deals with legitimate companies like cosmetics manufacturers, all thanks to their appearance in SI. If anyone is demeaning women, it is the women themselves who pose in these magazines — again, no one, male or otherwise, is making them do it.

To summarize: Men are shallow because they look at the swimsuit issue. Sports Illustrated panders to the lowest common denominator by publishing it. Certain beautiful women, eager to cash in on their natural beauty, are presenting themselves as sex objects.

You had to read this column to learn all that? You need to get out more.

This was my first post-Daily Universe "Snide Remarks" column, and I was flattered that The College Times would ask me to write it. Apparently, many students at Utah Valley State College (the "other" college in the Orem/Provo area, living constantly in the shadow of BYU) were familiar with my column, which I had just a week earlier stopped writing for BYU's Daily Universe. So when this big swimsuit scandal broke -- and it was evidently quite a big deal, judging from some of the passionate reactions from their readers -- the College Times staff was tickled at the idea of having me comment on it. Specifically, sports editor Ben Stapley called and asked me to do it. I liked the idea of being "in demand" as a guest columnist, so I agreed.

I like the fact that in this column, I make fun of people who read the swimsuit issue, people who produce the swimsuit issue, people who pose for the swimsuit issue, and people who get upset by the swimsuit issue -- in other words, everyone.