I’m not sure how it happened, but Sports Illustrated started showing up in my mailbox (addressed to me). It has to be a mistake. I’m not into sports though I watch an occasional Seahawks game with my husband while reading a book. He didn’t order the magazine either. Weird.
Friends know what I think of the provocative photos in the swimsuit edition. And my family knows that I felt bad, growing up, for the naked cherubs in a living room painting. The minimally clad women in the magazine conjured up childhood desires to clothe the cherubs. For years, I taped outfits on them—fluorescent polka-dotted and striped attire (the more obnoxious the better). Mom always laughed and peeled them off before I dressed the cherubs again. Mulling over the 2016 Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, I couldn’t resist making the models some clothes.
“Could I borrow your duct tape and scissors?” I called to my daughters from the top of the stairs.
“Yes,” my older daughter’s muffled voice answered from the playroom.
I hoped my humorous art would open the way for a discussion with my daughters on the sexual objectification of women in our culture. Earlier on, we’d had similar discussions when making outfits for Barbie dolls.
“Uhm, Mommy, I think she needs more clothes.” My youngest daughter snuck up on me.
I resisted the urge to climb on a soapbox and preach to her on the evils of corporations using women’s bodies to sell any and all products from hamburgers to car wax to rifles.
“Maybe we should make her some clothes,” I suggested to her.
Thumbing through the magazine, I selected the least provocative photos (a couple, believe it or not), and ripped them out.
“Honey, what kind of outfit do you think she would like to have?” I pointed at one of the models.
“She needs some pants,” my daughter responded.
“I’m with you. How about we make her some gauchos?”
“What are gauchos?”
“Here, I’ll show you.”
“You know this woman is created in the image of God, right?”
My daughter nodded.
“That means she is smart and talented and doesn’t have to wear an itsy-bitsy bathing suit to be special.”
“She needs a top,” my daughter pointed at another photo.
“Oh! Let’s make her a cape.”
My daughter cut strips of duct tape and stuck it over the woman’s torso.
“Have you noticed that there are lots of pictures of women in the world without many clothes on?”
“I know. It’s weird.”
“And you know what? Companies use pictures of women without many clothes on to try to sell stuff. And it’s not respectful to girls and women.”
My daughter fashioned a green polka dotted dress for a woman reclining on a chaise lounge.
“Beautiful! It looks like a muu muu! Here, let’s give it a striped trim.”
“What’s a muu muu?”
“A super comfortable beach dress!”
“She looks a lot happier,” my daughter commented.
. . .
Knowing that we live in an overly sexualized culture, my husband and I agree it’s best to discuss certain images with our daughters rather than sending them into the world ill equipped for understanding what they see. Deciding what and what not to show them challenges us every day. If anything, I fear that we err on the side of not preparing them for what they see by accident on friends’ smart phones, mall billboards, etc. These are tough calls as we seek to prepare our kids without selling their innocence. Inevitably, I tell myself, our children must grow up. And it’s our job as parents to train them in the ways they should go. Dressing the Sports Illustrated swimsuit models turned into a success. We had a good discussion and even some laughter over why swimsuit models need capes, gauchos and muu muus.