Sports Illustrated Swimsuit’s New “Pro-Women” Policy Ignores Its Own Content 

In January 2022, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue announced a new initiative in which it will only accept advertising from companies that help “bring change for women.”

According to the company, the initiative will put brands through a process where they must prove they are actively fighting to help women before they are then verified as a “Changemaker.” Through the money received from “Changemakers” that are ultimately allowed to advertise in the Swimsuit Issue, Sports Illustrated is promising to redistribute a portion of its profits in order to create what it is calling the Sports Illustrated Gender Equity Fund.  

The irony of this initiative is glaringly obvious.

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Objectifies Women for Sport and Profit

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue sexually objectifies women and degrades them by presenting them as objects to be consumed by its predominantly male audience.

The only change that Sports Illustrated’s new initiative really represents is a change in tactics meant to camouflage their blatantly anti-women content under the banner of “female empowerment.”  

Sports Illustrated (SI), and its parent company Time Inc., have made astronomical profits off the sexual objectification of women in their annual Swimsuit Issue—purportedly more than $1 billion since the issue’s launch in 1964. Its decades long reduction of women to their sex appeal is a sad commentary on the failure of the publishing industry and sports culture to reckon with #MeToo and to treat women with equality and dignity.

SI Encourages Women to Promote Male Sexual Accessibility in the Name of Body Positivity

SI attempting to implement “pro-women” ad partnerships for their Swimsuit Edition without addressing how their own work is anti-women is hypocrisy at its worst.

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit has played a significant role in normalizing the objectification of women in culture and, furthermore, has played an active role in encouraging women to objectify themselves for the male gaze under the guise of “embracing their sexuality.”

Implementing its new ad policy while ignoring its own exploitation of women shows the campaign for what it really is: phony altruism for commercial gain.  

Women deserve better than to be reduced to objects for the sake of Sports Illustrated’s—or anyone’s—profit margin or its audience’s sexual demands.

SI’s Track Record Has Landed Them on the Dirty Dozen List

The track record of the Swimsuit Issue shows that SI is unapologetic and unrelenting in its quest to profit from sexual exploitation. For example, back in 2019, SI made an attempt at disguising its expansion of objectification as “empowerment” by featuring a woman wearing a hijab and burkini rather than truly being “pro-woman” and just bringing an end to its “legacy” of female objectification by bringing the Swimsuit issue to an end.

To top off a truly awful track record, again in 2019, Sports Illustrated’s newly-appointed CEO was welcomed even with a history of sexual misconduct. Prior to joining SI, Ross Levinsohn had faced two sexual harassment lawsuits. SI made it on that National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s Dirty Dozen List that year.

No Company Should Hide Behind So-Called Philanthropy While Profiting from Exploitation

The message is clear: no amount of misleading philanthropy can hide the fact that SI is still normalizing and profiting from the sexual objectification of women.   

For more on the Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue legacy of sexual exploitation see:  

The Numbers

300+

NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.

100+

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.

93

NCOSE’s activism campaigns and victories have made headlines around the globe. Averaging 93 mentions per week by media outlets and shows such as Today, CNN, The New York Times, BBC News, USA Today, Fox News and more.

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