Overcoming Child Abuse

Reflections on recovery.

A "Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition 2012" Challenge

How would it impact the children in your life?

Have you seen the latest Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition? Dads, have you, eyebrows raised, smiling and sighing, flipped through it with your sons? Moms, have you and your daughters expressed envy of the models' bodies, or reactively criticized your own? Perhaps the last time you went to your local grocery store you noticed it by the checkout line, right at your three-year old's eye-level, and you wondered how viewing the nearly naked woman on its cover would affect your child. Dads, maybe you've downloaded the swimsuit edition into your phone, eager to know that you can take it with you anywhere and view it at any time, but your thirteen-year-old daughter found it accidently when you lent her your phone to look up something else; something wholesome; something harmless.                                                                                                                                                 

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I've written before about my concerns regarding the effects of our pornified culture on our children.  Today I want to bring to your attention the content of a provocative and proactive email I received yesterday from the staff of Miss Representation (www.missrepresentation.org).  It offered specific suggestions for creating change: positive change; healthy change.

 Here are some noteworthy perspectives from their email:

  • They called the swimsuit issue the "annual celebration of female objectification and the heterosexual male gaze."
  • They pointed out that it's a widely accepted part of American culture.
  • They explained that the continued association of female objectification with sports and physical activity implies that for women, being healthy is all about fitting into a tiny bikini, especially since they rarely appear on the Sports Illustrated cover otherwise. (for more information about that log on to an article at http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/07/9-ways-women-get-on-the-cover-of-sports-illustrated/242251/ )
  • They noted that in the 57 years of the magazine's life a woman appears on a non-swimsuit issue a total of 66 times (on average, just over once a year).
  • They expressed their belief that the pornification of mainsteam media is numbing our boys and men to the true value of women.
  • They pointed out that this media also presents a constant assault on our attempts to improve self image.
  • They asked, when boys watch their fathers flip through magazines dedicated to objectification, what do they learn about what it means to be a man, and what a woman's place in society is?
  • They asked, does an interest in sports necessitate an interest in ogling women's bodies?
  • They challenged us to have conversations with the men and boys in our lives about the true value of women. (I would add that we also have those conversations with the girls and women in our lives).
  • They encouraged us to join them in consuming media that uplifts girls and women rather than limiting them, and suggested that, in honor of Women's History Month, we agree to not have magazines that objectify women on their covers in our homes this month.

I'm grateful for the work of the staff of Miss Representation, and for the content of their email, and I hope that you'll decide to adopt these practices and spread the word in your communities. You can find more inspiration by and for girls at www.girlsforchange.org, and for girls who are dating, www.loveisrespect.org offers useful information and support. I also encourage you to watch the film at www.missrepresentation.org.

Catherine McCall is a Clinical Fellow of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and the author of Never Tell: A True Story of Overcoming a Terrifying Childhood.

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