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May 2, 2019

Sports Illustrated — Irony in a Burkini

The magazine objectifies women. Photos of a Muslim in a hijab won’t fix that.

The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue has a long history of providing a platform for beautiful young women to flaunt their bodies so that men of all ages can objectify them. Thus, we find great irony in the latest issue featuring a Somali-American model in poses that would be sexy except that her so-called “burkini” and hijab cover up all but her face, hands, and feet.

Make no mistake: We’re not complaining about the lack of skin. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Mark Alexander wrote last year about his friend Jenny Baker, who “has devoted much of her adult life to educating women about the terrible burden of distorted female images propagated by the media — particularly the suffering this creates for adolescent girls.” The impetus for that article was Sports Illustrated’s “Me Too” swimsuit issue, complete with strategically covered nude models “tattooed” with “empowering” feminist slogans. This, we suppose, was to teach the millions of men ogling at women to look but don’t touch.

The irony, of course, is that now SI is so “woke” and “inclusive” that it’s including a Muslim woman in the latest issue. That young model, Halima Aden, said, “I wanted people to see that you could still be really cute and modest at the same time.”

First, the whole point of a burka is to hide a woman’s body from roving male eyes, so it defies reason to make that a sex symbol. (It may defy marketing too — we’ll see how many men buy the magazine.) Second, Islam is very often exploitative of women. Not only are women second-class citizens in most of the Islamic world, but they suffer “justified” domestic violence, genital mutilation, and “honor killings” — including for not wearing a burka. We suppose Muslim men just take after Muhammad himself.

In short, Sports Illustrated has serious problems that a sprinkling of diversity isn’t going to solve.

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