Hail Julie Henderson

Top 10 Ways Sports Illustrated Disrespects Women … The swimsuit issue features women models posed not as athletes of strength, skill, and endurance but as playthings; … showing women’s primary value to be their value as sex objects; … bodies as if they are merely body parts; … encouraging … to view women as sex toys … to ogle at; … numbing men to women’s humanity; … exhibiting women to men as the “other”; … sending a message to girls … that … all that matters is how they look to men. (more)

After reading that, I browsed the free videos at Sports Illustrated and — I liked them a lot. More even than their for-pay magazine pictures. I especially liked Julie Henderson, presented like a “flower child” from my generation’s youth (best in full screen):

This sort of thing isn’t easy to do well, requiring skill in composition, photography, makeup, costumes, etc. Hats off to the whole team, including Julie.

Of course I didn’t just admire production skills – I enjoyed the vid, in part because it made me feel attracted to Julie and helped me fantasize that she likes me back. And yes, that includes some sexual attraction.

But most everything that humans do to impress each other has a sexual component. Women are more attracted to men who do music, sport, art, politics, and even research well, and men do such things more as a result. Also, standard displays rarely give equal weight to all of a person’s aspects. A sport performance emphasizes different aspects than a poetry reading or a rock concert, and none give a whole view of the performer.

Yes a swimsuit video has sexual connotations and doesn’t emphasize all aspects of the performer, but then the same can be said of many rock concerts. Why do folks complain so much more about swimsuit vids? Some possibilities:

  1. Since common folks like swimsuits, liking them doesn’t signal elite class or culture.
  2. It takes fewer special skill to appreciate swimsuits, making it hard to signal discernment this way.
  3. For most other displays with sexual connotations, one can more easily pretend to be interested for other reasons. Homo hypocritus prefers ambiguous sex displays in public.
  4. Swimsuits are more salient to men seeking short term mates, and women seeking long term mates fear short term mates in disguise. To present themselves as seeking long term mates, both men and women disapprove of swimsuits.
  5. We prefer displays that emphasize effort over innate ability. and presume swimsuits mostly show off innate ability.
  6. [Added] For other displays we can more easily self-deceive to think that our displays are just as good.
  7. What else?
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