Sports Illustrated: The new pioneers for self-love?

by Sydney Sweeney, Contributor

Uncomfortably shoved somewhere between inadequate and appealing are the limbs, stomach, chest and face of every woman exposed to the media.

Images brimming with colorful, idealistic lifestyles and beautiful people sculpt the basis of contemporary beauty, quietly reminding women of how they should or should not look. Western media, in particular, has had its fair share of contradicting trends promoting extremities that are, well, impractical.

From Kate Moss’ heroin chic appeal to Kim Kardashian’s voluptuous everything, the past 15 years alone illustrate that women aren’t supposed to be satisfied with how they look. There’s always a new standard that must be achieved, making beauty unattainable.

So when Sports Illustrated released its annual swimsuit edition, many were refreshingly surprised to see that this year’s covers showcased three different models who each have a distinct body type.

For the first time in history, SI made a conscious effort to represent women of varying shapes, rather than the just the usual long-legged, size-4 siren who luckily won the genetic lottery.

With these new covers, every woman — slender, athletic or curvy — would be able to see that a standardized body type doesn’t dictate one’s beauty, or in this case, one’s inner, beachy goddess.

In fact, everything was going quite well in tropical paradise until a few Internet body-shamers felt the urge to ruin it all by whining about a “fat” woman being on the cover of a sports publication.

As the groaning originated from Twitter (as usual), the most infamous criticism belonged to Cheryl Tiegs, a past cover girl who previously starred in the swimsuit issue. In her complaints, the model chastised SI for glamorizing the full-figure of model Ashley Graham, labeling it as unhealthy.

I say, who cares?

Graham represents a reality — the curves and swells of a modern, American woman who wears a size 14. Granted, our country’s average body size is considerably larger than what most would consider “healthy,” but such an image is no worse than the Coke-and-cigarettes diet plan utilized by those who are unusually thin and commonly seen in other sectors of the media.

SI’s goal, like many other media outlets, is not to demonstrate what a “healthy” woman looks like (Let’s be real: A women’s health cannot be appraised by simply looking at a photo of her lying in a bikini on a beach).

Instead, SI’s goal is to show “beauty is not one size fits all,” as the issue’s assistant managing editor, MJ Day, said in a press release.

And though this wasn’t much of a revelation from the public’s standpoint, the magazine’s bold step toward diversity will pave the way for other publications that are aspiring to do the same.

Women of all sizes should be equally represented in the media, whether they’re bigger, smaller or somewhere in the middle.