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Sports Illustrated Empowers Women as it Takes on #MeToo Movement

As women continue to come forward with stories of sexual assault and harassment as a part of the #MeToo movement, Sports Illustrated decided to tackle the topic through a nude photo shoot empowering women and victims.

The #MeToo hashtag went viral on social media last fall after allegations were made against Harvey Weinstein for sexual abuse.  It spread over social media millions of times along with individuals’ personal experiences.

Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue, released every year, typically portrays known models wearing skimpy bikinis on sandy, tropical beaches.

In this year’s issue released last week, Sports Illustrated decided to switch things up a bit and captured images of women covered in their own messages as part of its “In Her Own Words” shoot.  The images have drawn controversy from critics who claim the magazine’s shoot is objectifying women rather than empowering them.

I believe the “In Her Own Words” campaign is extremely empowering and has provided victims like Aly Raisman a way to express themselves and show men that they deserve respect no matter who they are or how they present themselves.  The words written across each individuals’ body include both powerful, single words as well as phrases and simple sentences.

Sports Illustrated Editor MJ Day orchestrated the intricate shoot, and I believe it was executed flawlessly.  It allowed the women involved to step out up and stand up for women everywhere who may be victims of sexual abuse or assault.

“Some of these women were victims of abuse – they were shamed, used and broken,” FSC student Bella Arango said.  “Rather than let this shame build up, this shoot empowered them to step out and say here I am, here’s my message.”

Olympian Aly Raisman posing for “In Her Own Words” shoot.

The issue features women including model Robyn Lawley and Olympian Aly Raisman with powerful words written across their bodies to represent their beliefs on true beauty and empowerment.

According to Vanity Fair, Larry Nassar survivor Aly Raisman posed nude with “Every voice matters,” “Survivor” and “Abuse is never OK” written across her body.  Descriptors written on other models included “Truth,” “Progressive” and “Strength.”

Sports Illustrated’s attempt at addressing the way women are treated was also recognized in last year’s issue when Nina Agdal wore a crop top with “A woman doesn’t have to be modest to be respected,” written across it.

I believe this saying along with the messages are very powerful as they remind both women and men perusing the magazine that no matter how much or how little a woman is wearing, she deserves respect.  It empowered Aly Raisman and gave her the ability to take a stand after facing her abuser in court.

“It turned something ugly and violent into something glorifying and beautiful,” Arango said.

According to Vanity Fair, Raisman said “For me, ‘In Her Own Words’ serves as a reminder that we are all human, we are all battling something, and it is OK to not be OK.  We are not alone and we need each other.”

The “In Her Own Words” shoot follows the #MeToo movement as it attempts to fight against the objectification of women’s bodies by providing a powerful and insightful experience.

Model Paulina Porizkova posing for the 2018 swimsuit edition.

According to Vanity Fair, Day said “It’s about allowing women to exist in the world without being harassed or judged regardless of how they like to prevent themselves.  That’s an underlying thread that exists throughout the Swimsuit Issue – you have Harvard graduates, you have billion-dollar moguls, you have philanthropists, you have teachers, you have mothers – you have a full range of women represented in the alumnus of this magazine, and not one of them failed because they wore a bikini.”

Thousands, if not millions will view the magazine’s images lifting up victims of sexual assault, but the shoot did not come without criticism as some believe it does indeed objectify the women involved.

“I’m not sure how I feel about the shoot,” FSC junior Ashley Berniche said.  “I guess as long as the models felt confident with what they were doing, that’s all that matters.  But I can see where some people might look at the images and feel uncomfortable.”

Although some individuals have a negative response to the shoot, it has been praised and accepted by many.  I believe it will continue to pave the way for #MeToo while empowering women to come forward, share their stories and accept themselves.


Related Links:

“In Her Own Words”

Swimsuit Feature Lets Models Express Themselves

Aly Raisman’s Sports Shoot is All About Empowering Women

SI Project Was Made by All-Female Crew