entertainment

For and against: The Sam Armytage Women's Weekly cover that has everyone talking.

Because that’s what a size 8 celebrity would do, right? Wear a bikini?

An Australian celebrity who is not a size 8 poses for a magazine cover. She wears a swimsuit. Everyone high fives that celebrity and the magazine she appeared in, for doing their bit for body diversity. …Except that they don’t.

Sunrise co-host Sam Armytage, 37, appears on the cover of this month’s Australian Women’s Weekly. It is the journalist’s first ever ‘swimsuit shoot’ and the reaction from the public has been in equal parts congratulatory and critical.

Sam on the cover of AWW.

There are those who think the cover shouldn’t have been photoshopped so much. Or at all.

There are those who think an experienced journalist shouldn’t have to pose in a swimsuit. That it’s demeaning. Objectifying.

There are those who think it’s a cop-out Sam was wearing a one-piece and should have been wearing a bikini if she (and the magazine) are as serious about promoting body acceptance as they claim to be. Because that’s what a size 8 celebrity would do, right? Wear a bikini?

The stock standard magazine cover we’re used to. Size 8? tick. Slim? Tick.

There are those who have noted Armytage was only shown from the chest upwards, which means she could have been wearing a singlet top. Brave? they say. Cop-out, more like it.

And then there are all those people who think everyone should just shut up and mind their own damn business.

Sam Armytage herself is no doubt captain of that team. She has repeatedly said how exhausted, bored and frustrated she is by all the running commentary on her body.

Sam Armytage, pictured with colleagues, says she’s sick of the discussion of her figure.

So why pose in a cossie at all then?

“If everyone wants me in a swimsuit, it might as well be on my terms,” Armytage, told the magazine, admitting to having been stalked by paparazzi desperate for a picture of her at the beach.

That cannot be pleasant, by any woman’s measure. Especially at a time when”bikini-body” and “beach-body” have become nauseatingly synonymous with “size-zero-body”.

“The Weekly called me and asked me if I would do it,” Armytage said.  “I’m not vain enough to think I am Gisele, but I am also not lacking in confidence to think I’m not some type of scrubber who should not wear swimmers.”

“Plus, I’ve never done a swimsuit shoot before. They are terrifying words together,” she said.

For more magazine photoshopping: Every single thing about this magazine cover is a lie.

Terrifying for sure. With celebirty new mothers posting Instagram bikini photos of their flat stomachs four weeks after giving birth, it’s certainly rough out their if you’re a famous woman with a body of any kind.

Rachel Finch poses for Woman’s Day after giving birth.

The most articulate commentary on the Sam Armytage’s swimsuit cover has come from former magazine editor Wendy Squires who wrote a convincing column this week about her experience meeting Sam Armytage and explained why she was so disappointed by these new magazine photos.

“From the sidelines over the past years I have applauded [Sam’s] defence of her womanly shape, her single status at age 38 and those annoying alarmist “tick tock, tick tock”  presumptions that go with it” writes Squires.

“On Thursday, I rushed out and bought my AWW, hoping I would see something revolutionary. After reading the piece and perusing the photos, all I saw was something spirit-breaking. Because nothing has changed!”

ADVERTISEMENT
Wendy Squires 

“Sam was indeed in swimwear – you saw a strap of a suit peeking from under a whacking great coat hiding the rest of her body. You saw a few straps from the clavicle up, another shot cropped above the nipple (that or it was airbrushed out along with a good few inches of her arms).

“The interview screamed liberation yet  the photos implied indoctrination. Why claim you’re not ashamed of your body then cover it up as though you are? And why try to counter the paparazzi by again hiding the very body they are out to capture in unretouched glory?”

While writing her piece, Wendy reached out to Armytage, whose spokesperson said she had “no conditions or demands whatsoever in regards to the photos.”

So was it the Women’s Weekly who decided to cover up Sam? A source close to the magazine told Squires that the shoot happened on a cold day. That’s why she was covered up with a bathrobe in the inside-the-mag photos.

This isn’t the first time a magazine has drawn criticism for the way they’ve portrayed other non-standard size cover models.

US Elle was criticised for their November 2013 cover that featured Bridesmaids actress Melissa McCarthy in a bulky coat.

The magazine responded to criticism by saying, “On all of our shoots, our stylists work with the stars to choose pieces they feel good in, and this is no different: Melissa loved this look, and is gorgeous on our cover. We are thrilled to honor her as one of our Women in Hollywood this year.”

“On all of our shoots, our stylists work with the stars to choose pieces they feel good in, and this is no different: Melissa loved this look, and is gorgeous on our cover. We are thrilled to honor her as one of our Women in Hollywood this year.”

US Elle also came under fire for a cover featuring comedienne Mindy Kaling. The cover was a zoomed in, black and white image of the actress that caused a lot of people to yell “injustice”. As Daily Life put it at the time, “The message seems quite clear, Kaling is different and will be treated as such.”

“The message seems quite clear, Kaling is different and will be treated as such.”

So why do magazines draw so much more criticism when they try to do something positive for women and diversity?

Former magazine editor and co-founder of the Mamamia Women’s Network, Mia Freedman notes that, “whenever a magazine pushes the very narrow boundaries of the standard cover image, there’s far more push-back. And yet when they feature yet another size 8 air-brushed celebrity, nobody says a thing”.

Mia Freedman, former magazine Editor and Publisher of the Mamamia Network.

“I’ve seen it happen so many times and I’ve been on both sides of it and I think there is always a legitimacy to the criticism. Of course there could be a more diverse representation of women in the media and it’s almost like any tiny bit of progress reminds us how backwards things still are,” Freedman says.

“Personally, I’m happy that Sam is on the cover. Just like I was happy when Turia Pitt was on the cover. And Deborah Hutton. The more diversity of age, skin colour, ability…..yes please! That doesn’t mean the way these women are represented is perfect. There’s a long way to go.”

“Just because things could be worse that doesn’t mean they can’t also be better. That’s why these conversations are so important and I’m so glad we’re having them.”

So let’s have those conversations right now shall we?

Was your first reaction to Sam’s cover shoot positive or negative? Do you think she would have been allowed on the cover wearing a bikini? Do you think it’s empowering for a journalist to do a swimsuit shoot?

00:00 / ???