opinion

There's nothing as empowering as a 63-year-old supermodel in a bikini.

Have you seen the new Sports Illustrated “swimsuit edition”?

Guys, it’s so diverse.

It’s got PLUS SIZE women in it:

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It’s got women of colour in it. And some of them are, like, SPORTS STARS:

#SISwim @si_swimsuit #body

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But the bit you’re not going to believe is this: There’s a SIXTY-THREE-YEAR-OLD-WOMAN in it. You know, like an OLD PERSON. Here, look:

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Isn’t it amazing? Don’t you just feel empowered? Like, maybe we’re all beautiful now? Boundaries are bursting. Norms are being challenged.

Truly, anything is possible. What a world. Next year, it will be a 45-year-old mother of two with cellulite and chin hairs.

I’ll send the editors my number.

Oh. Okay. So it’s Christie Brinkley. She’s a supermodel. Who’s already appeared in swimsuit edition 11 times.

And, hold on, let’s take a closer look at this 63-year-old woman:

She looks… 31.

But, she’s not. Like, we remember her in Uptown Girl, right, so she’s actually not 31. She just looks 31. So that’s great.

And look, those are her daughters next to her and one of them is, actually, 31.

That’s Alexa Ray Joel, Billy Joel’s daughter. She’s a musician, like her dad. And I’m pretty certain that I remember Alexa Ray Joel being in and out of the tabloids a lot a few years ago for suffering with mental health and body image issues, and being hassled into denying having oodles of plastic surgery.

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Hey, she must have overcome all that, which is really good news. In fact, here she is, talking about how empowered she feels in this picture:

Let’s STOP degrading and START celebrating ourselves and others, from both the inside AND out. ????????????There’s far too much degradation, competition, insecurity, and unhealthy standards associated with women and their bodies- particularly on social-media. As a conscious society, it’s up to us to flip this negativity on its head. I don’t have a completely flat tummy, or cellulite-free thighs… nor am I a model’s height or shape. Neither are hundreds of millions of other beautiful women out there. SO WHAT? Does it really matter, in the end? All that matters is how YOU feel about yourself. Set your own standards of beauty; both internally and externally. All of those unrealistic-looking, photoshopped images are nothing more than white noise, playing off of your own insecurities in order to make a buck. Don’t let them affect you. DO YOU! We are all perfect, just as we are. Please know that. Thank you @si_swimsuit for showcasing all heights, shapes, and sizes. For within our distinctions, our quirks, and our self-perceived ‘flaws’… therein lies the beauty. {Capture Credit: @si_swimsuit #BehindTheScenes Thank you for the honor of shooting me with my Precious & Golden Sunshines: Mamacita & Sailorina.}

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I don’t know if you can read all that, but Alexa is saying that she doesn’t have a perfectly flat stomach, or cellulite-free thighs, and she feels just fine about it. Which is excellent, except… her stomach looks perfectly flat here, and her thighs look… beautiful.

She looks perfect. But apparently, she’s not perfect, so that ought to make all the other young women who feel that they don’t look perfect feel… empowered. Thank God for Instagram.

And then there’s her sister, who’s also in the shoot. She’s Sailor Brinkley Cook. She’s 18.

Sailor says: “I’ve had issues with my body image since before I can even remember… I grew up not loving how I looked and felt held back because of it. For some reason I still looked in the mirror and always somehow found something to pick on. I went from being ‘too fat’ to ‘too thin’ to ‘too muscular’ and I never felt satisfied. My body and I have been through it all.”

This is Sailor:

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Sailor’s 18. And objectively, by the standards of our time, by what magazines and Instagram and TV shows and advertisements everywhere tell me, she is absolutely stunning.

She’s white, and blonde, and thin, and she has almond-eyes, and pert boobs and yet… what am I missing here?

“My body and I have been through it all.” At 18.

Gosh. I know I should feel so happy for her and her sister and her mum that they’ve found some sort of “body acceptance” for their awful, old, wrinkly, dimply “too fat” or “too thin” bodies, but I’m beginning to just feel kind of… sad.

I want to give that Sailor a hug for not thinking she’s pretty enough, when, clearly…

Stop it. That’s ridiculous. This is EMPOWERING, remember.

After all, the reason Sports Illustrated – which, is, lest we forget, a magazine about SPORT – puts out the swimsuit issue every year is to make women feel excellent about themselves, right?

It’s here to tell you that whatever your ethnicity, whether you are curvy or skinny or old or young, with a bikini and a lick of baby oil, an arched back and a narrowed eye, you too can challenge conventional beauty standards, one dab of body paint at a time.

Listen to the Mamamia Out Loud panel talk about Christie’s shoot, here:

And that uncomfortable feeling I can’t shake, the one that says maybe it’s exactly magazine shoots like this that aren’t helping women feel comfortable in their skin? That’s just silly.

That little worry maybe they’re not helping, the magazines that present one cookie-cutter shape of what women Should Look Like and then just squeeze different women into it with a little help from the world’s best photographers, make-up artists, stylists and Photoshop?  That’s just indigestion.

That niggling suspicion that perhaps this is exactly the kind of imagery that makes women like Alexa Ray Joel and Sailor Brinkley Cook and your daughter and your niece and yourself believe a debilitating, suffocating truth that their bodies will never be good enough, no matter what?

That’s just something I had for lunch.

I probably shouldn’t have had it anyway, it wasn’t organic. Christie Brinkley only eats organic.

I think what I’m feeling is empowerment. Yes, definitely empowerment.

How about you?

You can follow Holly Wainwright on Facebook, here

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