Race/Gender

Sports Illustrated's conflicted double exposure: A-Rod's artificial supplements, swimsuit models' artificial implants

The appearance of Bar Refaeli on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is not without controversy. Yes, it may be the magazine’s most uncovered cover pose to date. True, too, that comments the Israeli model made to a magazine last fall cast her in an unpatriotic, cowardly, and shallow light.

Israel’s Ynet reported the story in an article sensationally titled Dodging IDF paid off big time. First, it pointed out that to take advantage of an exemption from mandatory military service, Ms. Refaeli married an acquaintance who she later divorced. Worse, she said:

I really wanted to serve in the IDF, but I don’t regret not enlisting, because it paid off big time. … That’s just the way it is, celebrities have other needs.

While she may not have served her country, at least did her part to confirm the dumb model stereotype. But, to be fair, like Americans who evaded the draft decades ago, Ms. Refaeli seems to have acted out of a combination of self-interest and opposition to war.

Why is it good to die for our country? … Why should 18-year-old kids have to die?

It might be an issue in Israel, where its militarized society is indisposed to try to understand the motives of those who don’t serve. In fact, if hindsight is 20/20, Ms. Refaeli comes off as prescient for avoiding possible complicity in the IDF’s latest barbarity (Gaza, of course).

To Americans, meanwhile, who don’t have to deal with the draft, it’s less of an issue. Besides, you can make a case that the role of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit cover model is the print equivalent of a USO tour.

Then where’s the controversy? One look at Ms. Refaeli’s cover picture and you might come to the same conclusion as commenter Pat A at Huffington Post:

God didn’t give her those breasts. God gave an engineer somewhere the ability to make a sac that holds a huge amount of silicone and then he helped some doctor learn how to put those babies on gullible women.

Because of her robust build, you could make a case that Ms. Refaeli’s breasts are natural. But the similar size of the breasts of most of the other models in the issue — laborious research reveals — defies credulity. Especially if you watch the TV show Project Runway, which, in large part, is about the challenge of making clothing that flatters young women whose starved bodies seem to have cannibalized the fat in their breast.

Still, the breasts in this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue don’t seem as inflated as those of last year’s cover model, Marisa Miller. Presumably, like the excesses of wealth, ostentatious bra cup sizes are now out of favor (except in pornography).

But silicone implants are not exactly breaking news. Why, you ask, make a big deal out of them now? In a February 9 Sports Illustrated story, Selena Roberts and David Epstein reported that baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez tested positive for anabolic steroids in 2003, the year he won both the home run title and MVP for the Texas Rangers.

See where I’m going with this? How can your biggest story of the year expose an athlete for using artificial supplements, while your biggest issue of the year features models who likely used artificial implants?

Looking at these women is the same as watching Major League Baseball players you suspect of doing steroids. They’ve all taken extreme measures which both give their bodies an unfair competitive edge and expose them to unhealthy substances.

Sports Illustrated needs to cancel its subscription to hypocrisy. If it decides trimness is of the essence, feature models with breasts proportional to their hips. If large breasts are deemed more important, use models with hips proportional to their breasts.

Sports Illustrated needs to understand that the swimsuit issue is not just starter pornography for young men (and a showcase for the swimsuit fashion industry). Young girls, too, are examining it for cues on what attracts boys. Does Sports Illustrated really want to be complicit in encouraging the use of implants?

21 replies »

  1. A-Rod broke the rules. Society has to answer for the broken rules surrounding the popularity of Ms. Refaeli perhaps augmented attributes and our willingness to celebrate them.

  2. Absolutely. It’s certainly an income-enhancing substance if you’re an actress, model, etc.

    …you could make a case that Ms. Refaeli’s breasts are natural.

    And I had to check – they’re good, but they’re definitely implants. The flat valley in between is a dead giveaway.

  3. You make an interesting analogy, Russ – and one that I agree with in principle because despite quibbles others might raise, both A-Rod and Refaeli used “performance enhancers” for one main reason – $$$$$$$$.

  4. Ann wrote:

    The flat valley in between is a dead giveaway.

    Curious. . . I thought women with implants showed a steeper valley.

    Also, just want to make clear, I’m out to condemn neither A-Rod nor Ms. Refaeli — just Sports Illustrated.

  5. Great article.

    How safe are silicone implants these days? I guess where I’m going with this is why are steroids bad? Presumably they’re bad because, unless all athletes are using them, some athletes will have a competitive advantage over the ones who don’t use them. They’re also bad because they cause users to have incidents of violent rage, and long term, higher risks of heart issues and some cancers. Since athletes are competitive by their very nature, banning performance-enhancing drugs should be a move to protect the health of the athletes as well as the integrity of their sport.

    I’m sure it could be argued that cosmetic surgery, silicone implants, tanning, and eating disorders are all risky behaviors of the modeling industry. Is the real issue that models don’t have an organized “sport” around which they can establish and enforce similar, protective safety measures?

  6. Steeper on the sides, yes, because they stand up and out. But it’s the space in between you want to look at (well, no you don’t, but for this purpose…). Naturally large breasts do not sit as discrete entities on a flat plain, no matter how skinny the underlying frame or young and perky the mams. If the “cleavage profile” is I_I rather than U or V, implantitude. It’s worse and more obvious in some cases, of course.

  7. And fikshun, although models and athletes are both commodities whose value can be enhanced in a variety of ways, I think you’ve got a good point about “sport.” No matter how degraded or unheeded the concept of sportsmanship may be, at least the ideal exists. There is no equivalent tradition in modeling or advertising, is there?

  8. I dunno about psychologically, but I suspect that implants are generally biologically “safer” than steroids. Assuming the implant doesn’t leak. The rules are there to protect the health of the athlete, not to keep the playing field level. If you want a more direct comparison between modeling and sports, I would have picked anorexia/bulimia rather than implants.

  9. It’s not about keeping the playing field level? I’m really asking – what was all that about Barry Bonds and his record?

  10. As far as I’m concerned, that was just a side issue. But you could also say that’s a health problem, too. Now that he has the record, kids are going to look up to him, for better or worse. And if HE can do it, why not an 8 year old T ball player?

  11. Notice that no mention is ever made of football players and steroids.

    But to answer your question, Ann, it’s a huge deal in some baseball circles because of the nature of the game: statistics. Baseball players can be compared through history because of A. its long history and B. the game’s nature of being able to quantify a career. Hank Aaron’s feat was truly super-human; Bond’s needed chemistry to achieve the same level. But that doesn’t show up in the lines.

    As an aside, it is said that steroids are particularly helpful in baseball because they tend to improve vision, making it easier to hit a 3.5″ ball moving towards you at 90 mph.

  12. So then fairness is an issue? My ignorance of the sporting world is profound and long-term, but a level playing field seemed to be brought up frequently during all that mess with cycling, too.

  13. Thanks for explaining the space between breasts, Ann. Wasn’t aware of that.

    For the record, steroids don’t concern me that much. I think they’re a transitional stage to when safe performance-enhancing drugs are developed for athletes. Those who don’t choose to use them might be stuck playing in “natural” competitions, like already exist in body-building.

    Breast implants — unless a young woman really needs them to boost a seriously flagging self-image — trouble me, though. It’s up to us men to express our love for breasts just as they are.

  14. “No, I don’t believe the “level playing field” is the main driver. It IS what people bitch about. But if it was the real reason, we’d shoot mutants like Phelps and live in the world of Harrison Bergeron.”

    Steroids are illegal to the public for safety reasons. They are not to be used in sports for the fairness reasons. We have two arenas that collide here, and each has solid reasons for their aversion to the drugs.

    In sports, people bet and pay a lot to buy players. There’s an expectation that you’re buying someone that isn’t going to blow from the “safety concerns”, but you also don’t want to give the impression of “cheating” with your team because all of the “side revenue streams”, all of that marketing that brings billions into the mix, will start to dry up. No one likes a cheater.

    And I completely disagree that we’d shoot mutants like Phelps. We will continue to celebrate them because it shows us just what we “could” be as a species. Phelps is being shot because he proves that the lies told by the ruling elite are actually lies.. and they don’t like that. This was covered in the posting about Phelps.. The ruling elite can’t very well sell the evils of pot if you can still be the best swimmer in the world and get high, too. Clearly, the assertion that pot use forces you to become a lowlife that will never amount to much is contradicted by Phelps. Hence his celebratory execution.

    “I think they’re a transitional stage to when safe performance-enhancing drugs are developed for athletes. ”

    I think we’ll always have purists involved, though. Eventually we’ll have cybernetics that allow for hitting the ball 300 yards (we’ll need new bats, too), throwing it for 150 (Joe, you’re front left field, Timmy, back left field), 200 mph pitches.. etc etc. But, not everyone will want to be part machine to play ball, and we’ll still be curious as to what “people” can do, not the machine hybrids we’ll become.

    With such a wide spread acceptance of better life through better chemistry in our society, I’m really surprised more people aren’t demanding the legalization of pot.. Perhaps we’ll see it start during this Administration, and if we have a second Obama term, or at least a second Dem term, fully legalized usage of a mostly harmless plant.

    “unless a young woman really needs them to boost a seriously flagging self-image ”

    Unless they are used as reconstructive tools (breast cancer, etc), I think there’s _never_ an excuse to have them. If a woman has a seriously flagging self-image which requires implants to try and help, she has a LOT bigger problems and should get serious and prolonged help.. not implants. In fact, things like Sports Illustrated are part of the problem by putting “fake women” on the cover and showing our young women that they have more value if they “look better”.

    our society is putting our values in the wrong place, then we put our values around the world (where people ask us not to).. and we do it for another misplaced value, monetary gain. In the drive for more gain by the very few, we’re being turned into superficial, psychologically unstable beasts. It’s kind of disconcerting.

  15. yeah it does suck being a girl…no one would ever tell a guy to get a dick implant but girls have pressure to get fake boobs. the problem is guys are used to seeing these bodies all the time, so girls with real bodies are considered ugly now. i’m naturally a size 2, toned and have ‘b’ size boobs but my fiance always says he can’t believe how small my chest is. he is always checking out fhm which im cool with but it sucks when he thinks it’s natural to be a size 0 and have 34d boobs…in fact he says he hates girls with fake boobs! so he says he is completely AGAINST implants for me…but meanwhile he is sad i don’t have an implanted figure

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