You may have heard the news this week that in a recent survey, 72% of Americans view your popular annual swimsuit edition as a version of porn. Most likely in the upper chambers of leadership at your company, executives are laughing this off as a skewed survey and an antiquated perception. “Real” men and “real” Americans know how to have fun and enjoy this like any other good-ole American pastime, so they say.
But they are wrong. You are wrong. And you don’t even know what you are doing to our culture.
I know the world thinks you are harmless fun. You are not. You are creating a picture of sex, and of women, that is unrealistic for nearly every woman and every couple in America. You are creating ideals for our sons that will become the filter through which every woman is judged. You validate sexism, encourage us to judge a book by its cover, and implicitly agree that women are material to be used to satisfy a man’s interest or cravings. In a single issue, you are able to make a declarative statement that quickly out-weighs all our advances in the fight for equality. Your pictures are more powerful than many thousands of words.
You say you value women for their athletic ability, but your magazine cover sends an entirely different message.
For several years of my life, I consumed you. I bought into your lies and deception that it was just something guys enjoyed and it was no big deal. I told myself it was really about the sports and I was just curious. These lies led to a way of viewing the world that almost cost me everything. I learned the truth in time and I stopped. And it’s time for you to stop.
I know you believe that you are just one small player on a big field where this is standard fare. But you need to realize you are leading the way. You are setting a standard that opens the door for so many others to follow in your path.
So I dare you. Discontinue the issue. Put it to bed and never awaken it again. Then see what happens to your bottom line and your subscription rate. You think that sex sells, but it also repels. Make a statement that sports and sex don’t have to go together for the American man to consume it. Lead the way in teaching our children that men, and women, are valuable for who they are and not for how they look in a bathing suit. Put our attention on their skills and their athletic domination, and you will succeed.
I dare you.
Until then, count me among the 72% percent who believe in my heart that what you are selling is not harmless fun, but a sinister seduction not worth the price on the cover. I, and millions like me, will not subscribe to you or to your brand because we believe there is a better way. I encourage you to find it.