TORONTO – Would you find this photo offensive if it was easily visible to your child at a grocery store? One Toronto mother says yes, and has complained to management at her local Loblaws.
“It was in full display at a child’s eye level in the women’s health and fitness section. There were Frozen books below and wedding books above,” said Pauline Stanley, who has a six-year-old daughter.
The magazine in question is Sports Illustrated’s latest swimsuit edition featuring model Hannah Davis on the cover “smiling suggestively while tugging down with both hands at her bikini bottom,” said Stanley.
The use of sex appeal is a purposeful play by the sports magazine; and it works.
“This is a really successful issue for Sports Illustrated. It’s now a billion-dollar issue for them, and along with this comes all the advertisers,” said Joanne McNeish, a marketing professor at Ryerson University who studies magazine messaging.
“The reason this magazine does so well is that maybe the guys are going to tear off the cover and put it in a dorm room and bedroom or on a bulletin board.”
But McNeish cautioned that using sex appeal could backfire for brands if done so gratuitously.
“I think they really need to be careful because, in fact, I think for most guys it’s a little bit about the tease. And this feels, I think, like they’ve gone a little bit over the line into soft pornography. So the concern could be that you lose a few of your more conservative advertisers.”
Typically this issue of Sports Illustrated is reserved for the second tier of their magazine section and not at the cash register.
But Stanley also takes issue with the content itself.
“I feel sports is gender inclusive, so if you’re putting an image of a sexualized female taking off her clothes, are you saying that’s the purpose of women in sports?”
Time Inc., the company which owns Sports Illustrated, defended its editorial choice and said that “after 50 years of ‘Swimsuit,’ what everyone knows is that one person’s risqué is another’s sexy.”
The first issue was published in 1964.