The good and bad thing about writing a weekly newspaper column is that people are always suggesting story ideas. These suggestions are usually termed like this, “Hey, I’ve got something new for you to complain about…”
OK, I get it. I complain — a lot. I’d like to think I’m complaining for the greater good of mankind, but my thought process on that hypothesis could be a tad misguided.
Recently, I’ve had a lot of mothers (and by that I mean more than three) ask me to write/grouse about the skimpy Sports Illustrated magazine swimsuit edition cover. For those of you without the benefit of sight, the magazine features a woman wearing a bikini bottom that would be snug on an American Girl doll and provides minimal coverage of only the most basic parts of the female anatomy.
Here’s my problem with the photo. I don’t have one. Yep, I have zero issues with it. The model is an adult and I’m fairly certain she didn’t have regrets posing semi-nude or was in anyway surprised that a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue would involve stripping down to almost your birthday suit.
In fact, I think the magazine cover is actually a dual ode to the art form known as Photoshopping and the waxing industry. Can you imagine a cover like that before having bald nether regions were in vogue? Just no on that visual. Right?
What I want to say to women who were offended by the cover is that if they really want to be horrified they need to check out the Instagram accounts of 14-year-old girls on spring break. There you can behold picture after picture of girls in their bikinis who have taken what I would classify as burgeoning soft-core pornography shots. Closeups of their breasts in their swimsuit tops and butt photos all abound on social media. One girl even attempted to get artist-y and have a cheek shot on the beach with the sun setting behind her behind.
Tragically, that’s the not worst part. The comments and “likes” that the photos elicit are. This is where friends, classmates and, God forbid, strangers take to leaving remarks about the sexy photo a child has posted of themselves. It’s creepy and crass.
It also makes me very sad and scared. What has happened to this generation of entry-level young women that they feel the need, the desire, to objectify themselves on a very public stage and then eagerly wait for comments?
I know it’s nothing new to strut your stuff. But back in the day we did it at the local pool and our Sears Lemon Frog swimwear was no Victoria’s Secret cheekster bikini.
Sure, we can take the easy way out and blame the Kardashians. If you’re parenting a girl over the age of 11, the reality TV and social media-savvy family can be used as an excuse for almost any questionable behavior your daughter may be exhibiting. For example, wanting to wear a rainbow thong in the sixth grade — so Kardashian. Wanting to post a picture of yourself in a thong in the eighth grade — so Kim Kardashian.
Iffy role models aside, what’s really going on here? Are teenage girls so lacking in self-esteem that they feel the need to go full boob on Instagram just so someone can leave a comment that they are “hot”?
Now, please note I’m not picking on just girls. I know teenage boys way overshare and there’s a reason local middle schools have assemblies about why you “shouldn’t post nudes online.”
But, and this is what was keeping me at night, why aren’t the kids afraid of their parents bringing down a megaload of wrath if and when they discover these photos? To get this question answered I went straight to the source — 13- and 14-year-old girls.
Umm, there’s no easy way for me to break this to you, but a lot of the spring break pictures, most especially the ones featuring fannies, were taken by mothers!
The sun-setting rear-end shot I mentioned early that highlighted a 14-year-old’s back end spilling out of what I would graciously describe as less of a swimsuit bottom and more of a piece of Lycra supplying crack camo was photographed by a M-O-M!
This makes me want so many things to happen, like a national holiday celebrating the full-coverage panty. But mainly I want to urge parents to teach, preach, shout it from the rooftops, do a yard sign and maybe some kind of decal for the car (I mean seriously, who cares that you ran 22.2 miles? Wouldn’t a sticker that says my daughter is in training to run the universe be even better?) that our daughters have so much more to offer humankind than a selfie of their butt.