About that Martha Stewart Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Cover...
Progressive inclusivity? Reinforcement of impossible beauty standards? None of our business? A chat with Valerie Monroe, Laurie Stone, Carolita Johnson, and Jessica Defino, moderated by Sari Botton.
Remember last week’s link round-up, in which I noted I’d like to arrange a podcast discussion about 81-year-old Martha Stewart’s appearance on one of four Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue covers, and what it means? Well, I assembled a group of smart women whose newsletters and social media posts about it I found compelling (in which they expressed a range of opinions) and we talked earlier this week over Zoom.
What do I mean by “what does it mean”? Like, is Stewart’s cover the example of progressive inclusivity Sports Illustrated is presenting it as? Or is it yet another instance of impossible beauty standards being imposed on us? Then again, is it none of our business what anyone of any age or gender chooses for themselves, beauty-wise, style-wise or otherwise? (I keep thinking of that meme people were posting on Facebook years ago, something like “What Should a Woman Over 40 Wear?” and the answers were all: “Whatever the fuck she wants.”)
We had an interesting conversation, with a mix of agreement and disagreement. It got a little heated at times! At the bottom of this post, for paid subscribers, is the resulting podcast—or “video cast”?.
Joining me in conversation were:
, writer and former magazine editor who was for nearly 16 years the beauty director at O, The Oprah Magazine. She writes the newsletter . Valerie published the post “Magic Martha” about this cover.
, the author of six books, most recently Streaming Now, Postcards from the Thing that is Happening. She writes the newsletter and a monthly column in Oldster called "Notes on Another New Life." She frequently contributes to the Paris Review and Evergreen Review. Laurie published a Facebook post on the topic of the cover.
, a multi-racial freelance writer and illustrator, and a cartoonist at The New Yorker. (You can support her work via her Patreon: "Carolitaland") In response to the cover, Carolita posted to Instagram this old New Yorker cartoon of hers, with some commentary:
, a beauty culture critic whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and more. She was named “the woman the beauty industry fears the most” by the Sunday Herald and writes the weekly newsletter . Jessica published the post, “Martha Stewart's Sports Illustrated Cover Means Next To Nothing” in response to the cover.
There was some clashing of opinions, and we didn’t come to any definitive conclusions. But it was interesting to talk about, and I hope you’ll enjoy watching or listening.
I’m interested in your thoughts, too. I know this is a controversial topic. If you choose to leave a comment and engage in the debate about this here, I ask that you be respectful and considerate of one another.