In Which Our Ladies Deconstruct The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit EditionS

Time once again for Waxing Off, the feature that was the first on the internet to mix mime and food. This week: The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.

Aileen Gallagher:

For my tenth birthday, my parents told me I'd find my present under their bed. I ran upstairs frantically and found nothing but dust mites and a magazine. "Hey, there's nothing here but the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue!" I complained breathlessly. "Really," my mother said, stretching the word a few extra syllables so she could smirk at my dad longer. I was quickly distracted by the sight of my new, blue 10-speed bike, a significant upgrade from my hand-me-down, three-speed, banana-seat model. Every time I see the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, I think of my father. In the most loving and non-creepy way possible.

— Aileen Gallagher is an online editor at <a href="http://nymag.comNew York Magazine.

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Trouble:

Long Live the SI Swimsuit Issue! For all intents and purposes, the SI Swimsuit Issue is art, or perhaps the Super Bowl for Supermodels. The world's most gorgeous models are featured, and the best fashion photographers in the business do their thing. A team of editors and stylists at the top of their game choose the players, the setting and theme. The result is a breathtaking essay of women, exotic locales, and (to a miniscule degree) the latest in high-end swimwear design.

By all accounts these models are extremely well paid, and landing the cover can make a model's career, conveying them with lasting icon status — hardly an exploitative situation for professional models.

Saying the Swimsuit Issue demeans women is ridiculous. Really? How about EVERY SINGLE women's fashion magazine, month after month with the aggressive PhotoShopping and endless judging and shaming (You are fat/poor/can't get or keep a man/You suck)? And commercial models, the ones who don't make Victoria's Secret, much less Sports Illustrated, are anorexic, meth-face hot messes. That's exploitative and demeaning. For beauty role models, I'll take a healthy Heidi Klum or naturally gorgeous Bar Rafaeli over those wan stick insects any day, thank you.

Of course Sports Illustrated's annual naked-girl show is designed to sell magazine subscriptions to goofy, horny men. Good for them! At least it presents the highest quality of all the soft-core offerings. Take Playboy: hello, silicon and fake tan, airbrushed, bleach blonde travesty! Let's celebrate natural, healthy, sexy beauty – not the manufactured titillation trying to pass itself off as ideal.

Don't hate on the Swimsuit Issue, people. It is a national treasure!

— Trouble is petite, pale, and wears a modest one-piece swimsuit so people don't confuse her with a supermodel. She's held a subscription to Sports Illustrated since the ‘80s and has all the special offer hats, stadium chairs, and t-shirts to prove it.

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CRyan:

The term "swimsuit" is used liberally as many of these suits look like they consist of less fabric than a challenge flag. Some of the women actually just have bathing suits painted on them; I'm assuming that's related to this current economy. God bless them for still forging ahead. Israeli model Bar Refaeli won the coveted cover shot beating out model Brooklyn Decker (who sounds more like a deli sandwich). I'll concede that the theme is a bit outdated. It made sense when it was one of the few mainstream ways to appreciate women in swimwear. However, nowadays everybody's naked.

Some women feel like this issue continues to be a step back for women in the sports world. I assure you this won't be the case until the issue is titled "The Women of ESPN" or the "College Basketball's Big Girls" Swimsuit Edition. Surprisingly (as a woman with conservative leanings), I have little to no issue with the magazine. Many of these women are professional models or tennis players/NBA dancers. The models and dancers use their bodies to attract attention as a living and no one cares about tennis. Apparently some women missed Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings' lesser known hit "Mamas Don't Let Your Daughters Grow Up to Be Mavericks Dancers."

I'm more excited for the calendar. My younger brother usually receives it for his birthday as an awkward, "assure he's still straight with 3 sisters" gift. Personally, I'm holding out for MLB's "Seasons of Steroids" calendar. Nothing says sexy like December A-Rod and his Christmas track marks.

— CRyan is a junior at Villanova University who spends her time rooting for the Wildcats, worshipping the Yankees and shirking all responsibility in favor of playing outside. Read her during the week at 3:10 to Joba.

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Sonya:

I don't wanna be bunched up about the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. In my mind I figure, "Could be worse. Whatever." But in my brain, I'm thinking, "Why must sports go hand-in-hand (one-eyed, trouser snake in-hand) with objectification?" It brings out the bitch in me — the implication that if you're female and in the vicinity of a sports event, you oughta be scantily-clad and screeching, "Push 'em back push 'em back, waaaay back!"

We all ogle. It's animal. It's human. It's being a human animal. The Beijing Olympics was one big oglefest for boys and girls alike. Which brings me back to the SI swimsuit issue and an idea I ripped from right under them: why not load it with hot female athletes rather than hot twiggies? I'm saying the whole thing. Athletes. Have 'em wear skimpy, skin-tight whatever (leave a teensy bit to fantasy).

Did I just promote objectification in female athletics?! Tricky. There's a difference. Sexy female athletes (guys too) are recognized for their ease on the eye and their athletic prowess. You respect her 'cause you know she'd kick your ass if you challenged her to whatever her sport is, despite you being bigger and all. And SI has the word "Sports" in it last time I checked. It's not T&A Illustrated. Honor the name and the athlete for the swimsuit issue. I'll even get you started: Kerri Walsh. See? I sense you're already excited.

— Sonya Ewan prefers to interview athletes wearing skimpy, skin-tight whatever. Ogle at a few on her website: www.sportsSlant.com.

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Cari:

I've never understood the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. I know, I know – hot women in skimpy swimsuits – what's not to get? I mean, I know why guys like looking at it, but why on earth does a sports magazine put it out? I am an unrepentant old-school feminist, and yes, I think the issue is sexist.

Then I became a journalist. And now I realize that in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue lies our salvation. Because it is those skimpy swimsuits on those sexy models that allows Selena Roberts to stalk A-Rod at the gym. In these tough times, as publications are folding left and right, I humbly suggest to you that the future of journalism rides on the (bare) backs of swimsuit issues.

Can't you see it now? I imagine The New York Times T Magazine Swimsuit Issue would fly right off the shelves – and cause people to open T Magazine for once! The special Washington Post Book World Swimsuit Issue, featuring attractive authors in teensy bikinis, would provide a way to keep those book reviews coming. Of course, The New Yorker Swimsuit Issue (marking the transition of every single issue of The New Yorker to a themed one) would include essays next to all the Annie Leibowitz cheesecake photos, so you could still feel intellectually superior when reading it on the subway.

Of course, if the women I know are any example, most of them wouldn't buy these issues. (Out of about 40 people I asked, only three expressed a great interest in the SI Swimsuit Issue.) So publishers would risk alienating their female readership. But that additional revenue stream would be worth a few canceled subscriptions and some angry e-mails. Plus, those scantily clad women would be providing the salaries for the whole companies, and if that's not female empowerment, I don't know what is.

— Cari is a journalist in the South. She blogs about her misadventures in life, love and sports fandom at UnwelcomeReturn. She prefers one-piece, retro-style swimsuits, in case you were wondering.