Target: Matt Bean, Managing Editor of Sports Illustrated
Goal: Apologize for using indigenous people as props for swimsuit photoshoots
Recently, the 2013 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue was released. The photoshoots were themed by the models appearing in places around the world. In these pictures, models pose in front of a backdrop of native people in traditional outfits and activities. These native people are reduced to props to support the models showing off conventionally attractive bodies and outfits. In doing this, Sports Illustrated has shown that they do not see people in other countries as modern or attractive as girls in bikinis.
In the photos online and in the magazine, the models are posed next to natives in various countries. The photos representing Africa show a white model in the desert with an African man in native garb in the background. The image plays on stereotypes of Africa and ignores the vast cultures and modern cities of the continent.
Another photo shows a model in China, relaxing on a raft that is rowed by a native Chinese man. The man is reduced to a prop and a servant to the white model, as she does not interact with him as he guides her on the river. While these photos were intended to show the world to Sports Illustrated readers, they only show a narrow view of the world and reduce native people to props and stereotypes.
The reaction to these photos has been one of outrage and shock. Many readers are confused and offended by the choice to ignore the vast cultures of the world and reduce native people to stereotypes. According to David Leonard, professor of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies at Washington State University, “People of color are imagined as exotic, as novel, as foreign, as uncivilized…as scenery to authenticate their third world adventures, people of color are imagined as servants… as existing for white western pleasure.” The concept behind the photoshoot was misguided and racist. People of color are not props to promote white models. Demand Sports Illustrated apologize for this photoshoot.
Dear Mr. Bean,
Recently, the 2013 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue was released, showing models in various countries across the world. In many of these images, native people are in the background. They are used as props to show an inaccurate view of the world. Cultures and modern areas are misrepresented by people of color in native costumes posed as a contrast to white models.
I ask you to apologize for the photos in this issue. People should not be used as props. The photos included in the magazine and online showed an inaccurate and stereotypical view of the world. Many cultures were ignored in favor of views of ‘primitive’ people. People of color do not exist as a contrast to white models, yet that is how they were used in these photos. The concept behind this issue was misguided and racist, and you must apologize for it.
[Your Name Here]