Sports Illustrated Facing Questions About Whether the Cover Goes Too Low

A little too much attention?

hannah-davis-swimsuitSports Illustrated is certainly getting the publicity it wanted from this year’s Swimsuit Edition cover. But some of the chatter has been going negative over just how low cover model Hannah Davis’ bikini bottom goes.

The image is generating a fair share of backlash on Twitter (Business Insider has a few examples). Yahoo’s Parenting page has called it “a bit of a nightmare.” An UsWeekly poll found that more than two-thirds of respondents (68 percent) think it resembles porn. Yikes.

And The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has asked retailers to pull the mag. In a statement, the group says:

This cover’s pornographic pose normalizes genital display, not just within the pages, but also on the front of the magazine. This will be at ground level display in most supermarkets, gas stations, bookstores, and airport kiosks for any 10-year-old child to see.

They’ve asked supporters to sign a petition to get SI off of shelves in stores like Walgreen’s and Kroger.

For her part, Davis appeared on the Today show on Monday, saying that she doesn’t get all the fuss. (It should be noted that Today put a ribbon over the bottoms, prompting Matt Lauer to ask Davis if the show was making too much of it.)

While we should expect that this particular issue will push the envelope, there’s a point at which you can tip over into some questionable territory. If the NCSE presses this further, or another group sets its sights on the magazine, there could be enough pressure on the retailers to pull it, or at least place it elsewhere on the shelves, which would be just as bad. If, for instance, it ends up closer to where the Playboys and Hustlers are normally displayed, it could impact the 1.5 million to two million in sales the issue normally gets. (An issue of SI normally sells 67,000 copies on the newsstand.)

Many, including those on the editorial staff, probably thought it wouldn’t be such a big deal because, technically you don’t see “anything.” But the suggestion in the image is strong enough to prompt others to question whether it goes from sexy to tawdry. As Nina Garcia would frequently say on Project Runway, you have to be careful about taste level.

swank vf coverDavis says the editors are always looking for something new to put on the covers. I’d be interested to see their take on an image that has an actual sports theme. One of my favorite fashion photos ever is this one with Hilary Swank running on the beach. It’s not as revealing, but she looks strong and it’s eye-catching as all get out. This pic is simply amazing. The 2008 cover is at right. Probably too tame to get any real attention, but the creative minds at SI could work their magic and come up with something spectacular.

Maybe they’ll shock us all next year by going in a completely different direction.

Side note: SI did win a bit of good press for the back cover of its swimsuit issue…



…but that’s a Snickers ad by New York agency BBDO.