In honor of Kate Upton’s third straight Sports Illustrated cover, I am posting this essay I wrote last year when I still had to walk my kids to school. The commute was less than a mile but I was always in an extremely bad mood within the first two blocks. Now that they ride a school bus, I think I am a better person. Or at least somewhat less likely to be enraged over a lady bragging about her abs.
On our daily commute to preschool we walk by a photographer’s studio. I always take note of the photos in the window. Usually they are of standard upper east side kind of stuff. Darling children, impeccably dressed, smiling in front of a white back drop. A family wearing wearing white Ralph Lauren button down oxford shirts at the beach. A big brother hugging his little sister, looking roguishly tousled and already laying the groundwork for his career in finance.
These portraits have always irritated me. (I will admit I envied the people depicted in the pictures. No doubt for their high self esteem and their lack of self consciousness as much as for their ability to spend ten thousand dollars on portraits.)
But this his week’s window dressing set a new standard for capturing all that is annoying about the effortlessly rich and caucasian. It is a photo in black and white of a very attractive, very pregnant woman with her enormous belly exposed. She is literally hugging herself, the belly that is too big to be concealed by her white button down oxford shirt, which is gaping open. She has a certain glow about her, an expression of glee really. Ostensibly, this unbridled joy must be about the pregnancy, right? But taking a closer look at the lady’s gaping, obviously non-maternity wardrobe, the viewer discovers that the real purpose of this photo is to commemorate the fact that this lady, at nine months pregnant, was still able to get her size 0 jeans up over her butt.
We see that fly of the size 0 jeans is splayed open in a wide “V”, an angle vertical to that made by her splayed open shirt. The “V” of the shirt complements the “V” of the jeans to suggest an enormous diamond shape. I don’t think I am over-attributing artistic intention when I say that this “diamond” that frames the lady’s fetus, also invites us to check out the rock on her hand if only to admire her remarkably un-bloated finger. On a more directly visceral level, the splayed open jeans combined with the belly, make it impossible to forget that the lady has a vagina. And she is not afraid to use it.
After this careful analysis, it is clear that the source of the glee has more to do with her ability to stay on the Zone diet while pregnant than the pregnancy itself–which we learn from adjacent photographs in the same window actually yielded two newborns rather than one.
Twins! Twins! Pregnant, smiling, gleeful rich lady could fit into her jeans while she was nine months pregnant with twins! I was surprised that there were no companion photos of her with her offspring at the beach, modeling her post baby body. Maybe she didn’t snap back as quickly as she had expected. Or maybe, in her mind, the portrait was not a graphic, and arguably lewd, celebration of her own physique (vagina included).
This is what galls me, though. It is not so much that this lady is flaunting her physique in the guise of celebrating the miracle of life, but that she is probably one of these people who are horrified by the “objectification” of women’s bodies. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if she just got finished bitching to her girlfriends about how the cover of this years Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. “Heavens, it is in such poor taste.!”
Which brings me to my second portrait for review: the cover of the SI swimsuit edition. I am intimately familiar with this photo, too, as we walk by it everyday on the way to preschool. It is on display at a local newsstand (and stays on display until the next year’s edition comes out). Like its allegedly more tasteful counterpart, the swim suit photo also depicts a gorgeous woman and her abdomen. She is blonde, bronzed, and looks like she is about to take a bite out of whoever is looking at her. Her bathing suit, is a string bikini that would be described better as a bikini string. It is so teeny-tiny that the model would probably seem less naked if she were actually wearing nothing. So, I will agree this photo is a little lewd. And definitely depicting the woman as an object. A fit, hot, and probably very well paid object.
But how is this picture, a frank portrayal of sexuality, more “in poor taste” than the photo of Mrs. Pregnant pants who paid a tidy sum to brag about her prodigious girl parts?
Because, as usual, hypocrisy is very chic! Especially when you have the money to prove how tasteful you are.