April 30, 2019
So here then is this now.
For the first time, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue has featured a model in full burkini and hijab.
Halima Aden, a Somali immigrant who came to the U.S. when she was seven and who was born in in the African nation of Kenya, was photographed at her birth nation’s Watamu Beach by photographer Yu Tsai.
“I keep thinking [back] to six-year-old me who, in this same country, was in a refugee camp,” Halima said. “So to grow up to live the American dream [and] to come back to Kenya and shoot for SI in the most beautiful parts of Kenya–I don’t think that’s a story that anybody could make up.
“Sports Illustrated is proving that a girl that’s wearing a bikini could be right alongside a girl that’s wearing a burkini. And as women we can come alongside each other and be each other’s biggest cheerleaders,” the model told ABC News.
Halima made news when she became the first contestant to wear a hijab on the Miss Minnesota pageant. She became a semi-finalist and earned a contract with the IMG Modeling agency.
This is regressive and disgusting on a number of different levels beyond simply that of shoving Somalians and Islam into the American cultural experience.
Firstly, although there is always going to be some element of titillation involved, imagery of naked or scantily clad is not necessarily pornographic. Throughout history, art has portrayed the ideal human form in the nude.
Most modern nude imagery can probably be classified as pornography, and a part of that may simply be the reality of photography.
The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue has been around since 1964. You could debate whether or not it is pornographic; it is certainly designed to titillate, but it also puts on display the ideal human form in the same manner as classical art.
Recently however, this magazine has attempted to cause titillation using grotesque forms.
In 2016, they put the beastly whale Ashley Graham on the cover, and photoshopped out all of her cellulite, sexualizing obesity.
This is the blatant promotion of the ugly as beautiful.
It is titillation without beauty.
It is the sexual fetishization of the grotesque.
This is the epitome of what the Nazis were referring to when they spoke of “degeneracy.”
What they have done with this burka Moslem is something even more bizarre, and more difficult to classify.
The pictures are photoshopped, she is wearing makeup, and she is posed in a sexualized manner.
So these images are designed to titillate, using a form of garb that was specifically and purposefully designed to prevent titillation. The burka removes the image of the human form, and yet the imagery is sexual. This is an attempt to sexually fetishize that which was intentionally designed to be nonsexual.
From a philosophical standpoint, this may be an even more aggressive inversion of the natural order than the sexualization of obesity. But I will leave that determination to the philosophers of the future.