Boy Writes Complaint Letter To Sports Illustrated, Tells Them To Respect Women

Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition has been a controversial topic in many discussions about female empowerment. Does it objectify women? Should we like them for FINALLY putting a plus size woman (model Robyn Lawley who is not plus size in real life FYI, just in the fashion industry) in their annual edition?

Oh but there was that time they featured a fully clothed actual female athlete on its cover, Olympic skiier Mikaela Shiffrin, and of course little league baseball star Mo’Ne Davis who is breaking barriers and taking names. Coz for a sports magazine, it should be normal to feature athletes, regardless of gender, right?


Unfortunately featuring badass female athletes is not the norm. What we most associate with SI and featured women is in fact the Swimsuit Edition and it’s usually covers like this:


…and this:


Well it turns out it’s not just women who are fed up with the excessively-photoshopped images portraying an unrealistic standard of beauty (see ALL images above except Mo’Ne Davis). One 11 year-old boy decided to write an open letter to the magazine sharing his concerns about the way the publication objectifies women.

His name is Matthew, and he was at the mall with his dad and spotted the Swimsuit Edition on a magazine stand. Faith-based blogsite Nitty Gritty Love posted the letter, which was written by the young boy’s parents, but all his words are his own. The letter has been shared on social media over 100,000 times, proving what an anomaly it is for a male, no less, to complain about the sexist images he sees.

Here is the letter:

I was shocked. I didn’t want to even see it, but it was right in front of me. There on the cover, was a lady in a two piece swimsuit. She was pulling down the bottom of her swimsuit and was almost showing her private parts. (And I do believe they should be private parts.)

I think this is harmful for children to see. My parents are careful about these types of things at home because they want to protect us.  I wasn’t prepared to see this and felt like it was forced in my face. I know America stands for freedom and this is why you were allowed to put that lady on your cover, but why are you allowed to take away my freedom by forcing me to look at it?

I have been taught to respect women. I even wrote a speech for school that encourages boys of my generation to be gentlemen. How are we supposed to treat women with respect when we grow up seeing them  degraded? When boys see women acting this way on TV, magazines, and movies, it makes us think it is normal to view them as just images. I hope there are other people who will also tell you that women are not just entertainment or a way to make you a lot of money. At least they shouldn’t be.

I am mad but I am also confused. Isn’t your magazine about sports? It seems to me you are just seeing how much you can get away with, like a rebellious teenage kid. I play soccer and love sports. How is being half naked a sport? My dad once called you because he wanted to order your magazine but didn’t want the swimsuit issue. He didn’t want us kids having to see it if we checked the mail. You told him that just wasn’t allowed, so he didn’t order it at all. I’m glad my dad stood up to you. Maybe other Dads don’t want this in their home either.

Kids shouldn’t have to ask adults to protect them. Adults should already know how to do this. You either don’t know this, or you don’t care. I may just be a kid, but I know I speak for many voices. I would like an apology from you. If you can’t do that, could you at least think of children in the future, before you print your magazine covers? We are more important than making money.

I went to the mall that day hoping to have a fun time with my Dad. I didn’t expect to have to deal with that. I bet other people feel the same way as I do. Maybe they just don’t think they can do anything about it. Or maybe they are just getting used to it. But I don’t think kids are used to this. They just want to be kids.

Maybe you are trying to keep up with our culture, and so you feel you have to create these images. But it’s an important life lesson to learn to stand up for what is right, even when nobody else does. Just because America wants these kinds of pictures, doesn’t mean you have to deliver them. You can respect women and sell magazines at the same time. And I would gladly grow up and buy Sports Illustrated, if it was really about sports.

While there are many discussions about female sexuality that seem to cross the line into body-shaming, rather than purely objecting to sexism, the thoughts laid out in this letter are quite well said. In our opinion, Matthew said some important things.

We read a lot of articles in the media and hear many people talk about teaching men and boys not to rape and teaching them to respect women as equals. In our eyes, this 11 year-old wants to do that wholeheartedly and believes a magazine like Sports Illustrated is not helping the case of his generation of young men.

These are the kind of thoughts we need to hear more of from men, as well as women. It is up to parents to set examples for their children about respect, equality and speaking up for injustice.

Dear Matthew we hope you grow up to be a thought-leader for your peers and teach other boys that women deserve to be respected and treated as fully autonomous human beings, minus the objectification.


4 thoughts on “Boy Writes Complaint Letter To Sports Illustrated, Tells Them To Respect Women

  1. I think it’s important to note that a woman’s body is not bad or shameful or deserving of being covered up. However, the objectification of the woman’s body by the media as a commodity for male consumption IS bad and shameful and wrong. Men use women’s bodies to sell just about everything and the message is that all a woman is good for is her body; she is eye-candy for men and that is where her worth starts and stops. However, when women embrace their body for themselves that is a powerful thing. What is the solution? There is no easy answer. But having conversations with our children and teens explaining how harmful these images are in the context in which they’re presented- sales tools that dehumanize women for the purpose of male enjoyment- is key.

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