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Sports Illustrated tries to rehab the swimsuit issue with advertisers who ‘make progress for women’

January 21, 2022, 1:39 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Maura Healey enters the Massachusetts governor’s race, Rent the Runway has new tech, and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue gets a rehab attempt—again. Have a great weekend.

– Swim season. Do you have your calendar marked for May 2022? That’s when the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition comes out—and the magazine is trying yet again to reinvent itself to feel relevant and not wildly out of touch with today’s world.

In 2022’s swimsuit issue, Sports Illustrated will only accept advertising dollars from “brands that are helping drive gender equality forward.”

What does that mean exactly? The announcement is heavy on buzzwords, but light on details. A brand will be certified as a “changemaker,” permitted to advertise in the pages of SI Swim, only if it “has made, is making, and will make progress for women.” Swimsuit issue ads will be required to showcase that “progress … to build equity for all women.” And a percentage of swimsuit issue sales will go to the Sports Illustrated Gender Equity Fund, which “create[s] an equitable future for all women.”

For a few years now, SI Swim has come up with new ways to position itself as achieving “firsts” for women within its pages. There was model Halima Aden wearing a burkini and hijab in 2019. In 2020, we got three cover stars: Naomi Osaka (first Black female athlete on the cover), Megan Thee Stallion (first rapper), and Leyna Bloom (first trans cover star and first trans woman of color to be included in the magazine). Those are four inspiring women—but can SI really use their accomplishments to reinvent itself?

We don’t yet know who will appear in the pages of this year’s issue—or how they’ll fit into SI Swim‘s evolution “from its fun-and-sun roots into a brand focused on inclusion, empowerment and the constant redefinition of what’s beautiful.” Maybe my skepticism will be proven wrong, and the collection of change-making advertisers alongside this year’s editorial will move the needle for women’s equality.

But SI Swim made the announcement yesterday on the 58th anniversary of its first print issue. That’s almost 58 years of capitalizing on women’s bodies, profiting off a version of female sexuality centered on the male gaze, and promoting a limited—thin, white—vision of what is attractive and desirable. It will take more than a change in advertisers to undo that damage.

Emma Hinchliffe
emma.hinchliffe@fortune.com
@_emmahinchliffe

The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Emma Hinchliffe

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Trump card. Atlanta District Attorney Fani T. Willis is asking a judge to convene a special grand jury that would investigate former President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia. In more Trump news, the House's Jan. 6 committee is asking Ivanka Trump to speak with them. 

- Exchange rate. Lynn Martin just took over as president of the New York Stock Exchange, and she has three key beliefs that are guiding her in the role. In a new piece for Fortune, she elaborates on why technology, ESG, and the strength of American capital markets are at the forefront of her mission. Fortune

- Critical Mass. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey entered the state's gubernatorial race. The Democrat is the best-known candidate in the race so far to succeed Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who isn't running for reelection. Her primary competitors will include Harvard professor Danielle Allen and state senator Sonia Chang-Díaz. Boston Globe

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Disney expanded the role of streaming exec Rebecca Campbell to chairman, international content and operations as she leads a new global content hub. Serena Williams is joining the board of Sorare, a player-owned fantasy sport game leveraging NFTs. Stripe exec Claire Hughes Johnson is joining the board of self-driving company Aurora. Former Meta engineering exec Fernanda Weiden joins VTEX as CTO. SpotHero hired Amazon's Karen Bartuch as VP of brand marketing. Dessalen Wood is now chief people officer at Syntax. Variety promoted Dea Lawrence to chief operating and marketing officer. Wabbi hired Meghan Sutherland as COO. Ambys Medicines hired Corinne Foo-Atkins as chief strategy officer. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Rental tech. Rent the Runway's stock is down 70% since its October IPO, but the company led by CEO Jenn Hyman says technological upgrades to its clothing rental logistics will be critical to achieving profitability. Employees once manually sorted garments for laundry, but now scanners send each item to the right wash cycle with information on customer feedback. Bloomberg 

- Team spirit. The fate of the Washington Spirit is at the center of concerns about abuse in the National Women's Soccer League. Co-owner Y. Michele Kang has been trying to buy full ownership of the team from owners Steve Baldwin and Bill Lynch. Baldwin has resisted the bid and instead tried to sell to billionaire Todd Boehly, while the team's players back Yang. Washington Post

- Reading list. Need some books for your collection? The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's personal library is up for auction. Legal textbooks, novels, feminist texts, and Ginsburg's annotated copy of the 1957-58 Harvard Law Review are all part of the collection at auction house Bonhams. Guardian

ON MY RADAR

When losing a pregnancy leads to losing friends The Atlantic

Ivy Getty, Paris Hilton, and the return of the madcap heiress Town & Country

Barbados PM Mia Mottley who broke with Queen wins landslide second term Guardian

PARTING WORDS

"It seemed that the world stood still. I looked out and spoke to it. I haven’t looked back."

-Amanda Gorman, reflecting on reading her poem "The Hill We Climb" at President Joe Biden's inauguration a year ago—and why she almost didn't do it

This is the web version of The Broadsheet, a daily newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.