I did not have “Address 81 year-old on Sports Illustrated Cover,” on my Biblical Worldview Bingo card for 2023. But here we are.
I resisted even forming an opinion on this for two reasons. First, I don’t really care who is on the cover of a magazine. I used to subscribe to House Beautiful, before even it became political. And I occasionally buy the religious National Geographics in the check-out line so my students can see pictures, though I don’t let them read the articles without discussing them. Beyond that… I just don’t care. I don’t want to know about celebrity birthday parties or diet habits, or who wore what and to where. The “relationship” between the public and public figures is entirely dysfunctional anyhow.
Second, I am so exhausted from all forms of media constantly trying to shock, offend, and manipulate readers that I have grown numb to them all. Where’s a Reader’s Digest when you need one?
But Ol’ Martha “grows my own indigo plant for dye” Stewart on the cover of Sports Illustrated? That’s at least unexpected if not interesting.
I can’t for the life of me imagine why someone would want to be in a swimsuit on a magazine for all to see, I barely want to be in a swimsuit at the pool, for me to see. Although perhaps I would feel differently if I looked like Martha Stewart—who looks amazing by the way. I read somewhere that she has not had plastic surgery of any kind, does take very good care of her skin, does pilates regularly, and eats very well. It has paid off, Sister.
She looked lovely. I got no beef with Martha, wagu, grass-fed or otherwise. She is a grown woman, in charge of her faculties, and though I wouldn’t want to trade places… she seems to feel great about herself and be pleased with the cover.
Hardly worth a blog post. Until you start to consider why and what it means that Sports Illustrated wanted Martha, 81, on the cover.
Culture is well past giving the benefit of the doubt to and just assuming good intentions on their part. Culture has proven itself a poor steward of our trust and a colander when it comes to vessels that retain wisdom. It would be easy to think Sports Illustrated is just pro-woman, or pro-aging well until you realize that Kim Petras a transgender woman is also on the SI cover this season. There goes pro-woman right out with the tide.
Also, in the interest of objectivity—let’s not lose sight of the fact that SI’s Swimsuit issue is an issue devoted to half-naked women. A coveted “honor” for sure, but proof that not all coveted things are righteous things.
Sports Illustrated’s only goal is to sell magazines. Any way possible. Period. There’s nothing beautiful or noble about it. Young is hot until it’s not. Then old is hot. Fit, then fat. Then older, then able, then disabled… then what? Men. The very young? What line do we cross next? I don’t know and I don’t care to ponder it too long. I’m sure there are vast oceans of bad ideas yet to explore.
Here is the only interesting part to me. What does this mostly modest swimsuit cover reveal about our flesh? (See what I did there?) We are “celebrating” age and beauty by showcasing only beauty that looks as close to young as possible. Congratulations, wise and beautiful woman! You still look young.
Man, is that the pinnacle of pursuits for women? Stay youthful and beautiful? Do we only define “beautiful” as young? The little lady who has grayed, or has arthritic hands, or is hunched a bit from life (and probably didn’t have a personal yoga or fitness guru tending to their form), isn’t she still beautiful? What about the woman who has visibly weathered life’s storms and still has a gleam in her eyes and a smile on her face? What about the round or jolly woman who was faithful her whole life to a husband, seeing her children grow in Christ, loving her neighbors, and loving her Lord… isn’t she still beautiful? We say yes, though if you look at the women we elevate or the things we value with feet and dollars… I’d say no.
What value do we place on aging? Is it only done well if you remain close to 30 in pursuits, passions, and appearance? Can we not value the experience, wisdom, clarity, and courage found in our saints unless it comes with surprisingly toned legs?
If I make it to 81 and the highest praise someone can give me has to do with looks or professional success, I have failed. Martha is lovely, smart, talented, successful…I have heard no one ever boast of her goodness, Godliness, or grace. I know this will sound very old-fashioned but do remember, God alone defines what is beautiful (and what is love), and He doesn’t have pouty lips or shapely hips anywhere on His list.
This is not to heap judgment upon her, simply to say—“Consider your standards.” What is the vision you have of yourself in your twilight years? What do you hope they say about you? How do you want to be remembered? Now, live accordingly.
If youthful is my goal, then sunscreen is my friend.
If leaving a legacy and lineage of people who know the Lord is my goal, then discipleship, mentoring, hosting, and helping are my friends. Incredibly worthy goals that will undoubtedly change the world. And likely never earn you the cover of a magazine.