Here’s a stunner: “Supermodel Christie Brinkley has appeared in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue with her daughters.” It’s a stunner because she’s 63. Apparently, Brinkley, who is a swimsuit issue veteran (appearing on the cover for three years in a row: 1979, 1980, 1981), thought her swimsuit days were over when she turned 30.
But to do it with her daughters was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up, so she thought, “One last go!” It’s reported that she did the shoot to make a statement about ageism.
She said, “Women feel very limited by their numbers. On a personal level, I thought, if I can pull this off, I think it will help redefine those numbers and remove some of the fear of ageing.”
Now I get it. There are all sorts of prohibitions about what women are not supposed to wear after they reach “a certain age.” Brinkley is right that we live in an ageist society. She’s right that when men pick up the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue (which I am quite frankly surprised is still a thing, but not completely shocked–it just fell off my radar because of all the other stuff out there these days) they expect to see young lithe women in bikinis (not 63 year old lithe women in bikinis).
But somehow having a former supermodel “pull off” a red bikini just may not achieve all that much. I mean, we can all marvel at how awesome she looks “at her age” or even “for her age.” Because there’s no denying it. But what does that do for the average non-former supermodel 63 year old in terms of encouraging them to don a red bikini?
I’m going to say: not much. There is something disingenuous about holding up as role models extraordinary people whose accomplishments (or in this case genetics, social privilege, and lifestyle opportunities) put them in a different category altogether.
I get that even supermodels have insecurities about their bodies. They’ve been scrutinized all their lives and for most their identity must be tied up in their looks. Aging must be a tricky deal for them. But 63 year-old Christie Brinkley in a swimsuit, while admirable, isn’t inspiring because what she represents relative to most other 63 year-old women is as unattainable as what the 20-something Christie Brinkley represented to other 20-something women back in the day.
More than that even, is there not an age where we can stop thinking about whether men think we look hot in a bikini? It may be that the Christie Brinkley photo shoot, rather than addressing ageism, just raises the bar for older women (like: why don’t you look like Christie Brinkley in a bikini?).
What do you think? Is Christie Brinkley in the swimsuit issue at age 63 making a valuable comment on ageism? Is this sort of representation doing older women a disservice by continuing to hold them to standard whereby they must still be objects of male desire?