Because if Christie Brinkley can pull it off, so can anyone, right?

Photo description: This coloured photo depicts supermodel Christie Brinkley, age 63, blond and smiling, on a beach in a red bikini, with her right arm above her head holding a tree limb and her right leg bent at the knee. Turquoise water is in the background. It says Sports Illustrated. Photo credit: Emmanuel Hauguel, Sports Illustrated.

Photo description: This coloured photo depicts supermodel Christie Brinkley, age 63, blond and smiling, on a beach in a red bikini, with her right arm above her head holding a tree limb and her right leg bent at the knee. Turquoise water is in the background. It says Sports Illustrated. Photo credit: Emmanuel Hauguel, Sports Illustrated.

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?

 

About Tracy I

Writer, feminist, vegan, triathlete, sailor, philosopher, sometimes knitter.

24 thoughts on “Because if Christie Brinkley can pull it off, so can anyone, right?

  1. caitlinburke says:

    Ageism is an issue for models and actors, too, so sure she’s making a valuable statement in her industry. Our society seems to need to elevate extraordinary tokens first, so the fact that she’s atypical is par for the course. Genuine inclusion is a glacial process. (Heh, maybe global warming is good for something?)

    Like

    • Tracy I says:

      Thanks for that, Caitlin. I wonder whether it actually opens the door to genuine inclusion though. I agree about the glacial pace of change–maybe real inclusive representation isn’t to be in my lifetime.

      Like

    • Tracy I says:

      P.s. I do wonder whether representing older women as amazing in bikinis is a form of progress. On some levels I can see it (we can wear what we want thank you very much) but on others I feel like it’s not a positive expectation and it holds them to a very high standard when Christie Brinkley is the “groundbreaker” here (and was selected because she doesn’t “look 63” whatever that means of course).

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  2. natalieh says:

    I think the photo gets is to question our assumptions about being 63. Of course a supermodel is not representative of what 63 looks like but SHE IS 63AND NOT INVISIBLE. That’s a pretty rare thing. So if we live in a world where Sports Illustrated has a swimsuit issue then I want that world to also have Christie Brinkley in her bikini.
    I always loved her photos because in the 80s and now she looks like she is having a great time.

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  3. Jean says:

    I’m not very convinced a 63-yr. old white woman in a red hot bikini fosters much inclusion. It can knock down the barrier of ageism ..abit. But reality is that the photo was probably touched up, she is in a stretching position to mask some changes in her weight.

    I’m glad she reveals her age but the photo didn’t do much for me….because she comes from an era where there were less non-white top paid models. It’s a Eurocentric beauty….again. If you are non-white and older to have seen the “beauty” trends, it gets tiring to….see blonde models over and over and over.

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  4. Sam B says:

    Personally I feel like that woman is haunting me. First on locker doors and boys bedroom walls in high school and now she’s back, unattainbly beautiful as ever. In high school the likes of her as the beauty ideal were part of why I wouldn’t wear bikinis. The good part is that though she’s back, I’ve changed. I’ll be wearing my bikini on the beach this summer even though I’ll never look like that.

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  5. Sam B says:

    And of course somewhat ironically though also I suspect commonly the case, high school was the one time in my life I looked anything remotely like that.

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  6. Jan F says:

    not particularly useful. Just like any magazine photos. how photoshopped is that? Is it remotely real? Even if it is, the vast majority don’t look like her and never have, it’s just another thing held up to the average girl/woman to say this is what you CAN look like (if you just work hard enough, deprive yourself enough etc.).

    not a fan

    Like

  7. ainsobriety says:

    I love sports, but I wouldn’t buy a bikini magazine or a similar magazine with men posing in speedos. I just don’t see the benefit to me…

    Like

  8. Vicki Newman says:

    I agree, why is the swimsuit issue still a thing? I was disgusted when I read that some famous athletes were posing for it. I think it undermines the achievements of those athletes, by reducing them to objectification. Like the Playboy Club, this thing needs to be a relic of our past…oh…wait…the Playboy Club is making a comeback. Ugh!

    https://www.msn.com/en-us/entertainment/entertainmentnews/playboy-club-and-its-bunnies-are-making-a-comeback-in-nyc/ar-AAmGCwi

    You can decide for yourself if it’s objectification: http://www.si.com/swim-daily/photo/2017/01/10/athletes-si-swimsuit-issue#5

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  9. honeyandoil says:

    On the surface, the photo might seem to question our assumptions about being 63. But are we really fooled? Sure she looks good, but 1) she’s always been exceptionally photogenic, 2) no human ever stops aging, and 3) whatever aging she is certain to have done in five decades of modeling has been photoshopped or dealt with by cosmetic surgery. We would be naive to assume otherwise. So, is this appearance on the SI cover a triumph for women over 60? Is it a triumph for women of any age? I’m a woman, and all it proves to me is how little things have really changed. The female form and the ephemeral hope and myth of timeless beauty and youth is still what sells magazines. Ka-Ching, Ka-Ching.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Jean says:

    https://noirlinians.wordpress.com/

    These aren’t necessarily sports oriented. But celebration of fashion, body, culture, etc.

    Like

  11. Well, I don’t think 63yr old women will be held to a new standard nor should they be. She looks fabulous but, she also has a lot of money to spend on looking that way not to say her discipline doesn’t contribute. However, I do like that a 63 yr old women was selected to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swin Suit. They are making a statement that regardless of age, they will feature a senior.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. morningfrost says:

    She looks wonderful and all power to her but I absolutely agree with this article. However her heart was in the right place I suppose so that’s good.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. i feel people should be allowed to look-as-they-are…there are so many ways to be 63, because each and everyone is unique, and “a person’s body is their biography”.
    i would like to see people of all ages share photographs of themselves in whatever clothing or non-clothing they wish, portraying what it means to be them.

    if it is being 63, and feeling beautiful and sunkissed in a bikini, then great. if it encourages women in their 60s and older to feel comfortable and celebratory about their bodies-as-they-are, then great!
    hopefully this will not be the start of the media & corporations putting pressure and arbitrary standards on older women, in the same way teenage and young women are subjected to.

    but i don’t think so.
    everywhere, women are reclaiming their uniqueness.
    they are sharing themselves in their nakedness in sickness & health, in celebration & sadness, through pregnancy & motherhood and every shade of emotion & fantasy that they inhabit.
    they are slowly but surely breaking down this imposed notion that there is such a thing as one definition of beauty.
    they are redefining, for themselves, and through themselves, what being a woman means, to them.

    so when i see this photograph, i feel hopeful.
    i see a gorgeous woman. with her daughters. she’s 63. and this is where she’s at in her life.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Not sure what they were hoping to accomplish by having her on the cover (or in the issue at all). I too find that issue of SI to be altogether baffling. It serves no one any good, but that is beside the point.

    I guess what having her on the cover of the issue says is this “some people have a crazy insane genetic composition as well as work ethic and know-how.” I have zero doubt she works hard on her diet and exercise regiment to have her body and health, but she also has to admit she hit the genetic lotery.

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  15. Reblogged this on Journal Edge and commented:
    Article Source: fitisafeministissue.com

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  16. mxbkind says:

    I get the point the most people can’t live up to Christie’s example, but it gives women something to live up to.

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  17. Jean says:

    We’re losing abit of perspective…this is on the cover of the Sports Illustrated…which is read heavily by men. Why else would they put her as a model, on the front cover? Why even bother a bikini? Have her jogging instead would be even more relevant for “sports” and fitness.

    By the way, I enjoy fashion and clothing industry for work by gifted designers and the artistry. That’s where she belongs…modeling, fashion.

    I actually feel sorry for women like Christie, if her ;physical beauty she must keep on top often enough.

    If I may: I did have a close female friend for 20 years…university educated, with a Masters degree. She was also a beauty pageant contestant and winner for a city in southern Ontario. She never mentioned this honour to her Masters level colleagues. It embarrassed her. The modelling world has its own unpleasant game for real..I heard stories from her.

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  18. I think honestly all it truly proves is that women can and will continue to be objectified at any age. You are correct there is nothing at all that “empowering”about knowing that a “former supermodel” still looks great in a bikini. Her genetic makeup and her good looks were her “claim to fame”and the fact that she has “maintained”them in the end just feed into the attitude that the appearance of “youth and beauty”are what continue to define a “woman’s worth”.

    On Feb 9, 2017 2:55 AM, “Fit Is a Feminist Issue” wrote:

    > Tracy I posted: ” 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 ” >

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Site Title says:

    […] via Because if Christie Brinkley can pull it off, so can anyone, right? — Fit Is a Feminist Issue […]

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  20. tjgiven says:

    When I saw this on TV, I couldn’t help but to think that a 63-year-old mother ought to have weightier values to pass on to her daughters than posing in bikinis for a famous magazine.

    Like

    • Tracy I says:

      That is such a great point. When you ask people what they wish for their daughters, how many would say “I wish them to be objectified as nothing more than objects of straight male desire?”

      Like

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