Empowerment or exploitation: Olympian Aly Raisman poses nude for SI swimsuit edition

This month’s highly anticipated annual swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated features Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman posing nude. The word “Fierce” and a sentence “Women Do Not Have To Be Modest To Be Respected” cover her side facing the camera. It’s all about empowerment. Or something.  The 23-year-old athlete participated in the “In Her Words” feature of this year’s edition – a response to the #MeToo movement. Women were encouraged to write their own messages on their bodies.

She previewed her photograph on Instagram.




Maybe it’s the mom in me that brought about my initial response to her photo. I have a son not much older than her and I admit my reaction is through a mom’s lens but to me, Aly showed such courage and strength with her testimony during Nassar’s trial that she already proved she is an empowered young woman. The nude statement seems to be too much. I can understand that she wants to send a strong message that a woman’s clothes, or lack thereof, do not make it ok for her to be abused. She’s right. A victim of sexual abuse or rape must never be victimized. All women have the right to live abuse-free.

For some background, last November a bit of a tiff erupted on Twitter between 2017 Summer Olympic gold medalists Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman involving clothes and sexual attacks. After Raisman went public with her story about abuse at the hands of Dr. Larry Nassar, she asked for help in the fight to support victims. Raisman’s point was that no matter how a woman is dressed, sexual assault is never ok. Douglas tweeted about dressing modestly so as not to “entice the wrong crowd.” She said women should be classy, with the implication that a woman may bring the abuse on herself. It was an odd criticism made about a sister gold medalist so another member of the team jumped in to offer her support to Aly. Simone Biles tweeted about her shock and disappointment of Douglas and took a screenshot to capture the moment. Douglas deleted the tweet and apologized after getting blowback for it and went on to say she, too, was a victim.

Raisman is a beautiful young woman and the photo is not porn-like, it just strikes me as exploiting the situation. Was the “In Her Words” feature the best compromise from Sports Illustrated in an issue touted for provocative photos of scantily clad women? It’s a sports magazine, after all.

Aly’s Twitter account shows a more traditional pose.