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Sports Illustrated's Conflicted Double Exposure: A-Rod's Artificial Supplements, Swimsuit Models' Artificial Implants

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The appearance of Bar Refaeli on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is not without controversy. Yes, it may be the magazine's most uncovered cover pose to date. True, too, that comments the Israeli model made to a magazine last fall cast her in an unpatriotic, cowardly, and shallow light.

Israel's Ynet reported the story in an article sensationally titled Dodging IDF paid off big time. First, it pointed out that to take advantage of an exemption from mandatory military service, Ms. Refaeli married an acquaintance who she later divorced. Worse, she said:

I really wanted to serve in the IDF, but I don't regret not enlisting, because it paid off big time. ... That's just the way it is, celebrities have other needs.

While she may not have served her country, at least did her part to confirm the dumb model stereotype. But, to be fair, like Americans who evaded the draft decades ago, Ms. Refaeli seems to have acted out of a combination of self-interest and opposition to war.

Why is it good to die for our country? ... Why should 18-year-old kids have to die?

It might be an issue in Israel, where its militarized society is indisposed to try to understand the motives of those who don't serve. In fact, if hindsight is 20/20, Ms. Refaeli comes off as prescient for avoiding possible complicity in the IDF's latest barbarity (Gaza, of course).

To Americans, meanwhile, who don't have to deal with the draft, it's less of an issue. Besides, you can make a case that the role of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit cover model is the print equivalent of a USO tour.

Then where's the controversy? One look at Ms. Refaeli's cover picture and you might come to the same conclusion as commenter Pat A at Huffington Post:

God didn't give her those breasts. God gave an engineer somewhere the ability to make a sac that holds a huge amount of silicone and then he helped some doctor learn how to put those babies on gullible women.

Because of her robust build, you could make a case that Ms. Refaeli's breasts are natural. But the similar size of the breasts of most of the other models in the issue -- laborious research reveals -- defies credulity. Especially if you watch the TV show Project Runway, which, in large part, is about the challenge of making clothing that flatters young women whose starved bodies seem to have cannibalized the fat in their breast.

Still, the breasts in this year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue don't seem as inflated as those of last year's cover model, Marisa Miller. Presumably, like the excesses of wealth, ostentatious bra cup sizes are now out of favor (except in pornography).

But silicone implants are not exactly breaking news. Why, you ask, make a big deal out of them now? In a February 9 Sports Illustrated story, Selena Roberts and David Epstein reported that baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez tested positive for anabolic steroids in 2003, the year he won both the home run title and MVP for the Texas Rangers.

See where I'm going with this? How can your biggest story of the year expose an athlete for using artificial supplements, while your biggest issue of the year features models who likely used artificial implants?

Looking at these women is the same as watching Major League Baseball players you suspect of doing steroids. They've all taken extreme measures which both give their bodies an unfair competitive edge and expose them to unhealthy substances.

Sports Illustrated needs to cancel its subscription to hypocrisy. If it decides trimness is of the essence, feature models with breasts proportional to their hips. If large breasts are deemed more important, use models with hips proportional to their breasts.

Sports Illustrated needs to understand that the swimsuit issue is not just starter pornography for young men (and a showcase for the swimsuit fashion industry). Young girls, too, are examining it for cues on what attracts boys. Does Sports Illustrated really want to be complicit in encouraging the use of implants?

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