I have seen it though. My gym subscribes to the magazine and the issue was in the magazine rack Friday. I quickly scooped it up and took it into the stretching area with me. Alas, I don't wear my glasses in the gym and saw while I could see the pictures just fine, I could not read much of the text without getting a little dizzy. The text, I think, is important for understanding context. Or at least for understanding what ESPN thinks the context is.
Here's what I think so far:
I think that Fat Louie at Women's Sport Blog is brilliantly concise in her assessment of the six covers.
Also check out One Sport Voice for Nicole's assessment of Serena on the cover and she has a link to an ESPN clip about the making of the issue--very interesting.
I think the presence of a disabled woman on one of the covers and inside the magazine is good. I think a disabled man would have been good too though. I would have been interested to see how ESPN framed the intersections of masculinity and femininity and disability.
I don't think there was that much body diversity in it. The one somewhat non-normative, in terms of body size, woman is an African-American shot putter. She is wearing a black bra top and black boy short type things. In other words--she has more clothes on than most of the other female athletes/models. So a larger woman may be in the magazine but the presence of clothing (even if it was her "choice"--and I don't know if it was) suggests that her body just is not worthy of being seen naked or that someone thinks that no one wants to see that naked body.
People do apparently want to see Lolo Jones's naked body. This editorial out of Des Moines (Jones is an Iowa native) looks at the particulars of her participation and the concept of the magazine generally. Basically, the author concludes that Jones took a risk posing naked. But what I took issue with was his statement that people who find the photos erotic are perverse and "twisted" because the photos were not meant to be erotic. Um, yes they were. Some of them are beautiful; some of these athletes have beautiful bodies and bodies are erotic. I don't understand why people are so scared of the erotic. I found them erotic. That does not mean that I found them entirely problem-free. They are not. But that erotic and artistic is some kind of distinct binary is wrong. Art has always had erotic elements. (You should see the postcard on my fridge--a reproduction of Gustave Courbet's "L'origine du monde.")
The erotic element of the magazine actually got it pulled off the magazine rack at the gym. When I could not find it Saturday morning I figured someone had swiped it. Then Sunday morning the guys behind the desk (one gay, one straight) were looking at it and said another guy had taken it away because it was not appropriate for the gym. (This same guy also takes away Essence because he does not think the gym should cater to one specific population.)
Anyway it was back on the rack this morning, I saw.
Those are my somewhat disorganized thoughts thus far. There may be more--if I can ever get my own copy!