Jordan Peterson sets himself on fire criticizing Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition 2022 model
It did not go well.
Jordan Peterson recently came under fire for criticizing the model on the cover of Sports Illustrated. “Sorry. Not beautiful. And no amount of authoritarian tolerance is going to change that,” he commented on the model’s airbrushed image from the cover.
Obviously, Dr. Peterson immediately came under fire for this commentary. He later said he’d be leaving Twitter for an undisclosed period of time, but the question he raised remains: Is this beautiful? Is it authoritarian? And I would add one further question: Is this role model healthy?
To begin, I have to say I disagree with Dr. Peterson that the magazine cover demands “authoritarian tolerance”. I see no way in which putting the image of a woman of any size on any magazine cover is authoritarian. It is as simple as looking away — it really is. No one is requiring you to see the magazine cover at all. In fact, if he hadn’t brought this to my attention, I probably wouldn’t have seen the picture at all. He may have a point about “authoritarian tolerance,” though: Modern culture demands not just tacit approval, but outspoken praise of what seems to many to be unnatural, unappealing, or wrong (many such cases!). I just think he worded it poorly — a rarity for Dr. Peterson, who takes his own advice about wording things carefully very seriously, to the point that he doesn’t even have any filler words during his multiple hours-long lectures.
But there are two issues at play, and no one seems to notice the overlap. It’s time to call it out.
Before I begin, I have to preface that this topic — ‘healthy at every size’ — is what red-pilled me on the topic of feminism when I was just 11 years old. I considered the idea of fat models become more and more acceptable, and I realized that these feminists did not want equality, as such; they appeared to want women to die younger than necessary (or at the very least, they did not care if this was the case as long as they could virtue signal). And as someone who spent the majority of my adolescence and early adulthood overweight who then lost the weight for 5+ years and then returned to that realm (for my sins—and thanks to lots of medicine for a neurological disorder), I have a lot of experience with this, and have given it a lot of personal thought. I’ve reached the crux of the (two) issues.
The first is subjective. The truth is that many men find a well-padded woman appealing—and as I mentioned on Timcast IRL the other night, I’m very lucky such men (like Mr. Patch!) agree. It is an evolutionary advantage to choose a well-upholstered lady; that much isn’t really up for debate, and while tastes and styles have changed (think Twiggy in the 90’s vs Tess Holliday in the 2010’s), evolutionary ideals are such that a little extra padding rarely goes amiss. Arguing over subjective choices is almost always fruitless: It is very hard to convince someone that what they find attractive is ACKSHUALLY not attractive at all. It’s only unattractive to the arguer, not the target of the argument. This can be dispensed with—beauty is less important than health. Beauty standards have varied too widely over history to provide any concrete standard on which to argue.
The second is objective, however, and much darker: I crunched the numbers from Ms. Yumi Nu (the model on the cover of Sports Illustrated), and to my unending lack of surprise, she is not just overweight, but obese. Her weight is estimated to be 110 kg. Her height rivals mine at 181 cm. With those numbers to plug into a BMI calculator online (more on that later!), we get the unsavory BMI of 33.6, an unsettlingly obese score. I don’t think Americans have a proper view of what a ‘healthy’ weight looks like, given how many of us are obese or overweight. In fact, during my travels between the EU and the US, it was stunning to see the difference in weight norms between the continents. There’s really no comparison. I can hear the objections already, though, and I will head them off at the pass: It is true that BMI isn’t 100% accurate for 100% of people. Great to keep in mind that the BMI scale isn’t ideal for someone who is incredibly physically fit (not our heroine, to be sure!) or someone with very wide shoulders or other physical anomalies that are not due to caloric overconsumption. We can dispense with this argument out of hand; it is relatively simple to conclude that a first-world woman punching in at 5’11” and nearly 240 lbs can be considered objectively unhealthy.
I won’t patronize my readers by assuming they think either that 240 lbs is unhealthy for a woman, or healthy. But I will say that these numbers are objectively quantifiable, and cardiologists will lament the implications to you all day long. In the hospital, young ages would always catch my eye among my patients’ charts. To a one, they were almost all either obese (“Obesity caused by caloric overconsumption” was the clinical diagnostic term) or experiencing drug overdose or withdrawal. Normal, healthy young people did not end up in the cardiac unit unless they had congenital heart defects (vanishingly rare).
I feel this distinction should be made because I think people tend to blur the lines between the objective and subjective when the loaded topic of weight comes up. As someone who has dealt with the tricky topic of weight for my entire life, I’m immune to the insults. Weight is not as simple as everyone thinks, and I understand that people deal with different challenges. The modern world is incredibly luxurious, and diet is one of the mixed blessings that people fail to take into account. ‘Eat less,’ people will loftily instruct, as they fail to detail what is best and worst to eat. It’s not simple. I am incredibly sympathetic. But Yumi Nu, lovely though she is, should not be gracing the cover of an athletic magazine because someone of her physical endowments is clearly not an athletic contender. Jordan Peterson failed to point out that an athletic magazine should be promoting athletic standards—not signaling current trends in women’s weight. I understand what he was saying; hopefully his truncated Tweet will open the right avenues of conversation.
I appreciate your voice. Beauty is very much in the eye of the beholder, and as you have pointed out, it's useless to try to convince someone to have a different subjective beauty measure.
What I find beautiful is not determined by the opinion of someone else. He isn’t wrong.