Skimpy Coverage explores Sports Illustrated’s treatment of female athletes since the iconic magazine’s founding in 1954. The first book-length study of its kind, this accessible account charts the ways in which Sports Illustrated—arguably the leading sports publication in postwar America—engaged with the social and cultural changes affecting women’s athletics and the conversations about gender and identity they spawned.

Bonnie Hagerman examines the emergence of the magazine’s archetypal female athlete—good-looking, straight, and white—and argues that such qualities were the same ones the magazine prized in the women who appeared in its wildly successful Swimsuit Issue. As Hagerman shows, the female athlete and the swimsuit model, at least for the magazine, were essentially one and the same. Despite this conflation, and the challenges it poses, Hagerman also tracks the distance that sportswomen—including Wilma Rudolph, Billie Jean King, Serena Williams, and Megan Rapinoe—have traveled both within Sports Illustrated’s pages and without. Blending sports with gender history, Skimpy Coverage profiles numerous sportswomen who have used athletics and the platform sport offers to push for empowerment, freedom, equality, and acceptance in ways that have complemented and inspired broader feminist agendas.

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