“Unapologetic.” This is the name of the campaign of Mattel and Sports Illustrated, joining forces to bring readers everywhere Barbie on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition of 2014.
The two brands have come together to celebrate Sports Illustrated’s 50th anniversary swimsuit issue, and presents Barbie as a doll-size version of the magazine’s supermodels like Tyra Banks and Christie Brinkley, clad in a new version of the black-and-white swimsuit she wore when introduced in 1959.
Mattel stated last week, “As a legend herself, and under constant criticism about her body and how she looks, posing in [the issue] gives Barbie and her fellow legends an opportunity to own who they are, celebrate what they have done and be #unapologetic.”
The campaign includes a four-page advertisement feature in the issue, declaring Barbie to be “The Doll That Started It All.” Shooting the photographs for the magazine is Walter Iooss Jr., who has been shooting the magazine’s (human) swimsuit models for four decades. Together, Mattel and Sports Illustrated have created video clips, and a limited edition cover wrap that will appear on 1,000 copies of the issue.
For those who aren’t aware, Ruth Handler made Barbie into reality. She was the 10th child of Polish Jewish immigrants. Created by a woman, Barbie was marketed as a teenage fashion model to reassure mothers that the doll would teach girls good grooming.
On a family trip to Europe, Handler saw what became a prototype for Barbie. Bild Lilli was a German doll based on a promiscuous cartoon character, and meant as a gag sex toy for men. With slight modifications, Ruth turned Lilli into Barbie.
It seems quite intriguing that a common toy we let young girls play with was created from a sex toy for grown men.
Barbie has given young girls an unrealistic body image for years. Generations of girls raised with the toy have felt pressured to look like Barbie herself. To many, this is not shocking.
Patricia from the New York Times states, “I’m a size four and I still have a complex about my waist being too fat because I can’t match the dimensions of Barbie. I know consciously that this is wrong, but it’s like a song you can’t get out of your head. I am a physically active, fit, intelligent, highly educated and socially empowered woman but still in the back of my head, stuck there like some deeply embedded and slightly festering old wooden splinter, there is the idea that I’m never going to be acceptable unless my waist is the size of Barbie’s.”
Rachel from the New York Times says, “I always imagined my adult self as Barbie with long blonde hair and wearing red high heels – and a lab coat. I grew up to get a Ph.D. in science. Still waiting for ‘scientist Barbie’…”
The combination of Barbie and Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue only sets out to further objectify women. Should we really be putting dolls on the cover of a magazine?
The alliance between Mattel’s Barbie and Sports Illustrated, however, can have disastrous results on both men and women.
Barbie dolls are designed for girls three to twelve years of age, according to Mattel. The average Sports Illustrated reader is a 37 year-old man.
As a feminist, I will never support the idea of young girls playing with a so-called “model,” when in reality, Barbie wouldn’t have enough room in her waist for her spleen or intestines.
Maybe you think I’m overreacting about the whole situation. ‘It’s just a doll—who cares?’ ‘Sports Illustrated was made for men anyways, who would think twice?’
Barbie in the swimsuit issue is a perfect reflection of who Barbie is, and has always been—a disastrous model for girls, and a promoter of women as sex objects. I’ll be #unapologetic when we keep letting Barbie toy with America.
For an intriguing study on Barbie’s effect on young children, please visit http://www.rehabs.com/explore/dying-to-be-barbie/#.UxYC8uddWtd.