In what can only be described as a bizarre marketing move, a bikini-clad Barbie is being featured on the wrap cover of the 2014 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, debuting this week. That’s right, unrealistic curves and all. For fifty years, the sports magazine has dedicated one cover a year to scantily-clad ladies like Kate Upton and Brooklyn Decker, and for their 50th anniversary, they are paying tribute to a doll.
Really? Barbie on the wrap cover of what has become the “sexiest” magazine cover of the year? The unveiling of which is surrounded by as much pomp and circumstance as People’s “Sexiest Man of the Year” or Time’s “Person of the Year?” This is not only sexualizing a child’s doll, but making the ultimate unattainable body (that’s not even human) the epitome of female perfection. (Yes, I know it is the promotional wrap and not the actual cover but STILL!)
Mattel had this to say about Barbie’s Sports Illustrated wrap cover:
“As a legend herself, and under constant criticism about her body and how she looks, posing in [the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue] gives Barbie and her fellow legends an opportunity to own who they are, celebrate what they have done and be #unapologetic,” the toy giant said in a statement on Tuesday.
Barbie’s body is under “constant criticism?” Mattel is pulling out a phrase usually used for women who are picked on for NOT being perfect. Barbie is a symbol of a completely unattainable ideal, I doubt in any playroom scenario she is crying in the corner about her body. And Barbie’s “fellow legends?” They include Christie Brinkley and Brooklyn Decker both of which are well, women. They are not fodder for children. That they are blonde, beautiful and famous is pretty much where the comparisons end.
Branding expert Allen Adamson was skeptical of Mattel’s strategy, telling ABC News “The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is one step away from Playboy magazine. It is potentially sending the wrong message to girls.”
Barbie, with her totally disproportionate measurements, her perfect hair, her flawless skin is still, to this day, being used as a symbol of female perfection. We should not be celebrating the body of a doll, a figure that no one can achieve. It’s bad enough that we worship the airbrushed bodies of the real women who normally grace the covers of magazines. As parents or as women, we should not be backing this marketing move by Mattel.
While, yes, I was a Barbie fan myself growing up (I had the dream house and everything) I knew that she was only a toy. But that was then, and this is now. Young girls these days are being inundated with messages that they aren’t thin enough, curvy enough, or Barbie enough. And now, a major magazine whose swimsuit edition has become the standard of the female form has thrown us all a curveball.
I get that Mattel is trying to be “edgy,” but putting Barbie in a bathing suit and slapping her on the front of a men’s magazine isn’t the way to do it. It only adds insult to injury that Mattel will be doing an #unapologetic ad campaign and be selling the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition doll at Target.
Mattel owes mothers and their daughters everywhere a big apology for this move, even if Barbie herself is #unapologetic.
What do you think, do you think they crossed the line?
Photo Source: Sports Illustrated via ABC News