3.04.2014

Barbie: Swimsuit Model (Not That That's New...)

When I was a kid, I had Barbies. I had Little Mermaid Barbie, and I had Belle Barbie and I had a few other Barbies. Barbie and Ken got married. Skipper was the obnoxious middle school kid who wouldn't leave Barbie alone. Barbie's feet never flattened, no matter how much I tried to force them. Sometimes Barbie's feet had weird "gems" in her feet, because apparently she needed them for her shoes or something.

I know many, many people have enlightened the public about how unrealistic Barbie's measurements are. About how she creates unrealistic body images in young girls. About how she indoctrinates girls to believe that the perfect body is thin, with large breasts and a teeny-tiny little waist, and super skinny legs. It's all true, for sure. But that's not what I wanted to write about here. Instead, let's discuss Barbie's appearance on the cover of the Swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated.

Via Washington Post, source AP Photo/Sports Illustrated

So, this magazine, known for its supermodels who are in really really tiny bathing suits (if wearing anything at all, because sometimes "swimsuit" means "naked"), who have famously photoshopped supermodels into almost completely different people, is now using toys to help ramp up the libido of grown men. Supposedly it just works out so well because Barbie is 55 years old and the Sports Illustrated is 50 years old and duh?

This. Is. Creepy.

I know this version of the magazine has a limited distribution (the normal edition has the "normal" cover of topless, body hairless, long-haired, photoshopped models - which let's maybe talk about how not normal that is), but the limited distribution almost makes it even more creepy. Who is actually going to be buying this magazine, then? Only the perviest of pervs, is my guess. 

But actually, what bothers me about this whole topic is not the fact that a child's toy is being used in a magazine which, let's face it, is being kept in the bathroom. It's not that models are basically being told: You are plastic and objects. Period. What bothers me most is this whole campaign by Mattel:

Via AdWeek

How many ways can I vomit while reading this ad? Let me count the ways...

1. Barbie: A Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Legend. - Barbie has a lot of jobs. She can be a veterinarian, a pediatrician, a dog groomer, or any other jobs which are appropriate for women. I don't remember coloring in Barbie as she posed for Sports Illustrated. Although I think that might be a good idea: Here's Barbie in a one-piece hanging out on the beach. Now here she is in a two-piece while having a pillow fight with another scantily clad woman. Now here she is with a lot of necklaces covering her breasts because she somehow lost her top. Now here she is wearing body paint. Oh, the possibilities, girls!

2. Barbie was launched in 1959. - AKA The Golden Age of Gender Roles. Women were supposed to be sexual bombshells who could cook and.....that was it. Um. Oh, and have babies. But then have sex right after. And cook. Sigh. The Good Ol' Days. Isn't it nice that times haven't changed? Or....

3. Barbie broke boundaries. - She wins the title of First Doll To Make Girls Think They Have To Look A Certain Way To Succeed In Life And/Or Be Attractive. Congratulations.

4. Barbie built empires. - That is, actually, true. Barbie is a gigantic money-guzzling, superficial empire. Congratulations.

5. Barbie shaped cultures. - By promoting unhealthy body images for generations of girls and women. Congratulations some more.

6. This magazine helps Barbie and her fellow legends celebrate who they are and what they have done. - Ok first of all - who are these "fellow legends"? The models? Look, I'm not going to bash the models. I don't know them, I know their job is deceptively difficult, and I know their careers are most likely short lived. But then - who are they? Swimsuit models? They're actually being defined by their job, not by who they are as people. And we're supposed to celebrate that.

Not to mention: Barbie is a plastic toy. She's not a person. Stop talking about her like she walked on her tip toes to this job and got it based on her talent and charm.

7. This campaign is supposed to help girls of all ages realize anything is possible. - What else is Barbie doing besides standing in high heels and a bathing suit? Well apparently she's throwing a beach party. Look, girls and grown-ass women! You really can have it all! If you don't aspire to anything more than looking good in a bathing suit and drinking.

8. #Unapologetic - And this is what bothers me most. Mattel knows what they're doing is offensive and wrong, but Hell, they don't care. They don't care that Barbie emits a one-size-only body image. They don't care that Barbie doesn't actually do anything besides smile inanely while doing some "woman-approved" job. They don't care that they're now encouraging little girls to aspire to satisfy men and not much else.

And they really don't care that the original Barbie was based on a German sex toy. To make that even more creepy, the creator named Barbie after her teenage daughter, and to make that even more creepy, Barbie was designed to be a sixteen year old girl. Yes. Let that sit for a little while. Yes.

But Mattel doesn't care. They toss back Barbie's long, blonde hair (because real women have long hair) and say, "#unapologetic." And in a way, I guess they are returning to Barbie's roots. In this situation, she is much closer to a sex toy than she is a child's toy. And I'm sure everyone will understand that.

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