Barbie recently appeared on the 50th Anniversary cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition. Clad in a black and white one-piece, the children’s toy makes a statement: Barbie is sexy, Barbie is beautiful, Barbie is wanted by men. And little girls who play with the plastic doll should aspire to one day follow her example and paste their own bodies on magazine covers.
Sports Illustrated made a low move.
Though Photoshopped and unrealistic body images are media norms these days, we The Threefold Advocate believe it is inappropriate to have a sexualized version of a child’s toy displayed on the cover of a magazine designed to accommodate men’s lusts.
Lisa McKnight, Mattel’s senior vice president of marketing for North America, told the New York Times that the company is “focusing on the legendary women of Sports Illustrated who, like Barbie, launched their careers in a swimsuit.”
In response to critics who said the child’s doll should not model alongside bikini-clad women, Barbie herself said, “Today, truly anything is possible for a girl, let us place no limitations on her dreams.”
“No limitations” for Barbie apparently means you can pose half nude for men young enough to be your little brother and old enough to be your grandpa.
Mattel has characterized Barbie as the model woman. She’s famous and refined. She can ski, rollerblade, sashay down a runway and cook a gourmet meal at a moment’s notice. She’s poised, drives a fancy car and is always down for a party. She’s a CEO and has an MD. The doll practically begs for admiration and, as shown from her sales history, has successfully won the devotion of thousands of girls.
By slapping a picture of Barbie on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Mattel told little girls to covet the doll’s placement on the magazine cover and seek the kind of attention men pay to the pictures within.
We The Threefold Advocate believe that displaying a trustworthy, albeit plastic, childhood friend on the cover of a nearly nudie magazine is unacceptable. We believe that women are worthy, valuable and beautiful – regardless of their looks. A woman is more than a body.
Who wants little girls to say, “When I grow up, I want to be a bikini model”? This was a poor choice by Mattel. It is not empowering for women and most certainly not for little girls.