Want to promote women as sex objects? Put a plastic doll in high heels and a bathing suit on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. And not just any doll.
Barbie. For the special anniversary of the annual soft-core porn swimsuit rag, er, mag, Mattel paid Sports Illustrated to feature the 55-year-old Barbie doll.
Sales of Barbie have been going down for years and Mattel knew it was time to do something drastic. In addition to paying for the cover, they slapped up billboards of Barbie in Times Square and an SI swimsuit Barbie hit toy stores this month. The toy empire knew from past experiences there would be flak, so they gave Barbie a “feminist” voice and the hashtag #unapologetic.
Barbie says, “Be free to launch a career in a swimsuit, lead a company while gorgeous, or wear pink to an interview at MIT. The reality of today is that girls can go anywhere and be anything. They should celebrate who they are and never have to apologize for it.”
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In defense of her worth Barbie says, “My bathing suit now hangs beside a Presidential power suit, Pastry Chef hat, and Astronaut gear in a wardrobe reflecting the more than 150 careers I’ve pursued to illustrate for girls that they can achieve anything for which they aim. And yet, I am still seen as just a pretty face. It’s simpler to keep me in a box — and since I am a doll — chances are that’s where I’ll stay.”
Give me a break. She’s a sexualized children’s toy and Sports Illustrated can defend their sexist swimsuit issue however they want, but putting sexy women in bathing suits on the cover has nothing to do with sports. How about giving the swimsuit issue the hashtag #jerkingoff — let’s call it what it is.
At the Sochi Olympics all of the amazing women have remarkable bodies. They are athletes who worked ridiculously hard to get where they are. Yet, instead of featuring a real sports figure with a realistic body, they chose a plastic woman who would not even be able to stand up, much less participate in any sport.
If Barbie were a real woman her neck would be twice as long as the average female’s and six inches thinner. She would be incapable of holding her head up. Barbie’s waist circumference is half the size of her hips. She would only have enough room for half a liver and maybe a few inches of intestines. Her child-size feet would make it impossible for her to walk. You know, like China’s old practice of binding women’s feet. To support her 39-inch bust she’d have to be on all fours anyway.
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But, hey, women are supposed to suffer for beauty. Squinching our toes into high heels and suffering back pain from walking in them makes us sexy. We pluck our eyebrows and upper lips and shave our bikini line, getting ingrown hairs and red, burning, itchy bumps in the process. Then we get skinny by not eating anything but sprouts. So what if our period stops? So what if we faint? No biggie. It’s all for beauty, right?
Don’t get me wrong; I had Barbie dolls when I was a kid. I liked holding Barbie out in front of me and waving her stiff plastic body around for mock sword fights with my best friend. It was fun, I’ll admit it. But I also became anorexic as a teen. Was it because of Barbie’s figure? Who knows. It’s just as likely that my ideas of sexy came from seeing airbrushed women in magazines.
On “Piers Morgan Live” on Feb. 18 — the same day the SI swimsuit edition hit the stands — supermodel Paulina Porizkova was a guest. She became the second model to grace the magazine’s cover two years in a row, in 1984 and 1985. When Piers and Paulina got on the topic of how unrealistic women in magazines are, she blamed Photoshop. “My grandmother could be a supermodel now,” she said, “even though she’s dead.”
Last May, when a life-size Barbie dream house opened in Berlin, the feminist group Femen let their voices be heard. Check it out:
I’m not sure how I feel about the women of Femen protesting topless, however, and the graphics on the website of angry women flashing their titties. Um, that may not be the clearest way to promote the end of sexualizing women. Still, I am always glad to see women fight back against sexism.
Measuring the value of a child’s doll by how much men would like to play with her is disturbing, and I hope Mattel’s Barbie campaign falls on its face the way Barbie would if she were real.