Mattel and Barbie have reached a new low (is that possible?): now the toy is blatantly being sexualized for men and featured in a men’s magazine.
The Forbes article by Denise Restauri (link is below this commentary) regarding Mattel and Swimsuit Illustrated’s bizarre move to feature a plastic doll in the 50th anniversary SI edition is a thought provoking read.
I love that the 16 year old author quoted in the article has the best response:
And the teen voice from 16-year old Adora Svitak. Her twitter profile: @adorasv. I’m a writer, feminist, and advocate for #stuvoice and literacy. Addicted to running and semicolons. I spoke at TED ’10, United Nations ECOSOC ’13. Washington State. adorasvitak.com
I’m #unapologetic about a number of curious things my sister and I did to Barbie dolls when we were young–everything from cutting their plastic-y hair until they looked as closely-shaved as fresh military recruits, to eventually (accidentally, we swear!) beheading them when we found that shampooing synthetic hair had unexpected results.
Had we idolized Barbie and put her on a pedestal–which, by the way, she would be unable to stand on with her anatomically impossible feet–we might have come to believe that the woman to be was someone with skin whiter, hair blonder, and waist tinier than ours would ever be.
To find out that Sports Illustrated made a cover(wrap) girl out of Barbie is unsurprising considering their penchant for glamorizing one kind of body type. The women they feature have gleaming skin, hourglass figures, long legs, and large breasts. Most smile with an un-threatening, plastic affectation about as far away from “F**k the patriarchy” as you can get. They have no disabilities, and no hint of body hair. On the Sports Illustrated swimsuit website, many models –from Alyssa Miller to Nina Agdal– are shown lying down. Not in a position of power. Not running, playing beach volleyball, or even (imagine that!) swimming.
Barbie doesn’t send a good message to girls — and boys–for the same reason that SI’s swimsuit edition doesn’t. She encourages an unrealistic expectation of beauty grounded in narrow ideals–whiteness, thinness, a lack of hair and an abundance of breast tissue–instead of kindness, smarts, self-confidence, or athleticism. In a time when many magazines are reconsidering egregious Photoshopping and deciding to pursue realism in their portrayals of beauty, my question to SI would be this: do you really think your cover girl should be plastic?
More importantly, what does that say about what you’re made of?