The Girl in the Pressbox: Why Barbie and Sports Illustrated?

Photo by Sports Illustrated.

Photo by Sports Illustrated.

My first thoughts on the news on the image on the right was “why why why why why why why?” No seriously. It took me a long time to form a coherent thought because I was just so concerned and confused about why this is a thing that would ever happen. The Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition and…Barbie? Just why?

I get what they’re going for. But also, how could they not have seen the backlash in advance? It had to have been like headlights in on a deserted highway glaring at them in the distance. I mean, they hear it all the time—they promote unattainable standards for women. One is aimed at the young girls who will more than likely one day want to attain those standards. The other is aimed at the men who in turn, then want their wives and girlfriends to attain those standards. So let’s throw the two together and make it all a million times worse. Makes sense.

First, let me address one issue. Once I heard about this year’s SI swimsuit cover wrap and finally managed to form an intelligible thought, it was something along the lines of “gross.” Okay, it’s one thing if men want to ogle at half naked women—you know, ones who can breathe and have organs and skin not made of plastic. That’s their choice and I won’t stop them. But why would they want to look at a plastic doll, which probably closely resembles the one in their daughter’s toy box? Someone please explain this concept to me, because I don’t get it.

And why Barbie has any sort of place in an adult magazine about being “sexy,” I have no idea. Do we really want a child’s toy to be associated with the concept of “sexy?” Beyond that, it’s actually demeaning for the real women in those pages. There’s nothing wrong with being thin, just like there’s nothing wrong with not being thin. But to pair a toy that literally no supermodel, no matter how hard they try, with real life people? Just stop. It should be an insult to them.

Sure, Barbie is supposed to be empowering and I get that. They try. I had Barbies growing up. I had ballerinas and teachers and doctors. I can’t say it necessarily taught me that I had to be attractive, but I also can’t say it necessarily taught me that I could be anything I wanted. I wasn’t really perceptive to those things that young, I don’t think. It was probably subconscious back then. Now, looking at those dolls, it’s blatant. I guess Barbie was never really my role model anyway.

As much as we want to argue that Barbie is empowering and is meant to teach young girls that they can do anything they dream, it doesn’t. It doesn’t teach them as well as real, strong women in society can.

I’ve ranted about the hypersexualization of women in sports before. I’ve talked about how I’m not really sure why the swimsuit edition is even necessary, but that’s not even it this time. Okay, let them have it. Let adults look at it if they want. They’re free to do so, but let’s keep a children’s toy out of it, okay?

I’m already against what the swimsuit edition stands for. It places a standard on beauty. It says that you have to be a certain weight or height or hair color to matter. That’s the way to turn the head of a man.

But then, we take a literal plastic doll—all of our metaphoric speech flies out the window with that—and we place it on the cover of something that already objectifies women. How does that send a positive message?

Whether Barbie is meant to be empowering or not, anything that promotes putting scantily-clad women on display, is certainly not empowering. At least, not from my view. So really, it seems that Barbie is taking a few steps backward here, but it’s okay because she’s unapologetic.

I’m not saying Barbie necessarily sways girls minds one way or another. But just think of the power Barbie has and think of what she could do if she was say, I don’t know, an average size? If Barbie takes a stand, I think girls follow.

Just please, let’s keep Barbie and SI away from each other in the future.


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