The Battle with Barbie

By Amanda Clark.

Barbie was displayed on the cover of Sport’s Illustrated magazine on February 18th, 2014 sporting her signature zebra striped bathing suit with the motto “unapologetic.” Since 1959, the doll has been everywhere appearing in many different careers and outfits, but the last place she was expected to be seen is on the cover of an adult Sport’s Illustrated magazine swimsuit edition.

Sport’s Illustrated honored their 50th swimsuit edition with Barbie on the cover. Mattel, Barbie’s maker, has nothing to say except that they are unapologetic with their decision. Mattel’s senior vice president of marketing says, “We’re focusing on legendary women of Sport’s Illustrated who, like Barbie, launched their careers in a swimsuit.” To some, having a doll on the cover is once again putting an impossible image of perfection in young girls minds. Eve Vawter, mother of a young girl, says “I think Barbie being on the cover of the Sport’s Illustrated swimsuit issue is extremely problematic because she is a toy intended for children, and positioning her in a magazine intended for adult perusal featuring sexualized adult women juxtaposes what should be an innocent, not harmful playing intended for little kids with adult woman in provocative poses.” Many mothers agreed with Vawter and posted similar reviews of the issue on www.mommyish.com. Barbie being on the cover of an adult magazine sends mixed messages because Sport’s Illustrated does all it can to make clear that their content is for adults, but yet they put a doll on their cover.

Mattel states that there are several reasons for this sudden collaboration, one being that the Barbie sales have dropped severely and they figure that a collaboration with a popular magazine, regardless of whether it will increase sales, will definitely get people talking about Barbie again. Mothers from all over are upset at the simple fact that Barbie being on the cover turns into their children constantly seeing an image of what they feel is unattainable which results in disappointment. Although, Vawter has talks with her little girl about how it is important to remember that Barbie is merely a doll and that her daughter is a human which are two things that should never be compared.  Vawter says, “I am fine with my daughter playing with Barbie because we have conversations regarding how dolls are dolls and are not a realistic depiction of humans.”

While Barbie has caused many problems and may make us think less of ourselves at times, she has also held over 120 different occupations and has even been displayed as president. Many people don’t necessarily have a problem with Barbie on the cover, but more with how she looks. Since 1959 Barbie has been the same long legged and blonde haired doll young girls have learned to love and to look up to. Vawter suggests beginning to make Barbies in different races and body sizes. By doing this, no one can be upset that a doll who comes in everyone’s shape and size is on the cover of Sport’s Illustrated swimsuit issue.

“Barbie isn’t a human, she is a toy. Bringing a perfect plastic doll into a scenario with perfect (photoshopped, surgically enhanced, airbrushed) women is not only offensive to actual human, women, but to our kids who should not be exposed to sexual images,” says Vawter.