This is why people are freaking out about the Barbie SI ad campaign
When I wrote about the Unapologetic Barbie campaign earlier this week I was still trying to process how I felt about a doll that has widely been criticized for perpetuating body dysmorphia being featured in a men’s magazine. This morning, upon seeing the cover of the 50th anniversary issue it became crystal clear.
Let me start by saying this. My daughter has a lot of princess paraphernalia - including a series of Barbie-like dolls made by Disney. While I don’t love the proportions, I understand that she loves make-believe, dress-up and anything pretty and frilly. I’m completely ok with that. I have a son as well. He prefers to hurl trucks down the stairs but will happily play along with the princesses. My house has toys purchased from every aisle. I let the kids choose what they want to play with. Most - but not all - of the time the play falls along traditional gender lines.
We have toys in the house because we have children.
And that is precisely what rubs me the wrong way about the Barbie campaign. The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is a magazine targeted at grown ups (with a heavy male readership). It features gorgeous women, with impossibly perfect bodies in bathing suits staring alluringly at the camera. Sexy images.
What’s troubling to me about the Barbie ad is who Mattel is trying to reach with this ad. They are selling a toy - meant for little girls. This juxtaposition sexualizes Barbie and quite literally sells her to us as a pin up girl.
Mattel will tell you that Barbie has evolved. She’s a Doctor! She has a career! She sometimes wears glasses! And while all these things are true and I embrace the advances, the message this campaign sends is that at the end of the day, all that really matters is that we look great in a bathing suit.
As a grown woman, I’m able to parse these messages. My 4.5 year old isn’t.
I’ve long since come to terms with the fact that many of the toys my daughter will play with have impossible physical proportions. But I can not accept that her toys are encouraging her to aspire to be sexy before she even enters puberty. That’s why I’m #notbuyingit