In a surprising turn of events, modern history's most desired and accomplished woman has made her
debut on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. A teacher/yogi/astronaut/cowgirl/business woman/doctor/CEO/president, complete with a 39 - 21 - 33 frame, Barbie has been plaguing (or inspiring, if you're an optimist) young girls for decades.
Her maker, Mattel, paid Sports Illustrated to feature Barbie on their cover because, according to Mattel, Barbie, along with legends like Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum, and Christie Brinkley, is a role model who should be proud of everything she's accomplished and should be, to use the edition's hashtag, unapologetic. Mattel goes on to say that Barbie is "under constant criticism for how she looks" so her cover feature is well-deserved for the 54 years of body shaming that Barbie has endured.
What with the who now? Yes, it is true that Barbie's body has come under attack because of its sheer lack of reality and the correlation between lower self-image and playing with the anatomically disproportionate doll. But this play, this idea that we're going to take Barbie's "adversity" and turn it into a positive - the same as Tyra Banks endorsed Special K's doing with lack of diet language in their still obviously weight loss endorsing Special K challenge - is manipulating the idea of body and size acceptance. Yes, body and size acceptance is about acceping all bodies, which I suppose would include Barbie's, and working to project images of untraditional beauty in the media, which would certainly not include Barbie. It's also about acknowledging thin privilege and challenging the message that has long been perpetuated: that girls should look like Barbie.
Moreover, it is, in my humble opinion, a giant step backwards to replace living, breathing women - however steeped in health and beauty tropes they are - with an inanimate piece of plastic. Because that's what Barbie is. All we are is dust in the wind, and all Barbie is is a lump of rubbery plastic. Despite whatever human qualities Mattel may assign her, Barbie has never actually worked as a doctor/astronaut/veterinarian/teacher, as is apparent by her grossly negligent career habits, nor has she felt the lasting sting of body shaming in her solid plastic heart facsimile, and any words said about her and her body - positive or negative- fall deaf on her tiny plastic ears. What kind of message are we sending that this plastic doll can buy her way onto a cover an elite, objectifying magazine that most actual women could never even dream of modeling for? I'll tell you what message I hear loud and clear: If you're rich and thin, you can do whatever the hell you want.
In case this wasn't slap-your-face-with-a-stupid-fish obvious to you, this flies in the face of Mattel's size acceptance facade, as does the fact that the magazine they're paying to feature Barbie is Sports Illustrated, for an edition that profits heavily from featuring scantily clad, stereotypically beautiful women while simultaneously shoving down our throats loaded messages about health and beauty. You'll note that Mattel isn't trying to get Barbie a cover on Bitch or Ms. Next thing you know, though, they'll want her to be in Good Housekeeping because of how she flawlessly decorated her dream home without the use of opposable thumbs.
How is it that, in 2014 Barbie is still a role model? More importantly, how is possible that a plastic friggin doll continues to wield such power and influence? This is scarier than all the Chucky movies combined.