Sports Illustrated‘s annual swimsuit issue is kind of a big deal in the modelling world.
Oft-criticised for its objectification of women, the swimsuit issue’s pages have played host to most of the world’s greatest supermodels, entertaining the likes of Christie Brinkley, Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum, Elle Macpherson, Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell.
But, this year, its cover girl is a little different. Because, she’s not a 6ft tall supermodel. She’s an 11.5 inch doll.
Yes, Barbie, the plastic fashion doll with proportions that would not hold internal organs if they were made to scale, is on the front of magazines now. In the place of actual women. All of a sudden, in comparison to a plastic child’s toy, looking like a photoshopped supermodel seems like an attainable goal.
The New York Times reports that the cover is part of a partnership between Sports Illustrated and Barbie’s manufacturers, Mattel:
The campaign is centered on the 50th anniversary edition of the issue, which is to come out next Tuesday, and presents Barbie as a doll-size version of the magazine’s supermodels like Tyra Banks and Christie Brinkley, clad in a new version of the black-and-white swimsuit she wore when introduced in 1959.
“Unapologetic,” the theme of the campaign, is underlined by its use, with a hashtag in front, in social media like Twitter, as well as on a billboard in Times Square. “As a legend herself, and under constant criticism about her body and how she looks, posing in” the issue “gives Barbie and her fellow legends an opportunity to own who they are, celebrate what they have done and be #unapologetic,” Mattel said in a statement on Tuesday.
Needless to say that, when a magazine criticised for objectifying women and a girls’ toy criticised for presenting an unrealistic view of women’s bodies join forces, not everyone is going to be happy.
The online reaction to the cover can be split into three reactions:
1. The blogger reaction, of: “Great, now my daughter can be made to feel bad about her body, too.”
2. The linguistically critical reaction, of: “Is ‘unapologetic’ really the vibe that Barbie sets off?”
3. The mainstream reaction, of: “Well, dolls on the front of magazines are a bit creepy.”
We’re feeling a mixture of the three.
Barbie on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Thoughts?