A Partnership that Stirs the Same Controversy

In the first blog post I had wrote about the criticism that Mattel’s Barbie, which has been around for more than 50 years, faces in terms of her aesthetics. The blog had asked whether Mattel’s Barbie was sending the wrong message to young girls about our sociocultural standards of beauty, and whether Barbie is portraying an unrealistic unattainable image of what is seen as the ideal beauty. Well the controversy of Mattel’s Barbie is striking back, but this time with the help of Sports Illustrated. Stuart Elliott, advertising columnist for the New York Times said, “Two familiar brands that have for decades been the targets of complaints about their depictions of women have joined forces for a promotional campaign that tells critics they are proudly “unapologetic” about who they are. The brands are Barbie, sold by Mattel, and the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.” The “unapologetic” theme of the campaign was created around the 50th anniversary for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. The anniversary issue is to come out next week, and it will portray a doll-size image of Barbie wearing the same black-and-white swimsuit she wore when she was brought into the market in 1959. Mattel gave a statement on Tuesday and said, “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.” The hashtag will be seen not only on the cover of Sports Illustrated, but will be located on a billboard in Times Square. Elliott explains in the article that the public is raising the same concerns that I had discussed in my first article about Barbie; he says: “The alliance of the two brands ignited an online debate on Tuesday over the images of both Barbie and the swimsuit issue. Mattel has long contended with complaints that Barbie, with her lithesome figure and focus on fashion, is not a positive role model for girls. At the same time, Sports Illustrated is no favorite of some critics who believe that the swimsuit issue objectifies women” (Elliott, 2014).

So what do you think; is Barbie and Sports Illustrated objectifying women and sending the wrong message to young girls?




Elliott, S. (2014, Feb 11). Barbie’s sports illustrated swimsuit issue causes a stir online. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/12/business/media/barbies-sports-illustrated-swimsuit-issue-causes-a-stir-online.html?ref=media&_r=0

3 thoughts on “A Partnership that Stirs the Same Controversy

  1. Wow… What a topic for debate. Personally, as a feminist and an advocate of fair representation of women in the media, I agree with the criticism that Sports Illustrated and Mattel are receiving – they should be. They’re indoctrinating young girls to strive to be the impossible – and risk their health and self-esteem with it. There’s a reason so many of my friends have struggled with eating disorders or lack confidence… I fully believe 95% of the blame is to be placed on such brands.


  2. As someone who would identify as feminist and grew up with Barbies (loved them in fact), I think this is just absurd. Barbie has had generally the same body type since she came out in 1959, when societies ideals weren’t necessarily “pushing girls to extremes to be thin” as they seem to be now. It hasn’t been until recently, when the whole “die to be Kate Moss thin” thing became a trend, that Barbie was ragged on for her obviously unattainable physique.


  3. Wow.. I hate everything about this advertising campaign. Not only is it a huge advertising and PR mistake but it is also a poor move for the companies. Consumers are now going to hate what the companies stand for and more importantly what they are selling. They should realize that the revolutionary world we are living in today is one in which people are not afraid to speak up. They are going to receive major criticism in the upcoming weeks and possibly even a decrease in sales.


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