Barbie To Pose For Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue; Is Nothing Sacred?

I now know what the J. Geils Band was talking about when they sang “My memory has just been sold, my angel is the centerfold,” as a toy I used to enjoy playing with as a child is now posing in a men’s magazine.  In what I can only assume was a stroke of ‘any publicity is good publicity’ madness, Barbie is being featured in this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.  If there’s anything that’s going to generate publicity, it’s combining two things that are already popular and controversial.

This certainly seems to be a deliberate move on Mattel’s part; this questionable choice is part of Barbie’s #Unapologetic campaign.  If you have to hashtag yourself with “unapologetic”, it means you must know you have things to be apologizing for, but you’re not going to.  Barbie has a long history of being chastised for promoting unrealistic beauty standards, but instead of getting on board with the trend of body acceptance we’re trying to move toward as a society, she’s posing for a men’s magazine issue known for featuring models in as little clothing as can strictly be called a ‘swimsuit.’ #Unapologetic, indeed.

Frankly, I can’t see what about this appeals to the Sports Illustrated demographic, other than the free publicity for the magazine.  I’m pretty sure the swimsuit issue isn’t where guys go in search of gift ideas for their daughters and nieces.  Maybe I’ve missed something, and there’s a new adult male version of “bronies” that are now buying Barbie dolls, which is a fetish I don’t even want to begin to think about.  Let me reiterate, a doll intended as a toy for young girls is posing for a sports magazine’s answer to Playboy.  What is the world coming to?  And more importantly, what’s next?  I can think of a few things:

Magic Muppets – Trying to make more money to finance their dreams, friends Ernie, Bert, Elmo and Cookie decide to start performing as male dancers.

The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, as modeled by the American Girl Dolls.  They had to become American Women at some point, right?  Plus, think of all the great tie-in doll lingerie Mattel could sell!

The Real Housewives of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe:  In which we learn that all those good natured-seeming puppets from Mr. Roger’s imagination actually spent all of their time gossiping and throwing wine at each other when we weren’t looking.

Obviously these things are absurd, and clearly I think Barbie has taken it a step too far.  Yes, she’s been a lightning rod for controversy, but so have the Disney Princesses, and you don’t see them posing for Maxim.  To be featured in the SI swimsuit issue is basically saying “I don’t care what anyone thinks, I’m just going to try to offend even more people.”  The funny thing is that the first part of this message is something more toys should be sharing with kids – people should unapologetically be who they are.  But what if who they are is a children’s toy who poses for a sexed-up issue of a sports magazine?  What obligation does a doll have to be a role model?  What about her creators?  I want a doll that encourages girls to be themselves, but not to let that self be someone creepy with little to no integrity.  Barbie may have had her image issues in the past, but at least she’s always been an empowered woman who’s held down a wide variety of jobs while keeping Ken as her boytoy. In this new iteration, she’s accepted she’s not going to get the approval of a lot of women and is instead putting herself out there for male approval.  “If people don’t like you, just dress sexy and pose for men” isn’t a message I’m comfortable with a toy company sending to children.

I don’t want to chastise Barbie for being #unapologetic or ignoring the haters, I just wish she’d done it in a different way.  To say “This is who I’ve been for 50 years, I’m not going to change because of some criticism” would have been a statement someone could stand behind.  To give critics, parents, and kids the metaphorical middle finger by posing for the swimsuit issue is just rude.  The magazine hits newsstands next week, and I’ll be interested to see how this little marketing gamble pans out.  I won’t let this publicity stunt tarnish my memories of playing with Barbie as a kid, but I certainly won’t be gifting Barbie dolls to my friends’ kids until she’s at least #sortofapologetic about this misstep.

Image via

  • Becky Simmers

    Haha well-spoken, I love it. What a stupid movie on Mattel’s part, and it just seems GROSS on SI’s part.

    Granted, Barbie was originally a sex toy for men. Not a toy I guess but a sexy visual for them. But it’s a childrens’ toy now. Gross. Just gross.

  • Brieanna Galindo

    i kinda wish there’d be more of a message in mattel’s and SI’s part by doing this like…using barbie to represent the millions of magazine women who get their pictures photoshopped to look “perfect” when in reality they look nothing like the after photo shows or idk something along those lines. :/

  • Catherine Bruno

    I’m not surprised in the least. I don’t have an issue with it because to be frank Barbie is kind of on the outs as far as dolls go. A lot of girls nowadays are into the Vampire Academy dolls or Bratz etc. The old adage that sex sells is still heavily prevalent in our society. I think that in some cases standing up is a good thing, but then there are times when things are just out of our control. Besides I know a lot of men and I am pretty sure they would just skip over the Barbie parts anyway. And it’s not going to make any difference in their attitudes toward sex.

  • Jessica Derry

    Check your sources, bronies are not fetishist (unless you’re using the non-sexual, little used definition of “blind devotion”) and that was an incredibly rude and intolerant comment to make on a website like Hello Giggles. You may think it’s weird (because it is a little), but for the most part it’s just a bunch of people enjoying a wholesome show. I’ve seen some of it myself and it’s just a refreshing show to watch after so much crap on our TVs now-a-days. It turned into a movement mostly for humor’s sake than anything else. Plenty of parents watch cartoons with their children and enjoy them immensely (as a one-time nanny I know this all to well, I think Perry the Platypus in Phineas and Furb is hilarious). Bronies are just a group of people admitting that you don’t need to have kids to admit to liking some wholesome entertainment. I agree about your comments on Barbie, but do your research before slandering an entire group of people. It was rude, intolerant, slander and this website of ALL places is supposed to be catching that kind of thing. HelloGiggles is going downhill and it’s sad.

    • Jessica Derry

      I will concede that there are a -very- small contingent of fetishist – but there are for ANY group. That isn’t new.

  • David Vaughn

    Have you…Have you seen the women on the covers of previous SI magazines? The fact that that issue exists is undermining the message of healthy body image for women.

    Although I don’t understand what SI is thinking (unless Mattel paid a ton of $$$ to get Barbie advertised on the cover), I would really consider either the swim suit issue or Barbie to be sacred icons.

    If anything, they’re both just sexual icons.

    I mean, one is overtly sexualised and the other has a more subtle, youth-friendly and unrealistic sexualised look. That’s not to say the kids think of her like that, but it seems like a lot of adults do.

    And it’s not like most children (I hope) are reading the swim suit issue so I don’t think they’re trying to sell Barbie as as a sex symbol to her offset audience.

    I don’t get it, but I think it’s being blown up to being a bigger issue than it is.

  • Chadáe Frank

    This is for the 50th Anniversary for SI by the way, so it didn’t just pop up outta the blue. There will be other models featured, most from vintage issues (like Christie Brinkley).

    And enough is enough, stop blaming a toy for your body issues, it’s plastic! PLASTIC!!!! Fun fact, Barbie’s proportions are not for high sexualization BUT so her clothes will look normal, and let’s be honest if you’re a human and find a toy to be sexy or too sexy then you have a problem

    It’s a cute idea commermorating Barbie’s first outfit *gasp a swimsuit.

    And they only came out with the #unapologetic tag when people like yourself started flipping out and shielding their daughters eyes.

    Ugh, women are so irritating sometimes

  • Danielle Kinnaird

    I don’t see anything wrong with it. It’s just cute, fun and I’m sick of slut shaming… The thing I don’t get is why sex is seen as being such a dirty word and why anything deemed as sexy is antifeministic. Hey girls you can be anything you want as long as it’s not something that provides your pyshical beauty to be admired by men. Such rubbish.

  • Hans Johan Svensson

    I think it´s funny.

  • Naomi Serrano

    I would think it would be negative marketing. Mattel isn’t trying to get Men to play with Barbies and what Father wants to think of his daughters toys in such a manner. If anything I would think more men would board the train of thinking barbie is bad for little girls. Which personally, I disagree with myself. I played with Barbies all my childhood and never even considered her size. I think unrealistic body issues and images come more from society’s determination to compare itself for others rather then embrace themselves. I don’t know what the plan is here but I’m interested to see how it all pans out.

  • Caroline Geiger

    I’m not sure what Mattel’s purpose of having Barbie be in a swimsuit spread vs a live human. I’m not sure if they’re using the doll as a mockery to highlight how unattainable is the “perfect” body (according to our culture’s standards) or if they genuinely think it’s a good idea to reinforce these ideas in our society. I mean, the way they usually hypersexualize women in the swimsuit issue is horrible enough. But now putting Barbie in as “just another woman” in the line of swimsuit modes is dehumanizing.

  • Justin High

    Ooh get over yourselves… People find anything to get pissy over. If you don’t like it, don’t buy the the issue. And no, nothing is sacred because half the kids you are trying to shelter go to public school and live through worse things. The more you try to dictate, the more kids will rebel and be worse off.
    Look at Europe where they have far worse things on TV and yet their children are more intelligent, educated, healthier than Americans are.

    Just because YOU live in a box, don’t try to make Barbie. She didn’t become an astronaut living by the standards set by ignorant people.

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