Saturday, December 2, 2023

Barbie should not be on Sports Illustrated

February 13, 2014

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be Barbie.

I’m blonde and I love pink, I thought, I want to be just like her.

Like millions of other girls across the world, I idolized the symbol of my childhood — a symbol that now stands on the cover of the 50th anniversary Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.

The New York Times published an article Tuesday about Barbie’s latest motto: I don’t care what you think.

Sports Illustrated teamed up with Mattel to release their newest campaign “#Unapologetic,” to send critics of their products the message that (Barbie) doesn’t care what you think.

I’m slightly confused by this campaign. I understand being proud of who you are and what you look like, but we’re putting a child’s toy on the cover of an arguably men-oriented magazine’s swimsuit edition?

Is it a publicity stunt? Numerous media sources are reporting the Barbie brand experienced a 13 percent drop in sales in 2013.

What’s the message here? Barbie, why are you trying to tell me and the millions of little girls who played with you, “I’m hot and proud so get over it?”

I’m disappointed to see Barbie used for this kind of message when she has so much power to influence young women. But that seems to have always been a trend for Barbie.

Looking back, the Barbies I owned were shopping center Barbie – Like, she’ll ring your purchases up right quick! – restaurant diner Barbie – Do you want fries with that shake, cutie? – kitchen Barbie – My new apron has pink strawberries on it! – and the like.

Where was lawyer Barbie? Doctor Barbie? Professor Barbie? President Barbie? College student Barbie? I realize companies make these dolls now, but where were they when I was growing up?

Without us knowing it, little girls like myself were learning that girls like Barbie – Barbie, who’s the prettiest, most popular girl in Malibu – were satisfied with low-education jobs.

I know it’s very easy to say “don’t be so sensitive,” and I get that, but all I can think about is my future daughter. I want her to live in a society where her favorite toy isn’t scantily clad on the cover of a magazine flaunting what she’s got with an in-your-face attitude.

I want to see Barbie volunteering at food banks. I want to see Barbie donating all her old accessories to homeless shelters. I want to see Barbie setting a good example for the millions of little girls she has the popularity to affect.

Reading more into The New York Times article, I learned the issue will highlight the careers of former Sports Illustrated girls such as Heidi Klum and Tyra Banks.

“We’re focusing on the legendary women of Sports Illustrated who, like Barbie, launched their careers in a swimsuit,” Lisa McKnight, senior vice president of marketing for North America at Mattel, told The New York Times.

My fear is that young women will start believing that’s the best way to get to the top. I understand that women are beautiful creatures and they should be proud of that, but it should be only one small fraction of their value.

Although Barbie’s new thing includes saying “I’m proud of my tiny waist so go home haters,” there are other campaigns with more meaningful messages. For instance, Aerie, the little sister brand of American Eagle clothing, features a new campaign saying they’re done airbrushing their models for the ads. Dove advertisements offer models that look like most of the women you might find on the street.

Truth be told, the Dove women look like my mom, who never believes me every time I tell her she’s skinny and hot. Why is our version of perfection tiny women? I want women like my mom, my teachers, my academic counselors, to be society’s image of beauty, not a Victoria’s Secret model.
I’m not saying you should not be proud if you’re tall and skinny. I’m saying don’t consider women who aren’t models to be “thicker.” Consider them normal, healthy and beautiful.

I’m not that concerned if you agree with me, which I know you won’t, but just keep a few of these thoughts in consideration. I just want you to think about the way we perceive beauty. I want you to think of the way you want little girls to perceive beauty. Think about the pressures of being thin, eating disorders and young women’s self esteem.

Support student media! Please consider donating to The State News and help fund the future of journalism.

Think of your sisters, your daughters and your little cousins. Especially if you’re a woman, show them what real beauty – your intelligence, your ambition, your love and kindness – is all about.
As of late, Barbie isn’t being a very good role model for the little girls of America.

But hey, at least she looks, like, so glam in that bathing suit, right?

Kellie Rowe is a journalism senior. Reach her at


Share and discuss “Barbie should not be on Sports Illustrated” on social media.