Quick, Guard the Virginity! Who Cares About Her Dignity!

This morning I was on TV once again having a ridiculous discussion about Barbie The Sex Toy. In a stroke of genius Mattel is providing Sports Illustrated with 1,000 wraps for their swimsuit issue. The wraps feature Barbie so that instead of seeing this:

sports illustrated 2014 swimsuit cover edition

You’ll see this:

Barbie Sports Illustrated cover 2014 wrap

Keeping in mind that Sports Illustrated had a circulation of just over 3 million last year these 1,000 promotion wraps sure are getting a lot of attention.

The predictable complaint is that Barbie is now sexualized. I’m confounded by this. Just how is Barbie sexualized to your five year old daughter? Is she going to grab one of the 1,000 magazines off the rack (where they won’t exist anyhow), rip through the cover, see young women in bikinis and think OMG Barbie is a whore!? 

Perhaps your five year old son has been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and when Barbie miraculously shows up on the over wrap he gets a thing for dolls. In twelve years he drops out of high school to live with his real doll because plastic turns him on.

If this is the case Barbie isn’t your problem.

I’m all for protecting the children. Advances in automotive safety, food labeling and drug testing are wonderful things for our kids. Legislation like Megan’s Law has made it easier to be vigilant in our neighborhoods and COPPA keeps corners of the Internet safer for kids. In schools, parks and suburbia I think it’s fair to put kids first.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the world is not responsible for raising my children. This fact may sting a little, at times it may sting a lot, but the reality is that Mr. G and I decided to have kids. The world didn’t stop for us and the world owes us nothing. Adult women are allowed to be sexy and playful, adult men (and in this instance probably more than a few teenage boys) are allowed to enjoy their images. This does not impinge on my children’s rights or freedoms.

I’ll give it to you that having Barbie grace the cover of this particular magazine is an odd marriage. That’s it though. Getting outraged that a magazine your child will probably never see has Barbie on a very limited number of covers by herself without any perfect bottoms next to her is ridiculous. That a Barbie Doll is inside the pages of said magazine also affects your daughter not one bit. She’s not confusing Barbie with a sexy image unless you’re telling her that Barbie in a modest one piece swimsuit is a bit of a tramp.

If Swimsuit Barbie is a little slutty for your taste you’re probably also telling your daughters that the women who grace the pages of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue are undignified and not deserving of praise. These are young women enjoying a career that has a shorter shelf life than most and the rare combination of winning the DNA lotto, youth, exercise and watching what they eat has given them what we consider to be ideal bodies. These are not attainable images (don’t get mad at me, go yell at your parents for their subpar genes) and we all know it. It’s okay that they (models) are made one way and we’re made another.

As the ranting about Barbie and save the girls reaches a fever pitch a few throwaway lines all include references to both Barbie and the models being plastic. Really? Do we want to do that to other women? Is that fair? If you’re going to say it is I certainly hope you don’t have a dot of makeup on your face or any color in your hair.

I’m tired of the world telling me that as a mother I’m obligated to stand guard over my daughter’s purity. Can we all agree instead to stand guard over womankind’s dignity? It’s just a doll. They’re swimsuit models. There’s nothing wrong with either one and pretending that a five year old child is hurt by an adult’s sexuality is not just silly, it’s intellectually dishonest.

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  1. AJ

    Nailed it. As always. ;)

  2. Walker Thornton


  3. phdinparenting

    If a parent is okay with their children playing with Barbies, I don’t see why they would have a problem with the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. The former is a sexualized unrealstic image of a woman being marketed to small children, the latter is the logical extension of that culture into the teen/adult market (i.e. we taught you what was sexy when you were little and now we’ll reinforce it).

    I do think there are a lot of problems with Barbies and other sexualized toys for children, but putting Barbie on Sports Illustrated is neither contributing to nor taking away from that problem.

  4. To me it’s just a weird waste of money for a struggling brand. They’re further isolating parents like myself who have a nostalgic connection with the doll and would like to see Barbie get with the times to help foster a more healthy self-image for our own children. Barbie is an undeniable sex symbol; men drool over her and women want to look like her. This “#UNAPOLOGETIC” campaign is embracing those roots…but is THAT the brand identity they should be encouraging at this point? Is that going to help increase sales?

    I grew up with the doll and I can appreciate the nod to her iconic status. But playing up her sexual characteristics is not going to get me to buy a Barbie for my kids. As a parent, I’m not worried about this Sports Illustrated thing dirtying the minds of our youth. But as a marketing professional, I’m confused.

  5. trinasc

    Completely agree.

  6. I never understood how Barbie was supposed to be a sex symbol. Can’t think of a time in my life I have ever thought of her as anything other than a doll.

    My son is 13. When I asked him what he thought he sort of rolled his eyes and wanted to know why Barbie would be a part of the issue. It certainly didn’t lead to a long talk about sex.

  7. Kelly

    You’re spot on in saying that the world isn’t responsible for raising your kids! Kids will always be exposed to things that, as parents, will make us cringe (I agree the Barbie outrage is ridiculous), but that doesn’t mean we should expect society to change. Parents have a responsibility to teach their kids, and if you raise them right they’ll turn out fine.

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