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Barbie: the perfect Sports Illustrated swimsuit model

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy  February 13, 2014 12:43 PM

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The latest Sports Illustrated swimsuit model is....Barbie.

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 4.22.16 PM.png
For at least a thousand of the 2014 50th Anniversary edition issues, Barbie will grace the cover, wearing a version of the swimsuit she wore when she first appeared in stores in 1959. According to Mattel, the issue "gives Barbie and her fellow legends an opportunity to own who they are, celebrate what they have done and be #unapologetic." 

I love it. Not for that reason, of course. I love it because finally, it acknowledges that nobody can actually look like a swimsuit model (even the swimsuit models, given what we can do digitally these days). Indeed, wanting to look like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model is a bit like wanting to look like a plastic doll with impossible body proportions. Let's call a spade a spade.

I'm a bit puzzled by the "unapologetic" thing. Are they saying that Barbie, and other Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition cover models, aren't going to apologize for how they look? Did we ask them to? It's fine for them to look the way they look. What isn't fine is when young girls think they need to look the same, and value their appearance over their brains and everything else they have to offer the world. 

I really wish they had done this sooner. Equating models with Barbie is a great way to put things in perspective. 

Mattel paid for this (obviously). Sales of Barbie are down. I like Barbie as much as the next person (although every day after the first day was a Bad Hair Day for any Barbie in our house, and the only time we could find their shoes was when they showed up in a younger sibling's poop), but I'm not sad to hear that fewer girls want to play with her. Maybe it will make Mattel rethink Barbie altogether.

Instead of silly campaigns like this one, how about we give Barbie some slightly more realistic body proportions--and clothes. Instead of celebrating big breasts, tiny waists and legs like stilts, how about making Barbies in different shapes and sizes. If we are going to celebrate anything, let's celebrate how beauty comes in all those shapes and sizes.

Let's really teach girls to be unapologetic.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About MD Mama

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »

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