by Kathie Sandlin, Editor In Chief

Barbie ad

Ever notice how, in sitcoms, when someone is in trouble there’s always one character that comes up with an irrational and nonsensical idea that everyone agrees to act on and follow?

This week, we’ve got two such characters: Mattel and Sports Illustrated.

Working together to marry Barbie®’s #Unapologetic campaign with the 50th anniversary of the magazine’s annual Swimsuit Issue, these two industry giants MUST have been thinking “Why, this is just crazy enough to work.”

Both the doll and the issue have been criticized for fueling unrealistic expectations about women’s bodies.  “The pairing is perfect almost to the point of parody,” says writer Adi Robertson in a recent piece for the Verge. “If you wanted to find the two longstanding cultural touchstones most likely to push buttons about body image and the presentation of women, you’d be hard-pressed to do better.”

Even #Unapologetic’s full-page ad in this week’s New York Times, “Why Posing for Sports Illustrated Suits Me,” reads like a virtual nose-thumbing.

“Today, truly anything is possible for a girl,” says Barbie as she tells us of other models that have appeared in the issue, all “great examples of confident and competent women” who have “broken barriers and established empires.” I could imagine her raising her tiny plastic hand to her flawless face. Nanny nanny boo boo.

Really, Barbie? Is that what we celebrate in this issue: Confidence, competence, and accomplishment?

Even you have to laugh at your choice of platforms to speak from, my spindly childhood friend. Because if that was what it was all about, the Swimsuit Issue of a magazine with the word “sports” in its name would more than occasionally feature women athletes, wouldn’t it?

I don’t have a problem with Barbie dolls or models or even the SI Swimsuit Issue. But I do have a problem with someone trying to make standard bearers from objects that obviously are not. Neither Barbie nor Sports Illustrated will ever be a symbol of empowerment for women, no matter how #clever the #explanation may be.

It’s as crazy as thinking a change of clothes can make you an astronaut or a pastry chef.