Sports Illustrated caused a kerfuffle last month when it featured (the allegedly sexualized) Barbie in its (demonstrably sexist) swimsuit issue. As a feminist, I just couldn’t see what the fuss was about. As Barbie herself explained, without irony, in a brilliantly written full-page ad in NYT, she is “a doll.” A provocative conversation starter and a lightning rod for women and their issues ever since her debut in 1959.
Admittedly, some of the attempts to make her relevant (Astronaut Barbie, Doctor Barbie, “Math-is-hard” Barbie) were silly and a stretch and her physical dimensions are, to say the least, unrealistic (again, we’re talking about a toy), but the fact is, she has allowed generations of little girls (and occasionally little boys) to play pretend and become a bigger, cooler version of themselves. Think of her as a 3D app that, in the right context and with smart parental involvement, feeds kids’ imagination and may inspire them to “go anywhere and be anything.”
With all due respect to designer’s Nickolay Lamm’s good intentions, his eponymous Lammily (or “normcore Barbie”) with her more realistic proportions, doesn’t even come close in aspirational appeal. Nor do any of the other politically correct versions.
In the same vein of empowerment and self-confidence—it is Women’s History Month after all—JC Penney has thrown off the sackcloth and ashes of last year’s apologies with a great new campaign that’s plugged in to how women feel about their favorite go-to JCP garments (“When it fits, you feel it.”) Barbies, Lammilies and women of all shapes, sizes, ages and ethnicities will find a welcoming fashion home here.
And then there’s American Apparel, whose GIF for denimwear takes “photoshop fail” to a whole new level.
Occupy Barbie, anyone?