Ana Veciana-Suarez: Barbie is perfect for Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue

 

aveciana-suarez@MiamiHerald.com

The annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is out — along with the usual debates about objectifying women as sexual beings, modesty as a lost value and the undeniable fact that beauty is a random gift distributed by the fickle hand of an unfair God.

This year, the swimsuit issue marks the 50th anniversary of what began as a desperate attempt by the magazine to shore up circulation during the dearth of sports news in the winter. The idea turned out to be so popular that frolicking beauties with almost nothing on became as much of a sporting event as the World Series, the Super Bowl and the Olympics — but not without a corresponding chorus of critics.

Detractors complained, sometimes rightly so, that these airbrushed examples of femininity contributed to girls’ distorted body images. The ruckus, however, has done little to curb sales. By some estimates, the swimsuit issue accounts for 11 percent of the magazine’s annual revenue and attracts mucho, mucho attention, the kind of buzz money can’t buy.

So it should come as no surprise that SI pulled out all the stops for this milestone birthday. The 2014 issue, as thick as a small city’s phone book, has three models on the cover instead of one, a whopping 112 pages of advertising, a record number of sponsors, and Barbie posing as one of the hot babes.

Yes, Barbie, the buxom plastic bod that started it all. And by “all” I mean that Barbie has served as lightning rod in the decades-old discussion about the lessons we’re teaching our daughters. Many believe that Barbie, with her impossible body measurements and infinite good hair days, whispers the wrong message into the ears of our impressionable little girls.

I’m not one of those people. I also don’t believe that playing with an ugly doll will necessarily change the way a girl thinks of her body. So much more goes into the complex way we women view ourselves. Blaming a doll with gravity-defying body parts for the unreasonable and unattainable notions we have of the female figure is simplistc. Insulting, even.

Censure should be spread among the shapewear makers, the miracle bra inventors, the Photoshop and airbrush artists, the store mannequins, the cosmetics industry, the diet pill manufacturers, the plastic surgeons, the advertisers and copywriters, the fashion designers, the divas and actresses and celebrities. And of course we, too, must carry the blame for every little dig we utter about sagging breasts, big butts and widening waists.

But because Barbie’s body has the same relationship to reality as the odds I have of looking like Christie Brinkley at 60, a doll is the perfect addition to SI’s swimsuit edition. In a brilliant marketing move, Mattel gets much-needed attention at a time when its sales are slipping and SI creates more than your average outrage for its annual issue. The latter has already happened.

The former? I guess we’ll have to wait on the toy company’s financial statements.

Instead of pointing the finger at Barbie — or at SI, which reportedly reaches 17 million women — I’d like to suggest a different strategy, one that requires more thought and less knee-jerk reaction. Swimsuit model is just one of the 150 careers Barbie has practiced in her 55-year lifespan. And that underscores this wonderful truth: A little girl can be whatever she wants to be, bathing beauty or engineer or teacher or astronaut. Or even, yes, a newspaper columnist.

After all, in the genetic lottery that is life, an expansive brain lasts longer than a tiny waist.

Read more Lifestyle stories from the Miami Herald

  • Teens, young adults using melatonin more

    Melatonin is growing in popularity among teens and young adults who are trying to regulate their sleep cycle, but experts say using good sleep hygiene such as sticking to a consistent sleep-and-wake schedule is a better solution.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">MOMENTS BEFORE TRAGEDY:</span> A  video  shows the girl, in pink shorts and braided ponytail, with her hands clutched around the grip of the submachine gun.

    In My Opinion

    Ana Veciana-Suarez: A 9-year-old with an Uzi? That’s crazy

    There is nothing, absolutely nothing logical or sensible or worthwhile in having a 9-year-old learn to use an Uzi. No reason, none whatsoever, for a child to handle a fully automatic gun.

  • Wine

    Marvelous malbec deserves to be discovered

    In a restaurant in Buenos Aires, I ordered a “half” parrillada, so they plunked down only about five pounds of beef on the grill on my table.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category