Can you believe that it’s been 50 years since the first Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition?
No? Me either…but that doesn’t change the facts. In 1964 the first edition hit newsstands and ever since had sparked controversy concerning objectification of women, pornography, and other hot button issues. But this year, Sports Illustrated and Mattel either sank to new lows or soared to new heights depending on your personal convictions. Barbie will be the cover model, and in my opinion, both organizations have successfully and completely “blurred the line between women as objects and actual plastic objects.” (CNN)
We’ve all seen a Barbie doll, but just in case you’ve never seen the blonde bombshell, here she is on the cover of the magazine:
Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition has long been criticized for only promoting “hypersexualized images of women” (Nicole Rodgers, editor-in-chief of RoleReboot.org) and a homogenous form of beauty, emphasizing thin frames, little clothing, and leaving almost nothing to the imagination. But this pairing between the magazine and Mattel blurs the line still further. Rodgers argues it this way: “Barbie is not a woman, she’s an inanimate object. Juxtaposing her alongside real women as though the two are indistinguishable is dehumanizing, and in a literal sense, objectifying.”
But does any of this really matter? Are the little girls that are playing with Barbie actually influenced by her unrealistic portrayal of femininity? Some say no, but a growing body of research says yes.
Multiple studies over the past decade assert that play is an essential element in children learning who they are and how they fit in to their world. Point being that when they play with toys that portray an unrealistic sense of beauty, promote unrealistic values of femininity, and are generally distorted fabrications of reality, the children themselves are much more likely to experience low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy.
It was this body of research and popular opinion that inspired Nickolay Lamm to create an image that portrayed Barbie, a doll with extremely unrealistic body proportions, next to a doll made with the proportions of an average 19 year old female in the United States. He wanted to challenge the notion that average is not beautiful and in challenging the status quo, he flipped it on its head.
This image is a representation of what Barbie would actually look like as an average 19 year old. When the internet rejoiced at Lamm’s creations, he took it a step further and began working to produce an actual doll. He created a crowdfunding site to get Lammily into production that has now raised $470,802 of the requested $95,000.
Lamm made a statement about his new Lammily doll: “[she] is an alternative to dolls with unrealistic beauty standards that dominate the market, like Barbie, or the hypersexualized Bratz dolls,” “My doll is a cool-looking doll that just happens to be average.”
Lammily is a wonderful beginning to what can hopefully be a new trend in children’s toys. While children themselves don’t care about what their toy looks like, as long it looks like fun, their parents do. Think of it this way, if your child doesn’t like vegetables are you just going to say “Ok, you never need to eat them.”?
Of course not! Vegetables are required for their growth and health, but you might try to disguise their cauliflower into their mashed potatoes. That’s what Lammily does. She’s a cool doll that provides a natural representation of beauty. Most likely, the girls playing with her won’t notice anything different about her than a Barbie, but most likely the girls self-esteem will be the better for it in the long run.
There has been some flack about Lammily; most notably that she is fit, white, and not all encompassing of racial diverstiy. Lamm has plans to release other dolls, “I’m hoping to extend the line to embrace diversity. From race to body type, I want this doll to be true to you!” (Lammily.com) Lamm does not promote that Lammily is the standard of normalcy, only stating that “average is beautiful.” As for Lammily’s fitness level, on the website he also asserts that Lammily promotes a healthy lifestyle and as a result of that lifestyle she has a fit body type. So, yes. Lammily is fit and white and she doesn’t encompass every single body type or race that exists today. However, there are plans to make more models that promote this diversity; and there is no denying that this is a step in the right direction.
As a woman living in the United States today, it is impossible to escape the hypersexualization of women from media to advertising to film to college campuses. The skirts keep getting shorter, the V-necks keep getting lower, the make-up keeps getting thicker, and overall — our level self-worth and self-confidence isn’t getting any higher. Thanks to big name companies that prey on the weaknesses of men and the sexiness of women like Sports Illustrated and Mattel, America has crossed into precarious territory. Their objectification of women took a step over the guardrail and now we’re dangerously close to the edge of accepting that women are like Barbies – plastic objects to be ogled and touched and undressed all while keeping our make up looking fabulous.
Thanks to people standing up and calling for change like Nickolay Lamm, Stella Boonshoft, Lady Gaga, and many more there is still hope that women can be seen as humans again. We have the ability to affect change by instilling values into our daughters and sons that promote healthy body image.
Don’t sweat being average. Don’t sweat not being perfect.
None of us are.
Barbie isn’t a real woman.
Hell, those women in Sports Illustrated are only photoshopped manipulations of their former selves.
So be you.
Be normal (whatever that is).
Be who God created you to be.
Because, like Lammily’s slogan reminds us:
“Average is Beautiful.”
And so are you.
Stay Smiling, Beautiful (: Happy looks great on you.
Visit www.lammily.com/average-is-beautiful for purchase or more information on the Lammily doll