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Barbie's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover ignites heated debate, anorexia talk

Barbie's inclusion in 2014 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue stirs body-image debate
Sports Illustrated

The Barbie doll's inclusion in the 2014 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue has sparked a heated debate over body image and eating disorders.

Sports Illustrated unveiled its cover girls for the 2014 Swimsuit Issue: Supermodels Nina Agdal, Lily Aldridge and Chrissy Teigen (all of whom are also Victoria's Secret models).

For SI's 50th anniversary issue, Barbie is featured alongside Christie Brinkley and Brooklyn Decker as part of an ad campaign called "Unapologetic."

For the campaign, Barbie appears on the cover of 1,000 issues for the New York Toy Fair, which kicks off Feb. 16. The move is a blatant marketing stunt to boost Barbie's sagging sales, which have plummeted 13% worldwide.

Mattel, the global toy giant which makes the Barbie doll, is aware that Barbie's unrealistically skinny body measurements have fueled divisive debates. Critics say the doll promotes poor body image, anorexia and bulimia among young girls.

"Barbie has always been a lightning rod for controversy and opinions," said a Mattel rep. “As a legend herself, and under criticism about her body, posing in the ‘Sports Illustrated Swimsuit’ issue gives Barbie and her fellow legends an opportunity to own who they are, celebrate what they have done, and be unapologetic."

Meanwhile, moms have taken to the Internet to express their concern over Barbie's inclusion in the iconic swimsuit issue, which has historically celebrated stunningly beautiful (human) women with jaw-dropping bodies. The blog Mommyish slammed the move:

Too bad if your kid feels sh*tty she’s not tall and blond and perfect like Barbie, because they are all UNAPOLOGETIC. Adding Barbie to the lineup of impossibly gorgeous, airbrushed beauties doesn’t do a lot for the self-esteem of young girls. It just doesn’t."

This isn't the first time Barbie has caused an outcry, and it won't be the last. In December 2013, a photo of a hypothetical plus-sized Barbie doll stirred discussion over obesity, body image, and anorexia.

Critics said a plus-sized doll promotes obesity, while plus-sized women were offended that the heavy Barbie was portrayed looking sloppy, with a double chin.

In July 2013, artist Nickolay Lamm unveiled a 3-D model of a "normal-weight" Barbie, who was shorter and thicker than the typical Barbie doll. Lamm said he undertook the project to address concerns that the current Barbie doll promotes an unhealthy body image and eating disorders among young girls.

If we criticize skinny models, we should at least be open to the possibility that Barbie may negatively influence young girls as well. Furthermore, a realistically proportioned Barbie actually looks pretty good."

Meanwhile, body experts say if Barbie were a real person, she would be 6-feet-tall, weigh an anemic 100 pounds and have a 16-inch waist.

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