It offended Mattel, the makers of the infamous Barbie doll. The company pulled rank, sent Body Shop a cease and desist letter, effectively yanking the ad from circulation.
Granted, this all happened about five years ago. But the fact that the image above still appears on Facebook pages asking those who agree with The Body Shop to repost to their own page in a show of support, along with the fact that I got so fired up about the topic, tells us we still have a ways to go before society stops assigning worth based on body size alone.
Obviously, Mattel's Think Tank was missing a few brain cells when it came to making this less than stellar marketing decision. Not only did they effectively make themselves look like the world's biggest assholes, they also helped to shed light on the Rubenesque Ruby doll featured in the Body Shop ad now facebook status updates in support of The Body Shop.
See, the problem here is that Mattel decided to make this about them and their product. And maybe, to an extent, it was. Barbie is, after all, the most famous doll of all time. She's been everything from a model to a teacher to a doctor to a butterfly fairy and done it all with crazy arched feet to fit in those high heels and somehow managed to not topple over with measurements that have been proven to not be physically possible to maintain for an actual living human. Google Barbie and Real Life Measurements and you will find a slew of conflicting answers that all come to approximately the same conclusion: if Barbie were real she would be extremely tall, extremely anorexic, and probably not be able to stand up straight.
I know that my daughter doesn't see Broken Body Image or Eating Disorder or False Representation or even a mirror of herself when she asks for a Barbie when we pass the toy aisle at Target. I know she only sees the chance to play and imagine and play dress up with a new doll whose hair she could destroy within moments of getting it out of the box. And whether we like it or not, that's probably one of the biggest secrets of Barbie's long-standing success. Little girls who loved Barbie grow up to be mothers of little girls who love Barbie in spite of all of life's lessons mama has gleaned since the last time she looked at Barbie and didn't see a reason to hate her body. And because her daughter's smiles are more important than her own agendas, mama lets her little girl have the doll that makes her giggle and hopes to God that her baby grows up without ever having compared herself to the doll of her childhood.
Am I being harsh? Maybe a little bit. Barbie wasn't directly responsible for my eating disordered childhood. Barbie didn't show me how to starve myself or how to make myself throw up when I ate too much. But to be fair, Barbie also did not show me that my natural curves were something to be proud of.
But guess what, Mattel. That Body Shop ad was something you should have left alone if only for the reason that it was designed to make the average American woman feel good about what she sees in the mirror. Little girls, I doubt, were going to be swayed from the Barbie camp because of an ad at a beauty store that spoke to her Mommy. And that average American woman you pissed off is the one holding the purse strings the little girl asking for the Barbie at the store is tugging on.
Kudos to The Body Shop. And someone please remind Mattel to play nice in the sandbox next time.
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