Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Please stop sending me this "banned" voluptuous Barbie ad.

You've probably seen this ad floating around on Facebook, Twitter, Buzzfeed or elsewhere, possibly with an ask to petition Mattel to stop censoring it.

Just one problem: That ad is 13 years old.

In 1998, The Body Shop debuted its self-esteem campaign, featuring the generously proportioned doll we dubbed "Ruby." Her rubenesque figure graced windows in The Body Shop windows in the UK that year, along with our slogan, "There are 3 billion women who don't look like supermodels and only 8 who do." She went on to appear in stores in Australia, Asia, and the United States, where she captured the imaginations of consumers weary of the rail-thin heroin-chic of the beauty industry's advertising messages.

Ruby was a fun idea, but she carried a serious message. She was intended to challenge stereotypes of beauty and counter the pervasive influence of the cosmetics industry, of which we understood we were a part. Perhaps more than we had even hoped, Ruby kick-started a worldwide debate about body image and self-esteem.

But Ruby was not universally loved. In the United States, the toy company Mattel sent us a cease-and-desist order, demanding we pull the images of Ruby from American shop windows. Their reason: Ruby was making Barbie look bad, presumably by mocking the plastic twig-like bestseller (Barbie dolls sell at a rate of two per second; it's hard to see how our Ruby could have done any meaningful damage.) I was ecstatic that Mattel thought Ruby was insulting to Barbie -- the idea of one inanimate piece of molded plastic hurting another's feelings was absolutely mind-blowing.

So yes, Mattel did send a cease-and-desist. In the last century. Here's a different version:

Via Big Fat Deal
Want more?

Via El Blogo De Mango

Via Ruby's creator, Host International

Not that it makes it any less of a good campaign, or Mattel's reaction any less stupid. But get with the times! Today, we're hating on Mattel and Barbie for irresponsible cardboard sourcing in their packaging.


  1. ..... and here's a post from 2001 to go with it.


    Ten years!

  2. Wow, Dab! You've been at this for some time ; )

  3. Fourteen years.

    Hehe, so when I go "seen it", I usually have! *ROTFLAMO* <-- easily amused.

  4. We only share because we care...

  5. Awww, Mark! Don't take it bad. You are one among many.

  6. many many many! I've been watching this happens quite a few times over the years, and this makes sense - the big jump from when it happened to when it went viral again. I have this theory it follows prime numbers, see. Trust me, my theory sounds awesome when you're as drunk as I am hyper on coffee.

  7. There's another reason that this is ulimately lame that no one else has mentioned. As with dove and other similar campaigns, this is another example of corporations manipulating and co-opting feminist ideas, not only for profit, but also using peoples hatred of beauty standards to continue to fund the industry that is partly responsible for them. It's somewhat debatable whether these companies actually care about women. What's not debatable is that they're trying to empower women.. to buy products they don't need which have a negative environmental and health impact!

  8. What Cassandra said.. "We believe you are naturally beautiful... but buy our products and they'll make you MORE naturally beautiful, because even your own natural beauty as much as we love and support it, is not good enough."

    So much bull.

  9. thanks for the post on Ruby - I remember the times - we had fun with Anita and the fight against Mattel. The sad thing of course is that we still have to campaign against Barbie in the first place. She - with so many millions of other creations from the toy industry - should have died a death long time ago!

  10. As a father of three beautiful daughters (they were born that way), I'm with Cassandra & Yandle on this one! We are surrounded by the superficial, plastic hell that is suburban life in CA, replete with every corporate-sponsored, culturally-perpetuated notion of beauty abounding at every turn; on billboards, bus-stops, in the mall, in television, in movies and video games, and on the covers of magazines at the grocery store check-out. Sadly it is so interwoven into our culture & daily lives, that the vast majority of my daughters' peers and their families are blind to it's surreptitious, destructive effects, and have bought in hook, line, and sinker. What do you tell your seven year old, when she notices that her Kindergarten teacher, whom she idolizes, just went up 4 bra-sizes over the weekend?