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DISPATCH: Ruby, the Anti-Barbie
Posted on November 27, 2001 by Anita

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.

Then, in Hong Kong, posters of Ruby were banned on the Mass Transit Railway because authorities said she would offend passengers. (Granted, Ruby often appeared without clothes on, but like Barbie, she had no nipples or pubic hair.) Of course, the much more seriously offensive images of silicone-enhanced blondes in other ads were permitted to stay on the trains.

And there, in a nutshell, is my relationship with the beauty industry. It makes me angry, not only because it is a male-dominated industry built on creating needs that don't exist, but because it seems to have decided that it needs to make women unhappy about their appearances. It plays on self-doubt and insecurity about image and ageing by projecting impossible ideals of youth and beauty.

Leonard Lauder, son of Estée, once refused to advertise in Ms. Magazine (back when they still accepted ads) because, he said his products were meant for "the kept woman mentality."

I think it is a moral imperative that The Body Shop, as a cosmetics company itself, continue to buck the industry on issues of self-esteem, and to expose the cruel irony of the myth that a company must make a woman feel inferior in order to win her loyalty.

Ruby, who still watches us from posters throughout The Body Shop's offices, won't let us forget.

Topic : Women
Posted By : Anita
Posted On : November 27, 2001



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3 results found

Re : Ruby, the Anti-Barbie
By Kim Walden on November 4, 2006

Can it be true that Ruby is actually 8 years old now? I was introduced to Ruby - and the Campaign - while traveling in Atlanta, GA. in '98. I was teaching middle school life skills in Texas at the time, and just fell in love with the message and with the image! So, I waltzed into the Body Shop and asked politely for the poster. They refused my request of course, but they gave me a small magnet with my purchase. I traveled back to the Dallas area and started making phone calls to every single Body Shop I could locate. I finally got in touch with the Body Shop in the NorthPark Mall in Dallas. Again, I explained that I was a teacher, etc. and would like to have a couple pieces of "Ruby" literature w/ pictures. I was put through to a manager or supervisor who told me to just "come on down." Apparently, this location came under a LOT of fire and the materials had caused such a commotion that all of the Ruby campaign materials had to be taken down. THIS JUST CRACKED ME UP! This was DALLAS, TEXAS, USA. Oh, well - I arrived and believe it or not they gave me every single poster, postcard, magnet, etc. I really got them all, including a bigger than life poster that I planned on using during my self-esteem unit the following school year. The controversy continued and my principal wouldn't let me display the original posters, etc. He LOVED the message, but was leary of the "nude" barbie image. I mailed the postcards to everyone I know - without envelopes! Ha. I kept one for my office at home, one for my office away from home, and my refrigerator still holds the magnet! The massive sized posters are in storage waiting for a revival some day. Have I really kept this stuff for 8 years now? Wow! I don't teach anymore - I'll save that topic for another day, but a couple of years ago I bought a Salon - strictly as an investment, and I put a small Ruby postcard on the bulletin board. Everyone LOVES it in the Salon. I wish that I could get a small digital image to put on our salon web-site. Just a tiny little thing tucked away in the site to keep Ruby around for a few more years. Any ideas?

Re : Ruby, the Anti-Barbie
By Eva on May 17, 2006

I totally agree with the Bodyshop on their campaign - Ruby is fantastic.
At this site http://www.bestrejectedadvertising.com/ban/A.html I found a picture of Ruby, and to be honest, she does not only look more realistic than Barbie, but she's also a lot prettier.
So, as a last shout-out: Go Ruby Go!

Re : Ruby, the Anti-Barbie
By S.Perrin on January 19, 2005

I'd love to be able to post an image of ruby on my messenger, my email...

I am a member of a number of (supposedly intellectual) chatsites and get very annoyed with individuals who declare an interest in chatting only to tall, slim blondes/redheads (preferably with ample bosoms).

I would be delighted to be able to introduce them to the lovely Ruby! Is there an image of her that I can use as an "up yours" kind of statement to those who still believe the female brain is housed in her bra?



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