By Brianna Love
Today’s Barbie doll is often seen as an “anti-feminist” doll. It’s argued that she body shames women into thinking that her figure is the “ideal” of how a woman is supposed to look.
On the contrary, Barbie actually started out as a symbol for feminism. She was the first doll to exist that wasn’t a baby doll. It was society’s first doll that didn’t teach young girls how to nurture and become caregivers.
Barbie also allowed girls to imagine having a variety of occupations. Throughout history, it taught young girls that they could become anything, including but not limited to: an astronaut, a lawyer, a teacher, or an athlete.
With the onslaught of feminist critique, the makers of Barbie are currently concerned with the low sales of the dolls. This is due to the body image the dolls are portraying.
Over time, Barbie has evolved into a series of “ideals” that mothers no longer want to showcase to their young daughters.
Her “un-relatable” hourglass figure. Her long blonde hair. Her bright blue eyes, and her perky breasts appear as what society calls the “perfect woman.”
“Moms are probably the most important influence on a daughter’s body image. Even if a mom says to the daughter, ‘You look so beautiful, but I’m so fat,’ it can be detrimental.”
Parents sometimes don’t realize how much children observe and learn while they are still growing.
I grew up with a mom and grandma who would diet fairly often. While I was always a petite girl, I still have that nagging voice in my head saying I need to “eat better and exercise more.” It was just the type of environment I was raised in.
We are so quick to blame television, the radio, famous icons, and anyone else other than ourselves. Granted, those mediums of information do play a role in how society views things. However, they are not the sole instigator.
If the traditional Barbie was a real woman, she would be 5’9”, have a 39-inch bust, an 18-inch waist, 33-inch hips, wear a size 3 in shoes, and weigh about 120 pounds. This “perfect” body image would likely result in A LOT of health issues. For instance, the woman described would likely not be able to menstruate at all.
This was NEVER the common body image, but it was the “ideal” body image. Therefore, it gives an unrealistic expectation to young girls. One in 100 thousand women are born with this body type. But, should we be body shaming the girls that are thinner or bigger than Barbie?
In 2016, the average American girl between the ages of 3 and 11 owned approximately 11 Barbie dolls. All were the same size, so that they could share Barbie clothes.
Barbie’s body image influenced Cindy Jackson so much that she underwent over 20 different cosmetic surgeries so that she would fit the Barbie body image. In 2006, she was named, “Britain’s most surgically altered woman.”
“Why should we live in a face that’s foisted on us from birth? We choose our clothes, our hair-colouring. Why not our face?”- Cindy Jackson
Cosmetic surgery is a heated topic among feminists, in regard to whether it’s right or wrong. Some feminists think that we should be able to do whatever we want with our bodies. Including altering them into the way we want them to look. Others argue that cosmetic surgeons, “ruthlessly prey on women’s body insecurities.”
No matter where you stand on the issue, it’s safe to say that idolizing a plastic toy so much, that they spend millions of dollars to look like it, is a little overboard.
Kim Culmone, VP designer at Mattel, said, “Barbie’s body was never designed to be realistic. She was designed for girls to easily dress and undress.”
Barbie was supposed to be a fantasy for little girls. The dolls were meant to be a tool for young girls to imagine more for their lives–other than the expectations to get married, have children, take care of the house, etc.
The company that created Barbie, Mattel, is now redesigning Barbie to be all different sizes: short and tall, a variety of waist sizes, and a variety of ethnicities. They are completely rethinking the image of Barbie.
Mattel struggled with deciding to redesign such a traditional figure, because in past test marketing groups, the children did not like the new variety of dolls. They wanted them to look like the traditional Barbie.
Hulu recently released a documentary on the process of redesigning Barbie. This documentary is called, Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie.
In this documentary, Mattel tells the history of Barbie and how she has evolved.
“Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie, examines the world’s most popular doll, from her humble origins to her controversial persona today. In her 59 years, Barbie has become a fashion icon, a lightning rod, and a target for feminists. This documentary reveals unprecedented access to the inner workings of a toy giant during Barbie’s biggest reinvention.” –IMDb
After watching the insightful documentary, my view of Barbie has changed. I think she was just misunderstood and a little delayed in evolving with society.