Finally someone said it.
I use this debate every time that I’d hear people complain about Barbie and her body shape and it’s effects on girl. I never understood why people made a big deal out of it, it was just a doll - why would we blame a doll for unreal body expectations who could be any thing she wanted. A doll is a doll, not reality. I’d blame media and their UNREALISTIC expectations for us, before I’d blame a doll.
Stop Barbie Shaming.
I think this is a very interesting way to look at Barbie. I still think Barbie should be representative of more body types but looking at her positives are good as well.
Barbie was the reason at age 7 I KNEW I was never going to be beautiful. At 8 I started doing exercises like leg lifts when I was supposed to be sleeping in hopes I wouldn’t get fat.
Yes, there were actresses at that time that added to this but I thought that Barbie was made to look like those actresses for a reason. Barbie looked like the girls in my dad’s magazines and calendars in the garage.
That’s probably why I cut her hair off and eventually filled her with gasoline and burned her. I just remember hating my body and feeling absolute certainty I wasn’t going to be loved by a man because I didn’t fit her mold.
It may not be realistic to represent every body type in a doll but Barbie was meant to represent women in a specific way. They did not make her vague like some dolls nor did they make her cartoon-ish.
I’m confident part of her powerful draw was her looking “realistic” like a starlet (and then a supermodel)….especially in comparison to other toys at the time.
I don’t think Barbie needs to change. I think there simply need to be options for a few body types (not necessarily made by the same company) so that girls see that and can choose… because the visual recognition of physical diversity matters.. and of course better dialog surrounding our bodies. I picked up the ideas I had from somewhere and it wasn’t the Barbie Doll. She just reinforced it because she fit the pattern of the bodies I saw in the media around me.
Put me in the category of girls who didn’t have a problem with Barbie’s body type and considered her physical form as “just a doll.” Even if I complain about my appearance or weight now, I never attribute the problems to Barbie, because she was always just a tool to me to act out my idle fantasies and role play and yadda yadda yadda…
I can’t speak for everyone, as we all come from different backgrounds and upbringings. I spent a lot of childhood being told I was “beautiful,” with people complimenting my blonde hair often (which to be fair, is unusual for a family of Hispanics that are almost all brunettes, with the occasional redhead). It got said often enough that it really became part of the background noise, and I quickly realized it was just something relatives said about pretty much everyone’s children in my family. Not sure if I believed it when I was little, but I certainly didn’t believe it as I entered puberty. I think I got it more often, though, not just because I was a girl, but because I was only one of two girls in my family at the time. I was a rare specimen. Now that my cousins have grown up and have kids of their own, I see those kids — girls and boys — get called beautiful. It’s just something people do. I think it’s something people say to parents to make them feel good about themselves, because they’re expected to say something nice to be polite, but they don’t have enough data to say anything about the child’s interests or personality.
Now that I’m an adult (and my hair is no longer blonde), I don’t get called beautiful as often. When I do, it’s always by relatives I hardly ever see, and it’s usually when my mother is around…
I have an uncle who I was never particularly close to, but now I like him a lot after that time he asked me “how is work?” and I was all “HOLY SHIT he’s asking me about me as a person and not commenting about my appearance or my relationship status!”
If I were to tie my experiences with Barbie into who I am today, I would say that the “we girls can do everything” mantra had a big influence on me. I define myself by my job and my hobbies — just like Barbie! Granted, Barbie still wears high heels and makeup while doing it, two things I generally abhor, but I don’t hold that against her.
Now, I have a unique perspective on Barbie because when I was a kid my mother bought me a book called “The Life and Times of Barbie,” which was most definitely not a kids’ book. Oh, it had a lot of really nice full color pictures in it and I loved looking at them, but when I first got it I read the entire thing cover-to-cover (do not think that’s what my mother intended, but reading things is what I do). Which is how, at the tender age of seven, I knew a lot more about mid-to-late 20th Century history and entertainment, the civil rights movement, and women’s lib than the vast majority of my contemporaries. I knew that Barbie was based on an “adult” German doll named Bild Lilli, and I knew that Barbie’s initial incarnation was based on Brigitte Bardot. I knew who Brigitte Bardot was! I also knew who Twiggy was, which is kind of an important thing to know if you’re going to talk about media images of women.
(Next time you see this…
… just answer, “Twiggy.” She was doing the waifishly thin thing before it was cool, and it was perfectly natural on her part.)
So, you could say I have a very strong academic interest in Barbie, and maybe it influenced how I play, and it certainly explains why I’m still interested in her now (though more as a cultural object rather than as something I actively collect or play with… though the temptation to do both is occasionally there).
Now, I do think Barbie’s frame could be more realistic than it is now, and note that they have made Barbie dolls with thicker waists, wider hips, a smaller bust line, and flatter feet. I like these Barbie dolls and find them much prettier to look at naked than the standard Barbie models. I don’t know why they haven’t made the changeover, considering that the old clothes would still fit (and besides, if enough years go by it doesn’t matter). Other toy brands have reinvented themselves (e.g. Fisher Price’s Little People), why not Barbie?
In the wake of this inertia other people have proposed, either seriously or as just criticism, making their own dolls with “realistic” body types. These seem to never take off. Why? Because honestly, they’re usually not very good toys. While it is just a parody, look at that Body Shop ad above. People might laud it for presenting a realistic body image, but I look at that and think “man, that doll must be really hard to dress.” Plastic is not as forgiving as flesh.
This is the Lammily doll, which is supposedly using “standard human body proportions” and “realistic beauty standards.” She seems nice enough, but I noticed looking at the images on the website that none of them are wearing pants (only shorts) or long sleeved shirts (the above image is 3/4). Which makes me suspicious that Lammily’s articulation makes her hard to dress. And hard to dress is not fun.
Earlier this year a Mattel designer came under fire for saying that Barbie’s unrealistic body proportions were “designed for girls to easily dress and undress.”And he’s right, somewhat. Barbie is easy to dress! The tube-like legs that start off small and increase gradually in width are pretty easy to put a pair of pants on (the biggest detriment is the rubber texture, which creates a lot of friction). Though, truth be told, I can’t say the same about her bust — strapless dresses are a crapshoot; the extra width keeps the dress on, but sometimes it just pops off. However, what kills me is that the more realistic Barbie body type I mentioned above is also pretty easy to dress…
Maybe I’ve gotten a bit off track here, and I apologize. However, it’s a tricky balance between ethics/ideals and playability, and I feel the latter often gets lost when trying to make toys to promote the former. (Goldieblox is a great example, but I really don’t want to get into it now. However, its worth reading the reviews on Amazon posted before the Beastie Boys kerfuffle — everyone loved the idea of a toy to promote STEM for girls, but a lot of those girls just didn’t like or lost interest in their sets).
Personally, if I were to make a change in Barbie right now, what I’d want is better outfits! And by “better outfits,” I mean outfits that aren’t just high fashion or occupational uniforms for doctors and lawyers and computer programmers (which are fine professions for a woman to have), but also more military uniforms and superheroes and spies. Why can’t my Barbie be an international super spy?
You will not believe how badly I want this doll just for her outfit. (Though god dammit, articulated wrists. Ugh.)
I didn't have any perspective like that. Reading that makes me feel so sad for the child me. I learned from the adult males in my life that a woman's value was what she provided but that true desire lay with the women in pornography, movies, etc. I had no exposure to any other mind set until I was 12 (psych books at the library) and then I slowly began rejecting all those ideas… not as a whole but in regards to myself and as an unacceptable set of traits in the people in my life.
But before I got to that point those ideas were huge… maybe it's because I felt unloved in general that I fixated on the future possibility of love (or lack thereof) and only had been exposed to the relationship idea of love… not friendships, self chosen family, etc.
I stopped thinking about Barbie dolls after I hit puberty (around age 10). When I pass Barbies in the store the only thing I think is, “ugh pink” but I am not even sure I've noticed in the past decade. She went from hugely symbolic to many of my fears and stresses as a child to just a toy and my insecurities shifted to the usual things teenagers are triggered by.
After saying all that I just feel that it's awesome to be in my 30s because I really do feel far away from all that finally. lol but I'm glad I had Barbies as I kid. My micromachines just didn't role play as well. I would have had the body image issues anyway.