Barbie Gets a Reality Check, But This May Not Be the Solution to Body Image Problems
When I was growing up, I had my fair share of Barbie paraphernalia. I had a bucketful of dolls, mainly because no one else knew what to get me for my birthday (besides bead bracelet kits – OH MY GOD). No complaints there – I loved Barbie. I loved cutting her hair off and coloring it in with pink marker with the hope I would someday unleash a hidden talent in hair styling. I collected different outfits, like plaid crop tops and mini-skirts (it was the ’90s). I was practically an only child, so Barbie was my BFF. It was me and Barbie against the world.
Over the last few years, people have been scrutinizing Barbie’s proportions, creating digital images and models of what Barbie would actually look like were she a living woman. The images are ghastly; real life Barbie looks like an anorexic alien with super fake boobs! Recently, artist Nickolay Lamm of MyDeals.com used CDC measurements of an average 19 year-old young woman to create a 3D model, which he juxtaposed with normal Barbie. He then photoshopped the 3-D model so that it looked like a Barbie doll.
Lamm did this with the intention of illuminating the vast differences between the standard size -5 Barbie and average young woman Barbie to reflect what women actually look like. He also concluded that “if there’s even a small chance of Barbie in its present form negatively influencing girls, and if Barbie looks good as an average-sized woman in America, what’s stopping Mattel from making one?”
Okay. While I think that this was a very cool, eye-opening project and Lamm has a good point, I just don’t think it’s completely necessary for Mattel to make any drastic changes in how Barbie looks. In no way do I support Barbie’s size and laughably unrealistic body, nor do I think young girls should strive to obtain it, but I don’t believe these matters are prevalent inside the mind of a little girl. Barbie has been disproportionate since the dawn of time (1959), and to blame negative influences on her is pushing the real problem under the rug.
Most little girls (and boys, hey) shouldn’t be comparing their bodies to Barbie at such a young age. If they are, then we really need to examine their surroundings and influences, because we’re in big trouble here if that’s the case. Most little kids just want a doll that comes with a lot of accessories and outfits; they shouldn’t be psychologically taking in Barbie’s freak-like genetics and feeling badly about themselves. When I was a kid, I knew the difference between Barbie and women. Barbie was plastic, always wore underwear, and had a permanently made-up face no matter how many times I gave her a bath. I knew there was not a single genuine aspect about Barbie. Barbie’s a toy, not a role model. Not a real person. Most toys don’t look like real people because that would be weird.
I have no problems with Mattel changing Barbie’s look at all. I say go for it. I think that Lamm’s Barbie is totally hot. But the change probably won’t make a difference to your average 5-year-old, because that’s not something she or he is focused on. Once that child becomes older and is subjected to magazines with airbrushed celebrities that are digitally enhanced to look three sizes smaller and five times as beautiful, that is when we run into body image issues. That is when girls and boys start comparing their bodies to the “perfectly” sculpted men and women who never break out, have size C breasts, and an effortless six-pack.
What I’m trying to say here is that Lamm’s re-imaging is old news. We know (or should) that the average woman is going to have hips. She’s going to have a pronounced ass. She’ll be shorter and curvier. She’ll be skinnier, bigger, taller, shorter, darker, and lighter than Lamm’s Barbie. She’ll have stretch marks or freckles, small, medium or large breasts. Women come in so many different shapes and sizes, and it’s beautiful. I don’t think changing a plastic doll is going to help kids understand that, because I think they already do. And if they don’t, there are better ways to help them understand.