A week ago Mattel Inc. released information about their new line of Barbie dolls, i.e. The Barbie Fashionista Dolls. These new dolls have one of three “real woman” figures – curvy, tall and petite. The new bodies are geared in various skin tones, hair colours and even hair textures. To be precise, the company is including 4 body types, 7 skin tones, 22 eye colours and 24 different hairstyles (Barbie 2016). Of course the traditional thin, white, blonde Barbie will continue to exist but now children will be presented with a more diverse set of options.
For decades now Mattel has been criticised for Barbie’s unrealistic proportions. Many little girls and young women have developed eating disorders and body dysmorphia in order to look like their perfect Barbie doll. Of course the mechanics involved in doll creation involve considerable obstacles for body diversity. For example, it may be impossible to avoid a thigh gap and maintain mobility for plastic legs. Moreover, the quality of materials involved in creating a Barbie doll inhibit any signs of cellulite or muffin tops.
Mattel has taken a big step towards a progressive future with the new range of Barbie’s, but is it too little too late? Time Magazine did an observational study with 6 year old girls wherein they were put in a room with the new dolls and were observed through a two-way mirror (Kiser 2016). The result: Curvy Barbie was undressed, called fat and laughed at. The result though unfortunate is not surprising (Cauterucci 2016).
One thing to keep in mind is that Barbie isn’t the only charismatic figurine. Children are constantly bombarded with images of beautiful skinny celebrities on a daily basis. The media, the airbrushing, the photoshop, the ads for losing weight are all signs picked up by children. Needless to say there isn’t anything wrong or bad about thin bodies; but it becomes an issue when children see only one kind of body. This ideology limits their potential to view any other kind of body as normal.
Mattel isn’t the only toy company taking a leap towards progression. According to Geggel (2016) “The U.K. doll company Makies has made dolls with walking canes, hearing aids and birthmarks, and Lammily and Lottie dolls are made to have more realistic body shapes”
My personal interest in Barbie is minimal, but as a woman I strongly believe that little girls need better representations of themselves and the women they aspire to be some day.
- Barbie (2016) The Evolution of Barbie [online] available from <http://kids.barbie.com/en-gb/promo/barbie-fashionistas> [6 February 2016]
- Cauterucci, C. (2016) Little Girls Reactions to the New Curvy Barbie Prove Why we need Curvy Barbie [online] available from <http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2016/01/28/little_girls_reactions_to_curvy_barbie_prove_why_we_need_curvy_barbie.html > [6 February 2016]
- Geggel, L. (2016) Toys Like Me: Why Diversity in Barbie Dolls and Legos Matters [online] available from <http://www.livescience.com/53617-why-barbie-doll-lego-diversity-matters.html > [6 February 2016]
- Kiser, S. (2016) The Doll Evolves: What Barbie’s New Body Can and Can Not Do for our Girls Body Image [online] available from <http://cognoscenti.wbur.org/2016/02/05/barbies-new-body-sarah-kiser > [6 February 2016]