Quit Blaming Barbie!




For a few decades now feminists have accused Barbie of teaching young girls that their body isn’t good enough. Barbie has been blamed for everything from anorexia and bulimia to body dissatisfaction, lousy self esteem and self hatred.

In this Month’s O, the Oprah mag, a model whose body has been marked with a plastic surgeon’s magic marker lines to turn her into Barbie, poses next to the curvy plastic doll. The implication is that Barbie is bad, and anyone who wants to look like her would need a hell of a lot of plastic surgery.

That’s a given. We know the 11 1/2 inch doll is not to proportion. Her breasts are too large, her waist too small, her neck too elongated. Her measurements have been morphed into life-size dimensions and the proportions tell us something like a life-size Barbie would be a size 12 up top, a size 2 on the bottom, and have giraffe size legs over six feet tall– totally unrealistic for most women to attain or even aspire to.

Seems Barbie is ridiculously disproportionate and cannot possibly represent an average woman.

Yet is she really to blame for young girls hating their shape and growing up with body issues, low self esteem and eating disorders? She’s a doll.

What’s more, she has been portrayed as everything from a doctor to an architect to an astronaut to a veterinarian over the years. She has a dream house and pink Corvette and a steady beau. But we don’t talk about that. Doesn’t Barbie represent that little girls can be anything they set out to be, that they can live in great homes and drive nice cars and have a wonderful companion, a slew of friends and a happy life—all based on their smarts, savvy and styling fashion sense?

She may not be the best physical role model for girls and women, but she’s not an advertisement depicting all women as 6 feet tall, size 0 with a double D chest. No, that’s what magazines, television and the media do. Barbie’s physicality is simply a symptom of society.

Launched in 1959, Barbie was modeled more after the likes of Marilyn Monroe’s figure than the waif size actresses in films today.

If Barbie was just created in 2011 with this year’s trendy Christmas toy line up, who do you think Mattel might model her figure after? Kate Moss?  Heidi Klum? Lady Ga Ga? Maybe she’d be a lot less busty, a little less curvy and sixteen inches tall instead of eleven. Would that be any better?

I doubt it. Barbie helps teach girls to be strong, confident women who believe they can be anything men can be. Quit blaming her un-lifelike 52-year old plastic figure on women’s body dissatisfaction– and focus on where society really might make a difference. Like in the bombardment of media images we see on a daily basis that depicts unrealistic live women who’ve been morphed with a computerized retouching program.

Give Barbie a break!


About stilettonation

Jennifer Nelson is a writer working on Stiletto Nation: Inside the Perfumed Pages of the Women's Magazine Industry to be published Fall of 2012 by Seal Press. Stop in and read about the great, the awful and the insane in the fragrant pages of the women's glossies.

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