Living in a Barbie World Megan Evans

Having an 8-year-old little girl has a lot of challenges. She has always had a dynamic personality and never seemed bothered by her self-image but I know that will change as she gets older. My little girl is very small for her age. Probably closer to the size of an average 6-year-old than an 8-year-old. While watching TV last week, she made a comment about an ad for Barbie. She said” Wow Barbie is amazing; she can do so many different jobs.” Not once did she say anything about Barbie’s size, or her shape. It got me thinking “Is Barbie a good or bad influence for little girls?”

The question about Body Image

Barbie has been touted to give girls unrealistic body images to aspire to. Her measurements are not even close to an average woman. The average woman is 5’4” and 145 lbs. If you made a life size Barbie, she would be 5’9” and weigh only 110lbs. This does seem like an unrealistic image to force upon our daughters. One woman Cindy Jackson has had multiple surgeries to look like Barbie. She spent about $55,000.00 on her transformation. While most girls would not be this extreme about their need to be “perfect” like Barbie, Cindy is one woman who felt the need to create herself in Barbie’s Image.

Cindy Jackson after her surgeries

The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness “reports that about 90% of those suffering from eating disorder are girls between the age of 12 and 25”. Most of these girls would have played with Barbie at one point or another. While body image isn’t the only thing that can cause eating disorders, it is worth it to consider if a child’s toy plays a part.

What’s Mattel doing to help?

Barbie debuted in 1959. While her size has always created a ton of controversy since then, their marketing strategy that Barbie can do it all has not changed. Barbie has been a pilot, a doctor, a veterinarian, an astronaut, an Olympic gymnast, and even in the latest set President of the United States. There are two Barbie’s sold every second in the world.

Ruth Handler developed Barbie as a doll “girls could play out their dreams”.
Barbie and her many professions

In 2016, Barbie has developed and introduced a line of dolls that are more in line with our current world image. Barbie now comes in petite, tall, plus size, different hair styles, and more racially diverse that in any other time in her history. Mattel has heard our cries and replied.

Michelle Chidoni a company spokesperson explained that the new dolls “are a better reflection of what girls see in the world around them”. This is in part to help girls see that all body types and colors are beautiful. Hopefully this helps give girls a more realistic body image.
2016 New Barbies...
Mattel Senior VP Evelyn Mazzocco, “we believe we have a responsibility to girls and parents to reflect a broader view of beauty.

As a Parent…

I believe the real shoulders this debate falls on is us parents. A doll might help to define how our kids see the world but as parents what do we contribute to this. Children pick up so much of their negative self-talk from us. It’s almost automatic for us to berate our own selves and our own images. I’m short, and it’s one thing that I laugh and joke about all the time. I’m barely 5” and know it won’t be long before my daughter is taller than me. I laugh all the time about not being able to reach the top shelf. Is my self-talk causing her to think that way? How do we get better about what we say to ourselves?

I happen to think that the positives of Barbie outweigh the negatives. One of the things that I love about Barbie is that it promotes imagination. It helps little girls create a world they want to live in. It allows them to go anywhere and be anything that they want to be. In my daughter’s eye’s if Barbie can do it, then so can eye. In a world with video games and television shows everywhere, Barbie harkens back to a day long ago before those were around. Sure, Barbie has those items, but the basic tenant of her “toy” is the basic doll.

In Conclusion

I had every Barbie known to man when I was a kid. I had the house, I had the Jeep, I had Ken, Skipper and a Barbie for every scenario. My mom was a hairdresser, and Barbie let me live out my fantasy of cutting hair. That’s why I had so many. I always wanted Barbie to have bangs and they never worked out. She was an incentive to me to do good in school. If I had all A’s I got a doll. My daughter has grown to love Barbie as well but in a different way. Her Barbies all want to be doctors or Veterinarians. That's her dream.

I think us parents need to have the tough conversations with our girls about their beauty. We all spend so much time running around from activity to activity, that we often forget to stop and talk to each other. If we spend our energy promoting positive self-talk and teach our kids to look for the good in themselves versus the rest of the world, I think we can solve a lot of this confusion. Kids need to know that they don’t have to be perfect to be loved. Perfect is boring… My favorite quote from Oscar Wilde is “Be Yourself, everyone else is taken”. It’s become a mantra to my daughter. Be You… because you’re beautiful…

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Megan Evans


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